Dennis Schroder will be an NBA free agent in the offseason and the LA Lakers have to consider every option available when it comes to their point guard situation. The German native declined the Lakers’ four-year, $84 million extension in March and it remains to be seen if the two sides can come to an understanding in the offseason.
But LA Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka will have to look into the possibility that Schroder signs a contract elsewhere. If that does come to pass, then the LA Lakers will have to look for a point guard replacement.
The LA Lakers’ real point guard
The Purple and Gold aren’t exactly in need of a traditional point guard to bring the ball up the court since LeBron James is the team’s true point man.
The Chicago Bulls championship teams of the 1990s had a point forward in Scottie Pippen, who brought the ball up the court and facilitated their offense with essentially two shooting guards in the backcourt (Ron Harper and Michael Jordan). The LA Lakers should be built similarly.
It was clear from the LA Lakers’ playoff loss to the Phoenix Suns that they need a guard who can shoot a high percentage from beyond the arc, and free up the middle for James and Anthony Davis. Schroder, despite being a terrific creator and dogged defender, is not the perfect point guard for James because of his lack of a 3-point shot (33.5% this season).
Let’s take a look at 5 point guards or combo guards who the LA Lakers should pursue:
5. Tim Hardaway Jr.
One of the most intriguing possibilities for the LA Lakers is getting Tim Hardaway Jr. to play alongside Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in a big starting backcourt. At 6-foot-5, Hardaway can slide into James’ small forward spot if necessary.
He averaged 16.6 points for the Dallas Mavericks and shot 39.1 percent from 3-point range this past season (39.8% last year). As good as he was in Dallas with Luka Doncic, Hardaway might be a better fit with the LA Lakers and could have more opportunities as a facilitator and creator in Los Angeles.
The only problem is the fact that the LA Lakers will have to work the salary cap hard to get Hardaway to wear a purple and gold jersey.
4. Kendrick Nunn
A restricted free agent next season, Kendrick Nunn is fearless and is not a typical point guard despite his size. At 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, Nunn was primarily a scorer, with Jimmy Butler acting as the floor general for the Miami Heat this past season.
Nunn averaged 14.6 points per game in 29.5 minutes, shooting 38.1 percent from behind the arc and 48.5 percent from the field overall. He can thrive as a catch-and-shoot player with all the attention given to James and Anthony Davis.
3. Derrick Rose
There have been rumors circulating the past few weeks that the LA Lakers are interested in acquiring Derrick Rose in free agency. The 32-year-old is seeking his first championship and may be interested in playing alongside LeBron once again for a shot at a ring.
James and Rose were teammates for half a season in Cleveland back in the 2017-18 season until the latter was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves by midseason.
Rose is an improved 3-point shooter (38.8% this year) who should be better equipped this time around to play on the same team as James. He’s a savvy veteran who can take some of the pressure off of the four-time MVP when it comes to playmaking or scoring in crunch time.
2. Devonte' Graham
Another restricted free agent is incoming fourth-year guard Devonte' Graham. As soon as LaMelo Ball arrived in Charlotte, Graham’s clock started clicking. Soon after, Ball displaced him in the starting lineup almost halfway into the 2020-21 campaign.
Graham has a great shooting touch that extends to the 3-point line where he is a 37.5 percent shooter. He scored 30 or more points twice during the regular season and is more than capable of being the LA Lakers’ primary ballhandler should James miss time with an injury.
He averaged 14.8 points and 5.4 assists this year. Twenty-seven times he had six assists or more, and four times had 10 dimes on his ledger. Unlike with the Charlotte Hornets, Graham would be a starter for the LA Lakers, which should be enticing to the 26-year-old from Kansas.
1. Buddy Hield
The best fit at point guard for the LA Lakers is Buddy Hield. Outside of Stephen Curry or Damian Lillard, Hield is the kind of shooter who would make life easier for LeBron. The 6-foot-4 guard has a career 3-point shooting percentage of 40.6 percent, and for the third straight year made more than 270 threes. He had a career-high 282 3-pointers in 2020-21.
Imagine if Hield was on their roster this season. More than likely, the LA Lakers would still be playing in the postseason now if he had the same looks that the Phoenix Suns gave their guards in round 1 of the playoffs.
Hield is under contract with the Sacramento Kings until the 2023-24 season. The only way the LA Lakers can get him is through a sign-and-trade involving one of their free agents, i.e. Dennis Schroder, Alex Caruso or Talen Horton-Tucker.
The price may be high to acquire the sharp-shooting guard, but James’ style of play works best with shooters around him and Hield is easily one of the best.
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