After a disappointing 33-49 finish in the 2021-22 season, the Lakers entered the 2022 offseason in need of a change.
For starters, LA changed direction by hiring Darvin Ham as the franchise’s new head coach. But when it came to upgrading the roster, he had few outlets to do so — the Lakers had no draft picks and virtually no money to offer free agents due to Russell Westbrook’s salaries. ($47.1 million), LeBron James ($44.5 million), Anthony Davis ($38.0 million), and Talen Horton-Tucker ($10.3 million).
PLUS: Free agency notes and instant analysis
After buying a draft pick to select Michigan State guard Max Christie, LA has focused on free agency, where it has the opportunity to offer the taxpayer a mid-level exception (of a worth approximately $6.5 million) and minimum veteran contracts to market players.
MORE: Who is Lakers rookie Max Christie?
Gone are the days when the Lakers’ situation was desirable, making it harder for the team to get veterans to take a pay cut to play in Los Angeles, but they would have managed to add Lonnie Walker IV, Troy Brown Jr . ., Juan Toscano-Anderson and Damian Jones on the first day of free agency.
Will these signings move the needle for the Lakers? Here’s how each player fits into their current roster build.
How the Lakers’ free agent signings fit in with LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook
Lonnie Walker IV, SG
Contract: One year, $6.5 million
Averages 2021-22: 12.1 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists
Walker is a former first-round pick bringing youngsters to the Los Angeles locker room as he won’t turn 24 until December. At 6ft 4in he will impress you with his athleticism, but Walker is also a player who comes into his own and improves his sense of the game.
Last season at San Antonio, Walker played in 70 games (six starts), averaging a career-high 12.1 points per game, including 15 outings with 20 or more points.
Quick reminder: Lonnie is that guy 🔥
21 PTS | 3 ASD | 2 RECs pic.twitter.com/vYtCpDcPmB
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) December 24, 2021
At first glance, Walker’s shooting numbers from last season may seem disappointing, but he shot 36.7% from 3 on 6.1 attempts in the last 18 games of the season, including five games with three 3s or more. He’s not quite a 3-point sniper, but James and Westbrook’s play should give Walker a clean perimeter look that should translate to points.
Troy Brown Jr., SF
Contract: One year, $2.0 million
Averages 2021-22: 4.3 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.0 assists
Brown, another former first-round pick, will turn 23 at the start of the 2022-23 season, adding more youngsters to a Lakers roster that was quite old last season.
Brown had an interesting career path, complete with a trade that sent him to Chicago during the 2020-21 season. Last season, Brown averaged 4.3 points and 3.1 rebounds in 66 games while shooting 35.3% on 3 at low volume.
Numbers aside, where Brown can play a major role for the Lakers is defensively. A 6-foot-6 forward with length, Brown has the ability to make life difficult for perimeter players and can be changeable in defensive patterns, the same way Stanley Johnson impacted the Los Angeles defense. last season.
Juan Toscano-Anderson, SF
Contract: One year, $1.9 million
Averages 2021-22: 4.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists
After winning a title with his hometown team in 2022, Toscano-Anderson heads to Southern California to likely play a bigger role with the Lakers.
During three years with the Warriors, Toscano-Anderson took on a variety of responsibilities, including an all-purpose role as a glue guy during the 2020-21 season where he provided efficient scoring, rebounding and play in 20 .9 minutes per game.
Toscano-Anderson could take on a similar role to flesh out LA’s wing rotation while also playing small ball forward.
Damien Jones, C.
Contract: Two years, $4.7 million
Averages 2021-22: 8.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists
Jones is a dynamic 6-foot-11 center returning to the Lakers after spending eight games with the franchise during the 2020-21 season.
With Westbrook now in the equation, we don’t have to speculate so much about Jones’ fit in Los Angeles because we’ve seen it before. Jones signed two 10-day deals with the Lakers, starting in six of the eight games he appeared in, averaging a respectable 5.4 points and 3.3 rebounds in 14.0 minutes per game and, most impressively, shooting 16 of 17 from the field in eight games.
Damian Jones is a dunk machine. pic.twitter.com/tkYuO0UWD3
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 16, 2021
Jones is a lob threat who can thrive on the creation of James and Westbrook, while his position as a true center can benefit Davis.
2022-23 Lakers Depth Chart
After the reported signings, the Lakers strengthened their perimeter rotation but still have some frontcourt questions. Free agent center Dwight Howard has spent two of the last three seasons in Los Angeles and could be the team’s answer as a starting center.
|PG||Russell Westbrook||Kendrick Nunn||Scotty Pippen Jr. (two-way)|
|SG||Lonnie Walker IV||Austin Reaves||Max Christi|
|SF||Talen Horton Tucker||Troy Brown Jr.||Juan Toscano Anderson|
|PF||james lebron||Stanley Johnson||Wenyen Gabriel||Cole Swider (round trip)|
|VS||Anthony Davis||Damien Jones|