3 players the Lakers would be foolish not to bring back next season - Lakers Daily

3 players the Lakers would be foolish not to bring back next season

Dwight Howard Lakers Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021-22 season did not go anything like the Los Angeles Lakers planned, as they finished in the No. 11 spot in the Western Conference and failed to make the playoffs.

The Lakers were plagued by injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis as well as ineffective play from some of their offseason additions and other role players.

While some fans may want the Lakers to blow up the roster and try to start fresh around Davis and James in the 2022-23 season, there are a few players who are worth keeping for next season.

The Lakers found some young pieces like Malik Monk, Stanley Johnson and Wenyen Gabriel that could be valuable contributors going forward and help complement James and Davis when they are on the floor.

The easy fix for the Lakers is to just simply get healthy, but injuries are an uncontrollable part of the game. That means Los Angeles needs to improve the depth it had in the 2021-22 season, and it can start by bringing back a few key guys this coming offseason.

1. Malik Monk

Malik Monk

This may be the easiest decision the Lakers have to make in the offseason, as Monk was clearly the team’s most consistent player behind James and Davis in the 2021-22 season.

The University of Kentucky product is an unrestricted free agent this coming offseason, but the Lakers should do almost anything to keep him on the roster. According to NBA insider Marc Stein, the team has even considered waiving Russell Westbrook with the waive-and-stretch provision to make sure Monk stays on the roster.

Monk was a terrific scorer in the 2021-22 campaign, as he averaged 13.8 points per game while shooting 47.3 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from beyond the arc. Monk can not only score off catch-and-shoot opportunities, but he can create for himself as well.

The Lakers need as much shooting and offense around James and Davis as they can get, as the Lakers can’t afford to be a two-man show next season. Monk provides a ton of relief offensively, and it’s worth noting that the team outscored its opponents by 6.3 points per 100 possessions when Monk was on the floor versus when he was off.

After missing the playoffs, Los Angeles simply can’t let a young, talented player like Monk leave in free agency. It needs to find a way to bring him back next season.

2. Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard Lakers

Howard may be nearing the end of his career, but the Lakers already regretted letting him walk after they won the NBA title in the 2019-20 season, and they shouldn’t make the same mistake again.

Howard doesn’t have to play big minutes for Los Angeles, but he is a proven commodity that knows his role on both ends of the floor.

The biggest argument for Howard is the fact that his VORP (value over replacement player) was one of the best on the team last season. VORP is a box score estimate of the points per 100 team possessions that a player contributed above a replacement-level player in an 82-game season.

Essentially, it measures how much better Howard is better than the average NBA player at his role. Howard recorded a VORP of 0.4 last season, but when you compare that to other Lakers on the roster, he trailed only James, Davis, Monk and Carmelo Anthony this season.

Again, Howard won’t change the Lakers’ title hopes, but he is a valuable role player that the team can likely keep on a value deal. There is no reason Los Angeles should let him walk and try to find a replacement for his minutes in the 2022-23 season.

3. Stanley Johnson

Stanley Johnson Lakers

The Lakers have a simple decision regarding Stanley Johnson, as he has a team option for the 2022-23 season.

Los Angeles should exercise the option to keep him on the team because of his defensive ability that made him a piece on the roster in the first place.

The Lakers brought in Trevor Ariza, Kent Bazemore and others to improve their defense, but it was Johnson who ended up taking the role and running with it for the majority of the 2021-22 season.

Since the Lakers can keep him without having to bid with other teams, it seems like a no-brainer given the fact that Johnson is just 25 years old. The former lottery pick could grow into an even better player, and he’s a high upside guy to have rather than signing another aging veteran like Los Angeles did this past offseason.