Free Agency Grades: Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers are once again the reigning champions of the NBA, firmly taking care of business in the Orlando Bubble.
The Lakers swiftly locked up their championship defense, signing their twin superstars to big deals. Anthony Davis inked a 5-year max deal worth $190 million, and LeBron James signed a 2-year extension for $85 million.
LA also traded for Sixth Man of the Year runner-up Dennis Schröder, who will instantly make their bench much better. There’s also a chance he may become a starter.
Let’s take a look at how the Los Angeles Lakers did with the rest of free agency:
Markieff Morris: re-signed for a 1-year minimum deal.
When the Lakers signed Morris to a Disabled Player Exception deal last season, it became one of the best DPE signings in years. Keef is a fantastic stretch big and provided much-needed offense last year, which really came alive in the playoffs.
He doesn’t need the ball in his hands on offense, which is important. At the same time, he can give LeBron cover on defense for when the King wants an easier assignment.
Morris was willing to sign this minimum deal to return for a chance at another championship. This is a good thing for the Lakers, as Morris almost definitely could have gotten more money elsewhere.
It was important for the Lakers to try everything in their will power to keep Morris. He’s a big that will stretch the defense and most likely make the wide-open shots. He makes the Lakers an even deeper team than they already are.
Marc Gasol: signed a 2-year, $5.3 million deal.
When the Lakers lost two of their backup bigs in Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee, they found themselves in need of a body down low. Gasol will fill some of that big man void. He’s incredibly versatile and can score from inside and outside as well as pass the ball at an exceptional level.
This is a fantastic deal for the Lakers. Gasol also could’ve gotten more money somewhere, but the Lakers were able to scoop him up with a deal worth 5.3 million, a steal.
The Lakers were the ones who drafted Gasol way back when. It’s a nice full-circle moment.
Lakers fans will love seeing the last name Gasol in a Lakers jersey again. He’s going to make everyone around him even better and those passes with LeBron will be something special.
Wesley Matthews: signed a 1-year, $3.6 million deal.
After trading Danny Green, the Lakers were in need of shooting and defense on the wing. Matthews will fill that void and he will be the defender the Lakers have been desperately needing and wanting since last season.
Had the Lakers missed out on Matthews, he could’ve gotten himself a bigger deal somewhere else, or stayed in Milwaukee and contended with the Bucks. Good for LA here.
Matthews is going to be the prototypical 3 and D guy for the Lakers. He can defend and knock down those much-needed 3-pointers. He’ll make everyone around him better as well. He was one of the best signings the Lakers did during free agency and it should pay off big time this season.
Montrezl Harrell: signed a 2-year, $19 million deal.
This signing was probably the most surprising for all of free agency. Nobody expected the Lakers to be able to snatch Harrell away from the Los Angeles Clippers.
Harrell won Sixth Man of the Year last season and will become an essential part of this Lakers team. He’ll add depth, toughness, and versatility.
Harrell almost assuredly could have made more money with the Clippers or elsewhere. This is a fantastic move for a Lakers team without much cash to reel in big talent.
With the addition of Harrell to this revamped Lakers team, they’ll be adding someone who will provide that much needed constant offense. He will instantly become a fan favorite. His intensity will also make this team much scrappier.
Kostas Antetokounmpo: re-signed, two-way deal.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, Kostas rarely gets playing time. When the team is as loaded as it is, they don’t need to call him up. He gets lost on the bench but his great chemistry with everyone is always on full display.
Most of his playing time comes with the G-League South Bay Lakers, where he averaged 14.1 points last season. Now that his brother Giannis is sticking around in Milwaukee, this is a far less exciting signing.
The Lakers aren’t wasting a lot of money on two-way contracts, so this is a great deal. Kostas isn’t anywhere near a level where they’d need to throw a hefty paycheck at him so keeping him on a two-way deal is the best-case scenario.
Again, unfortunately, Kostas doesn’t get big minutes for the Lakers when they call him up. He will continue to improve as a South Bay Laker and that will help him in a future permanent role with the Lakers if the opportunity presents itself.
Quinn Cook: resigned for 1-year
Throughout the season, Cook didn't log much playing time and often found himself on the bench most games. But as a chemistry glue-guy, Cook was essential.
Since this season is starting so soon, Cook could find himself in the rotation a little more if LeBron and others need rest. When Cook gets going, he can shoot lights out.
We don’t know the logistics of the deal but the fact that the Lakers were able to sign him again for a 1-year deal after waiving him is great.
One of the biggest reasons why the Lakers were so connected throughout last season, was locker room chemistry. Cook’s fit with the entire team was a bright spot all season long, and he became especially good friends with Anthony Davis.
While he doesn’t always get playing time, Cook accepts his role and that’s earned him a lot of respect with the Lakers.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: re-signed, three years, $40 million
After a lackluster start to the season, KCP became a legitimate offensive threat for the Lakers down the stretch. And in the playoffs, he truly showed just how valuable he was to the team.
KCP averaged 12.8 PPG in the NBA Finals and 11.2 PPG in the Western Conference Finals. After James and Davis, the Lakers had a “next guy up” mentality - KCP was that guy when LA needed it most.
Considering KCP had what many could call a breakout year, the Lakers knew he’d want more money if they wanted to re-sign him. He definitely earned a nice paycheck and this deal is just fine and very well deserved.
The future is bright for KCP. If he can continue to improve, he’ll be an even bigger part of the Lakers’ success. Afterall, he’s only 27 years old - LA is lucky to have him.
Jared Dudley: re-signed for a 1-year, $2.6 million deal
Dudley wasn’t brought back for what he does on the court. This move was all about chemistry. Dudley helped make sure everyone was always on the right page last season. He also has been mentoring Kyle Kuzma. Dudley’s the perfect glue guy for a team like this.
This is a perfect deal for a veteran like Dudley. Dudley himself is okay with taking a deal like this. He has earned the respect of the players and the entire organization for knowing his role and being okay with taking less money to make an impact.
Now that the Lakers have gotten a little younger, bringing back Dudley will be even more impactful. He will not only keep the chemistry from last season alive, he’ll make it even better.