What ‘Plan B’ looks like for the Lakers if they don’t sign Kawhi Leonard

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Photo via: Vaughn Ridley/ Getty Images

With the ground-breaking announcement that Kevin Durant made with signing with the Brooklyn Nets, it was only the first domino to fall in the beginning of the crazy 2019 NBA Free Agency period. With the Lakers already acquiring Anthony Davis in a blockbuster trade, general manager Rob Pelinka has enough cap space to sign another max player.

One player worthy of a max contract that is available on the open market is reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. This option for the Lakers to land Leonard has picked up a lot of traction in the days leading up to the beginning of the free agency official start time. However, the NBA is an unpredictable entity and Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka and the Lakers front office must have a ‘Plan B’ in case Leonard decides against the purple and gold.

So, what is ‘Plan B’, and how many phases to it are there?

Plan B – Phase 1 – Get a Shooter

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Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

With a lot of the big name free agents coming off the board after only day one, the Lakers need to stick to their guns and sign the players that best fit the pieces that are already on the roster.

While Leonard would make the Lakers starting unit one of the best in the NBA, the one draw back would be depth. Shooting is an area that is very prominent and deep in this years free agency class.

With shooters like J.J. Reddick, Reggie Bullock, and Rodney Hood off the board, there remains plenty of knockdown shooters that the Lakers can swoop in and sign to a cheap deal.

One shooter that the Lakers can target is Danny Green. Coming off of an NBA championship, Green shot an impressive 36.4% from three in the 2019 NBA Finals, and owns a career 40.4% three-point percentage.

I had Seth Curry as a main target of the Lakers, but he just agreed to a deal with the Mavericks. So, with the knowledge that he is now unavailable, there are a couple more shooters that come to mind. Jeff Green and West Matthews would be better spot up shooter options for the Lakers. I’m not sure how Matthews would feel about getting less shots than Kuzma, but Green arguably had his best shooting season last year in Washington as a role player.

The last option I’ll discuss for LA might actually be to bring David Nwaba back who played for the Lakers 2 years ago. He has a much improved three point shot. He isn’t the shooter that the others are that I’ve mentioned, but he does provide more of a defensive presence.

Whoever the Lakers decide to sign of these players, a shooter is something that is clearly missing on the roster currently and it must be addressed before anything else.

Plan B – Phase Two – Sign two Bigs

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While LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma, and Davis are holding down the front-court now, there remains a glaring hole behind them on the bench.

The Lakers should go after two different kind of bigs in free agency. One being a stretch forward and the other being a tough dirty-work old school center to rebound and be a rim protector.

For the stretch forward position, a player like Marcus Morris fits the bill of a forward that would thrive coming off the bench for the Lakers. Morris, who shot 37.5% from three is more than just a scorer, he is coming off his best year as a rebounder with an average of 6.1 rebounds per game. While the Lakers will not ask for a heavy workload for Morris, he could be just what the Lakers need, a veteran big who knows how to put the ball in the hoop and can put a body on a body and attack the ball off the glass.

The bench center that should come in to relieve Davis, should be a player that wore the Lakers colors last season, JaVale McGee. McGee was a fantastic option for the Lakers and was playing at one of his highest levels of his career before missing seven games due to his battle of pneumonia. In the first 29 games of the season last year, McGee was averaging a career-high 11.8 PPG and was averaging 2.6 BPG.

He did manage to slowly get back on track and finish with 12.0 PPG but it was a struggle. Given the fact that McGee continuously proves his lack of durability, limited minutes and a big role off the bench for the Lakers should be a perfect match for both parties. McGee is a stellar rim protector, finishing fifth in blocks per game (2.0 BPG) and continues to be a tremendous lob option and finisher at the rim.

Another realistic option for the Lakers, that can address both of these issues, would be to sign DeMarcus Cousins. That would once again reunite Cousins and Davis, putting together what was once, for a short span, the best big man combo in the NBA.

Plan B – Phase Three – Bring in a facilitator/play maker

I have gone on record pleading the Lakers to bring back Rajon Rondo…and I will continue to do so.

Assuming the Lakers sign more shooters and get the depth in the front-court, they will need someone to get them the ball as well as Davis and LeBron the ball. Rondo is a high basketball IQ player and is somebody that does not buckle under the pressure of playing with superstars, if anything he plays better.

For whatever reason, if the Lakers let Rondo walk, Pelinka should go after Davis’ teammate last season in Elfrid Payton. Payton increased his assist total by 1.4 APG from two seasons ago to last season and averaged a career-best 7.6 APG with the New Orleans Pelicans. There were stretches of last season that Payton showcased his elite level facilitating ability with five consecutive triple-doubles and back to back 16 assist games in the middle of that stretch.

If they choose not to bring back Rondo, Payton should be their target.

In Conclusion

It is simple, if the Lakers do not land Kawhi, they will have to split up the remaining salary cap to fill out the roster with other reliable NBA players.

By signing a shooter or two, getting Davis and LeBron help in the front-court, and finding a player that can get everyone involved, the Lakers will be in a perfect spot to return to basketball immortality…as champions.

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