Last season, the Lakers turned what seemed to be another disappointing year into a progressive step in the right direction. After starting with a 2-10 record, the purple and gold leaped from the 13th seed to a Western Conference finals appearance.
Now, in an effort to build on last season’s turnaround, the Lakers have a clear plan to get better in free agency. Los Angeles’ front office is focused on retaining key free agents that assisted in making the playoffs and finding role players to improve on the margins.
“That’s a high priority for us, we’ve got a group of special players in the locker room who enjoy playing with each other,” Lakers General manager Rob Pelinka said in his exit interview. “I would say it’s a high priority to keep our core guys together.”
Pelinka stayed true to his word. The Lakers started free agency by re-signing starting point guard D’Angelo Russell. Russell was one of the best shooters on the team, tallying just over 41% from three point range last season.
The Lakers then retained a late season addition in Rui Hachimura on a three-year deal. The fourth-year forward played at an unprecedented level in the postseason, averaging just over 12 points while shooting just under 49% from deep, a career best.
Pelinka was able to re-sign the most prominent Lakers free agent in Austin Reaves, the 25-year-old guard averaged 13 points a game while shooting just under 40% from three point range. Reaves outperformed his impressive regular season in the playoffs, becoming a key part of the Lakers’ run from the play-in games to the doorstep of the NBA Finals.
The Lakers and Reaves agreed on a four-year, $56 million contract that will keep him in Los Angeles for the foreseeable future. Pelinka and the Lakers also made moves in through the draft, trades and other free agent signings.
Los Angeles was able to make an improvement in the point guard position through the signing of Gabe Vincent. Vincent, coming off a stellar playoff performance, averaged just under 13 points and four assists while shooting 43% from the field and 38% from three.
Vincent, the starting point guard on the Miami Heat’s run to the finals, signed a three-year deal worth $33 million. As far as his role, the 27-year-old guard is a player who can defend while being able to knock down shots and create plays for his teammates.
The Lakers were able to pick up some size on the wing with the signing of Cam Reddish, who has been on the Lakers’ radar since last season. Reddish signed a two-year deal with L.A. The 6’8’’ forward is a player who has shown potential as a shooter while being able to attack the rim.
After losing to Nikola Jokić and the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals, an area of need for the Lakers is the center position.
In order to reinforce the paint, the Lakers signed 7-foot center Jaxson Hayes. Hayes is a player who can be a lob threat for the Lakers while also providing defensive versatility, and has size with the ability to back up Anthony Davis.
The Lakers’ free agency additions will be supplemented by the arrival of rookies. Through the 2023 NBA Draft, Pelinka was able to nab guard Jalen Hood-Schifino with the 17th overall pick. The Big Ten Freshman of the Year spent just one season at Indiana, Hood-Schifino used his size, which is above average for a guard, to open up the court for the Hoosiers on offense and play aggressive defense.
The purple and gold also picked up 40th overall pick in Maxwell Lewis from the Denver Nuggets in a four-team trade following draft night. As a forward, Lewis will take on a different role than Hood-Schifino. The Pepperdine product has also shown great defensive ability. Considering Lewis’ 6’6” frame with Hood-Schifino’s size — which is above average for a guard — as well as the move to provide backup for Davis at center, it is clear that the Lakers want to secure a physical presence on the court they desperately needed at key points during the season.
After starting the season tied for last in the conference, the Lakers found a formula to propel them to the conference finals. This offseason, the Lakers and Pelinka built on that formula, creating a versatile roster with depth around their two stars, setting the table for another deep postseason run.