After a disappointing 33-49 record in the 2021-22 season, the Lakers entered the 2022 offseason and needed changes.
Early on, LA made a leadership change and hired Darvin Ham as the franchise’s new head coach. But in terms of roster upgrades, there were few options – the Lakers had no draft picks and virtually no money to offer free agents due to the salaries of Russell Westbrook ($47.1 million), LeBron James (44 $.5 million) and Anthony Davis ($38.0 million) and Talen Horton-Tucker ($10.3 million).
MORE: Free agency notes and instant analysis
After buying a draft pick to select Michigan State guard Max Christie, LA shifted its focus to free agency, where it has the opportunity to offer taxpayers a mid-level exemption (worth about $6.5 million ) and offering minimum veteran contracts for players in the market.
MORE: Who is Lakers rookie Max Christie?
Gone are the days when the Lakers’ situation was desirable, which made it harder for the team to get veterans to take a pay cut to play in Los Angeles, but they have Troy Brown Jr., Juan Toscano-Anderson , added and Damian Jones and will reportedly sign Thomas Bryant and Lonnie Walker IV.
Will these signings move the needle for the Lakers? So every player fits into his current squad structure.
How the Lakers’ free-agent signings fit LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook
Lonnie Walker IV, SG
Contract: One year, $6.5 million
Averages 2021-22: 12.1 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists
Walker is a former first-round pick bringing youth into the Los Angeles locker room as he doesn’t turn 24 until December. At 6-foot-4, he’ll wow you with his athleticism, but Walker is also a player who comes into his own and improves his feel for the game.
Last season at San Antonio, Walker appeared in 70 games (six starts) and averaged a career-high 12.1 points per contest, including 15 games of 20 or more points.
Quick reminder: Lonnie is that guy????
21 PTS | 3 AST | 2 REB pic.twitter.com/vYtCpDcPmB
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) December 24, 2021
At first glance, Walker’s shot counts from last season might not seem great, but he shot 36.7 percent from 3 to 6.1 attempts in the last 18 games of the season, including five games with three or more 3s. He’s not quite a 3-pointer, but James and Westbrook’s play should give Walker clean perimeter looks that should lead to points.
Troy Brown Jr., SF
Contract: A year, $2.0 million
Averages 2021-22: 4.3 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.0 assists
Brown, another former first-round pick, will be 23 by the start of the 2022-23 season, adding more youth to a Lakers roster that was quite old last season.
Brown has had an interesting career path, complete with a trade that sent him to Chicago in the 2020-21 season. Last season, Brown averaged 4.3 points and 3.1 rebounds in 66 games while scoring 35.3 percent from 3 at low level.
Aside from the numbers, where Brown can play an important role for the Lakers, he’s on the defensive end. A 6-foot-6 at length forward, Brown has the ability to make life difficult for perimeter players and can be fickle in defensive schemes, much like Stanley Johnson influenced Los Angeles’ defense last season.
Thomas Bryant, C
Contract: One year, $2.1 million
Averages 2021-22: 7.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 0.9 blocks
For Bryant, who spent his 2017-18 rookie season with the Lakers, it’s back where it all began.
It’s like deja vu lol ????????
— Thomas Bryant (@nolimittb31) July 6, 2022
The Lakers waived Bryant in 2018, paving the way for him to join the Wizards, where he really took off. Bryant averaged 11.8 points and 6.6 rebounds in his first 128 games in Washington, seven of which were played alongside Westbrook. Bryant’s hot start to the 2020/21 season ended when he tore his cruciate ligament in January 2021.
Bryant returned to the court for 27 games in the 2021-22 season but goes into the upcoming season with an opportunity to prove himself. At 6ft 10 and 250 pounds, Bryant has the size to start alongside Davis up front and can clear the floor for James and Westbrook as a career 35.0 percent 3-point shooter.
A large ground clearance checks an important box for Los Angeles.
Juan Toscano-Anderson, SF
Contract: One year, $1.9 million
Averages 2021-22: 4.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists
After winning a title with his hometown team in 2022, Toscano-Anderson heads to Southern California for what is believed to be a bigger role with the Lakers.
Toscano-Anderson held various roles during his three years with the Warriors, including an all-round role as glue guy in the 2020-21 season, where he provided some efficient goals, rebounds and playmaking in 20.9 minutes per game.
Toscano-Anderson could take on a similar role to flesh out LA’s wing rotation while playing small-ball forward.
Damian Jones, C
Contract: Two years, $4.7 million
Averages 2021-22: 8.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists
Jones is a lively 6-foot-11 center who is returning to the Lakers after spending eight games with the franchise during the 2020-21 season.
While Westbrook is in the equation now, we don’t have to speculate as much about Jones’ fit in LA because we’ve seen it before. Jones signed two 10-day contracts with the Lakers, started in six of the eight games he appeared in, averaging a respectable 5.4 points and 3.3 rebounds in 14.0 minutes per game and, more impressively, shot 16 of 17 from the field over eight games.
Damian Jones is a dunk machine. pic.twitter.com/tkYuO0UWD3
– Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 16, 2021
Jones is a praise threat who can thrive on James and Westbrook’s creation, while his standing as a true center can be Davis’s bounty.
Lakers depth chart 2022-23
Following the reported signings, the Lakers have shored up their perimeter rotation but still have some questions ahead of time.
According to Haynes, Bryant will have an opportunity to fight for the starting position in LA.
|PG||Russell Westbrook||Kendrick Nunn||Scotty Pippen Jr. (two-way)|
|SG||Lonnie Walker IV||Austin Reaves||Max Christie|
|SF||Talen Horton Tucker||Troy Brown Jr.||Juan Toscano Anderson|
|PF||Lebron James||Stanley Johnson||If Gabriel||Cole Swider (two-way)|
|C||Anthony Davis||Thomas Bryant||Damian Jones|