Avery Bradley’s decision to sit out the season restart puts a huge damper on the Los Angeles Lakers’ chances of winning the 2020 NBA championship.
The organization will have to solve the defense, depth and chemistry issues caused by his choice to not play.
Lakers legend and former executive Magic Johnson stated that the absence of Bradley is a “tough loss” for a team looking to contend for the title this season. Starting backcourt partner Danny Green also acknowledged the Lakers “need” Bradley to have a real shot at the championship.
A silver lining for the Purple and Gold is that teams are allowed to add replacements for players who opt out of the upcoming NBA bubble in Orlando, Fla.
Listed below are some of the free agents who can help the Lakers’ title aspirations:
1. J.R. Smith
The candidate most rumored to be acquired by the Lakers may also be the one that makes most sense.
Smith started his career as a prolific scorer. He was known for his high-flying act, participating in the 2009 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, and for being a potent 3-point shooter. He is currently 13th on the NBA’s all-time 3-pointers made list.
Through the seasons, however, Smith transitioned into a 3-and-D player, particularly after being traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2015.
Starting alongside LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, the 6-foot-6 swingman was tasked with guarding either the opponent’s best ball-handler or wing player for long stretches. It was a role he thrived in, helping the Cavs reach four straight NBA Finals. The organization also won its only title in history in 2016.
If the Lakers do decide to get Smith, not only would they provide James a familiar ally, the team would also find a player capable of filling Bradley’s absence.
2. Jamal Crawford
The Lakers might want to take a closer look at the 19-year veteran now that Bradley is gone.
Crawford may already be 40 years old, but if his last NBA game is any indication, he can still light up the scoreboard. The three-time Sixth Man of the Year played for the Phoenix Suns last season, where he recorded 51 points in the Suns’ season finale.
In Los Angeles, Crawford can offer the team a scoring boost off the bench and even handle some playmaking duties.
3. Isaiah Thomas
Thomas is no stranger to playing for the Lakers. He was acquired by the franchise in a 2018 midseason trade with the Cavs.
His stats with the Lakers were a far cry from those of his All-Star years. But he did still post 15.6 points and 5.0 assists per game in 17 matches for the Lakers. His short tenure in Los Angeles ended after he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right hip.
Age and injuries have unfortunately sapped the athleticism out of the 5-foot-9 point guard. Due to this, he is not the dominant scorer he once was.
Even so, he can still help run the Lakers’ offense in spot minutes, especially when James is on the bench.
4. Iman Shumpert
If the Lakers want to replace Bradley with another 3-and-D player, they could consider another one of James’ former teammates.
Shumpert has regressed in 3-point shooting recently. But having elite players like James and Davis open the floor for him could boost his percentage.
Besides, he would not be asked to do much offensively as his strength is on the other end of the court. His length and tenacity have made life difficult for opposing guards and wings. This is what the Lakers will need when they face teams with multiple All-Stars.
5. DeMarcus Cousins
The Lakers could also go a different route by signing a center instead of a guard.
There have been reports that Cousins will sit out the season restart to focus on his rehab. But his agent responded that the four-time All-Star has not come to a decision yet.
Last offseason, Cousins signed with the Lakers on a one-year deal. Unfortunately, he suffered a torn ACL in his left knee during preseason workouts. He has not seen action since then, and was waived by the Lakers to clear a roster spot for Markieff Morris in February.
Cousins has career averages of 21.2 points, 10.9 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. If he can become healthy enough to play next month, he could give the Lakers another source of offense beyond James and Davis.
Signing him — or any other big man — would mean that the Lakers have enough trust in their remaining backcourt players to replicate the production of Bradley.