From Andre Drummond to Dennis Schroder, Top Five Free Agents in the Lakers Roster for 2021 NBA Season

Published 06/13/2021, 8:31 AM EDT
Jun 3, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3), forward LeBron James (23) and coach Frank Vogel react in the second half during game six in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs against the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports


The Los Angeles Lakers, led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis, were one of the favorites to win the championship this season. Given how they had retooled their roster, it was understandable why the Purple & Gold were one of the favorites.

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They first replaced their veteran guard Rajon Rondo with a younger guard in Dennis Schroder. Then they changed their whole center rotation of JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard with the likes of great centers like Montrezl Harrell and Marc Gasol. Later, they also brought in rebounding machine in Andre Drummond.

May 25, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) celebrates with teammates against the Phoenix Suns during the first half in game two of the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs at Phoenix Suns Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With Schroder, Gasol, Drummond and Harrell, the Lakers looked pretty solid on paper. But with injuries keeping multiple players out, the defending champions did not have ample time to gel as a team and crashed out in the first round itself. With the off-season ahead of them, Rob Pelinka and the Lakers have some tough decisions to make.

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Top five free agents in the Lakers’ roster

5) Wesley Matthews

The Lakers knew that they had to bring in a 3 & D expert into their rotation. Given that they hadn’t re-signed Danny Green, the Lakers were on the lookout for a good replacement.

Wesley Matthews was the perfect answer for the Lakers, as he was an experienced player in the league. Previously playing for the Milwaukee Bucks, the veteran shooter was an excellent defender and perfectly fit the billing.

Jun 1, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) and guard Wesley Matthews (9) react as Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker looks on in the second half during game five in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs at Phoenix Suns Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Matthews certainly had a disappointing year. A career 37.9% shooter, the 34-year-old saw a career low in his shooting splits shooting 33.5% from the three point line and also had a career low in his points as well.

With the Lakers in desperate need to increase their spacing on the floor, retaining Matthews who has had a massive dip in form seems highly unlikely.

4) Montrezl Harrell

When the Lakers signed Montrezl Harrell, it seemed like the steal by Pelinka and Co. Bringing in the sixth man of the year and that too from the cross city rivals the LA Clippers, Harrell seemed like the perfect center to replace the likes of Dwight and McGee.

With the explosiveness of Harrell coming off of the bench, the Lakers were set to dominate the paint once more. While the Harrell experiment did work in the regular season, as he averaged 13.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.1 assists, the 27-year-old fizzled out in the post-season.

Mar 12, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers center Montrezl Harrell (15) hangs on to the rim after a dunk during the second half against the Indiana Pacers at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Against the Suns, the former sixth man of the year only played in four games and averaged only 9.8 minutes per game scoring 5.8 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. Given how coach Vogel used Harrell, the future of the big man seems uncertain right now.

With a player option available, the 27-year-old might test free agency and given how he had performed in the regular season, the Lakers might try to retain the former Clippers’ star.

3) Alex Caruso

The Lakers coming into this season found a key contributor in Alex Caruso. Caruso became a spark plug from the bench and an efficient guard who made the right plays all the time.

Feb 18, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Alex Caruso (4) hangs in the air as he saves a ball from going out of bounds during the second half against the Brooklyn Nets at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Along with his playmaking, Caruso also was a tenacious defender and generally kept opponents’ best guards at bay. While Caruso maintained his excellent form this season as well, his minutes did not see a jump as he shared his minutes with sophomore Talen Horton-Tucker.

Despite the massive competition in Lakers’ guard rotation, there is no denying how important Caruso is to the defending champions. Although the 26-year-old is entering Unrestricted Free Agency, the Lakers do have the bird rights and will keep Caruso at any cost in their roster.

2) Dennis Schroder

Given how important of a presence Rajon Rondo was, the Lakers looked like they were going to re-sign the veteran guard. But executive Rob Pelinka and the Lakers decided to go in a different direction. Giving away arguably their third best player for them in the 2020 playoffs, the Lakers signed a much younger guard in Dennis Schroder.

Schroder, who had played alongside Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous Alexander, flourished as the sixth man in Thunder but demanded starting role with the champions. The Purple and Gold delivered on their promise and gave him the primary spot. But Schroder did not have the same impact in comparison to his time at the Thunder.

May 23, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Dennis Schroder (17) flies out of bounds as he goes for a loose ball against the Phoenix Suns in the second half during game one in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs at Phoenix Suns Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

He also proved to be an inefficient contributor in the playoffs as well. Often shooting contested shots, the German guard was ineffective in the series. This was especially highlighted in game 5 of their series against the Suns when Schroder failed to record a single point despite attempting 9 shots.

In hindsight, the 4-year deal worth $84 million seems like a deal the German should have taken. Given his questionable fit alongside LeBron James and the Lakers, the champions might sign him and eventually trade him for a better player.

1) Andre Drummond

The 2019-20 Lakers were known for their massive dominance in the paint. With players like Dwight Howard, JaVale McGee and Anthony Davis, the Lakers front court was commanding in the restricted area. But the 2020-21 Lakers with Harrell and Gasol weren’t as solid because of the lack of size and a different play style.

In a last ditch effort to strengthen their frontcourt, the Lakers brought in Andre Drummond to the roster in a minimum deal. The gamble on Drummond certainly had some mixed results.

May 15, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Los Angeles Lakers center Andre Drummond (2), forward LeBron James (23) and forward Anthony Davis (3) all talk during a timeout in the fourth quarter against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

While Andre showed flashes of being a great starter in the regular season, the same cannot be said for the playoffs though. His lack of finesse and quality was visible in the playoffs often resulting in turnovers under high-pressure situations.

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His inability to space the floor was also a major disadvantage for the champions as he clogged up the lane for players like Anthony Davis and LeBron James who resulted in them settling for ineffective jumpers.

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Given the players available in the upcoming free agency, the Lakers might have limited opportunity to upgrade their roster. With their supporting cast falling flat in the post-season, Rob Pelinka and the Purple and Gold might not sign many of the mentioned players. Whom do you think the Lakers will re-sign?

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Aditya Mohapatra

1029 articles

Aditya Mohapatra is a sports enthusiast who primarily covers the NBA for EssentiallySports. Having graduated in Mass Communication, he has prior experience in writing for ABP News, and has been writing for EssentiallySports since November 2020. This die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan feels that LeBron James is the best thing to have ever happened to the NBA, and will hold a healthy debate with anyone suggesting otherwise.

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