The LA Lakers had a lot of work to do ahead of the 2021 NBA offseason. The 2020 NBA champions failed in their quest to win the title again as they endured a 2-4 first-round series loss against the Phoenix Suns in the 2021 NBA Playoffs.
Injuries played a huge role in the LA Lakers not being able to achieve much success. They also faced a plethora of questions regarding most of their players in the offseason.
The Lakers had only seven players under contract. They began the offseason with:
- Seven players under contract
- Vacant starting and backup point guard spot
- No. 22 draft pick
- Need for bench depth at every position
- Taxpayer mid-level exception worth $5.9 million
Against all odds, the LA Lakers made some strong moves in the offseason and now have as many as 12 players under contract, including five potential future Hall of Famers.
In this article, we list every move the LA Lakers have made so far in the 2021 NBA Offseason and grade them as per the impact they have had.
Analyzing the LA Lakers' offseason moves so far
Trading for Russell Westbrook
The LA Lakers stole the show on the day of the 2021 NBA Draft when they reached an agreement with the Washington Wizards to acquire Russell Westbrook via trade.
The Lakers included Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, along with the #22 pick from the draft, in the deal to acquire Westbrook.
It later turned out to be a five-team trade deal involving sides like the Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs and the Brooklyn Nets.
This tweet by The Athletic's Fred Katz includes all the details that need to be noted regarding this deal:
The acquisition of Russell Westbrook appeared to be a blockbuster deal at first, but questions were raised regarding his fit alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The three players aren't the best three-point shooters in the league, and this generated concerns over whether the Lakers were making improvements in the offense.
On top of that, Westbrook and James have both been primary ball-handlers throughout their careers. This raised fears of a potential clash of egos between the two. Nonetheless, the acquisition saw the Lakers become an attractive destination for ring-chasing veterans in free agency.
Following the trade, the LA Lakers ended up acquiring the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Kent Bazemore, Wayne Ellington and Kendrick Nunn, among others. This proved to be a masterstroke by GM Rob Pelinka.
It remains to be seen what the "old" LA Lakers side manage to do on the court, but they definitely seem like the favorites to come out of the West on paper.
The Russell Westbrook trade opened up a huge window for the Lakers to acquire many more players, which warrants this move an A grade.
Signing Dwight Howard
The LA Lakers chose not to re-sign Dwight Howard in the 2020 NBA offseason, despite the veteran's stellar season. The Lakers sorely missed the rim protection that he provided to them, as well as the positive energy that he spread in the locker room as a vocal leader.
By acquiring Dwight Howard, the LA Lakers made it clear that they weren't going to re-sign Andre Drummond. It was a wise decision for the team as Drummond did not fit in well alongside James and AD. Howard has been a part of the Frank Vogel era before and is a key acquisition for the team to help them keep their defense at a top level.
However, the LA Lakers could struggle to get Westbrook, James and Davis on the floor at the same time as Howard. The spacing won't be great, which could make their offense weak.
As a result, Howard is most likely to feature with the second unit or only when the Lakers need a big body down the stretch to protect a lead.
Signing Wayne Ellington
The LA Lakers needed more shooters in their squad, and they went all out to acquire some of the best on that front. Among those signings was Wayne Ellington, a former Laker.
The 33-year-old shot 42.2% from the three-point line last season. He can still play as a starter or off the bench, depending on the Lakers' needs.
Ellington is largely a one-dimensional player and will not help the LA Lakers defensively. However, with the number of open looks he might get with James and Westbrook doing the playmaking, he looks like a great fit for the Lakers.
Ellington also signed a veteran minimum contract, which significantly helped the franchise financially.
Signing Trevor Ariza
Trevor Ariza was among the four former LA Lakers players that returned to Hollywood in the offseason. The Lakers signed the veteran to a minimum deal. They need more depth on the frontcourt, and Ariza can provide just that.
The LA Lakers needed a solid 3-and-D player in their ranks after the departure of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Ariza is way past his prime but had a more-than-decent year for the Miami Heat last season. He averaged 9.4 points per game and shot a respectable 35% from beyond the arc on 4.8 attempts.
Ariza is likely to play rotation minutes for James and AD and is a great addition to the roster.
Signing Kent Bazemore
Signing Kent Bazemore seems like a steal for the LA Lakers. He fits the bill well with his 3-and-D style of play and could even feature in the starting lineup.
The Lakers needed a player of Bazemore's caliber to help them maintain their dominance on the defensive end, which has regressed since the key departures of Caruso and KCP.
Bazemore also signed a minimum contract and is likely to play a prominent role for the LA Lakers next season.
Signing Malik Monk
The LA Lakers added another sharpshooter to their team (via a minimum contract) in the form of Malik Monk. The 23-year-old is only the second-youngest player on the Lakers roster, which currently has eight players over the age of 30 and five players aged 35 or more.
Monk improved his three-point shooting a lot last season. He made 40.1% of his shots on five attempts per game.
He will likely feature in the backcourt rotation and will provide a good scoring punch off the bench for the team. However, his defense is questionable and is something that could affect the LA Lakers when he is on the court.
Signing Kendrick Nunn
Kendrick Nunn was the biggest acquisition in free agency for the LA Lakers. The former Miami Heat point guard could have earned more money elsewhere but decided to join the Lakers under the taxpayer mid-level exception on a one-year deal.
Nunn, 26, is one of the few players under 30 on the roster. He could either feature as a backup point guard for the team or at two to compliment the LA Lakers' 'Big Three.' The third-year guard averaged 14.6 points per game last season and shot 38.1% from the three-point line on 5.7 attempts per game.
Like the other signings, Nunn's defense isn't one of his best traits. However, Frank Vogel has a knack for converting his teams into the best defensive units, and Nunn could surely benefit from that.
Signing Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony's signing made a lot of noise in the market. The 37-year-old will be paired up with his draft classmate, LeBron James, for the first time in the NBA.
Anthony is way past his prime and is a liability on the defensive end. However, his new role as a spot-up shooter benefits the LA Lakers and LeBron James a lot.
Anthony can still create his own shot too, and having another player who is averaging 10+ points per game coming off the bench is always an advantage. The former New York Knicks player has also shot roughly 40% from beyond the arc in the last two seasons.
Re-signing Talen Horton-Tucker
One of the best decisions GM Rob Pelinka and the LA Lakers made this offseason was re-signing promising young guard Talen Horton-Tucker. The Lakers had to let go of Alex Caruso to limit their spending but made sure to expend in order to keep Horton-Tucker in the squad.
The LA Lakers gave up most of their future assets in the Anthony Davis trade. They also parted ways with a young player like Kuzma in the Westbrook trade.
The Lakers have limited assets to build on, and THT is among them. This made it very important for them to re-sign him this offseason.
Horton-Tucker has a great deal of self-confidence and is considered a key player for the team for years to come. At 20 years old, the third-year guard is currently the youngest player on the roster and will likely feature in a prominent role next season.
Signing an extension with Frank Vogel
Extending Frank Vogel's stay was a must for the LA Lakers after the success he has enjoyed with the squad in the last two years.
The Lakers won the title in Vogel's first season with them. They were also the best defensive team in the league last season.
The LA Lakers boast a great offensive team this season but have lost a plethora of players that made them better defensively. That's where Vogel's extension becomes very important. He has gelled well with the likes of James and AD and is key to making Westbrook a great fit with the current team.
Knowing the team inside out helps the coach and the franchise, so keeping Vogel for a long time will be beneficial for the LA Lakers.