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L.A. Lakers' Free-Agency Wish List

Richard LeContributor IIIApril 27, 2013

L.A. Lakers' Free-Agency Wish List

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    With the Los Angeles Lakers on the ropes against the San Antonio Spurs, it would be prudent to look ahead to an offseason of change.

    While the Lakers do retain the services of some of their more serviceable role players, it is apparent that they are going to have to spend quite a bit of money in the free-agency pool in order to try and remain competitive in a tough Western Conference.

    Although this free-agency class may not have been as strong as the 2011 free-agency pool, there is no doubt that there are a myriad of players here who would fit the Lakers' needs.

    Possessing a variety of weaknesses on both ends of the floor, there are a variety of versatile players on the market who can help shore up these weaknesses and help the Lakers stay relevant. 

    From franchise players to role players, there are five players who the Lakers should target above the rest in order to rectify their inadequacies. 

1. Dwight Howard

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    Despite the controversy Dwight Howard has spurred during his tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers, he is definitely still the best big man in the league.

    As he rounded into form following his early return from back surgery, it is clear that Howard is still a game-changer on both ends of the court.

    While he does seem a step slow defensively and hasn't progressed much offensively due to the rehab he had to do in the offseason for his back, in terms of being a franchise player, Howard remains the best option in this free-agency class.

    Scoring 18.3 points, 12.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game for his career, Howard is a serviceable offensive threat while being an absolute beast on the defensive end. 

    Although he hasn't shown the ability to really perform well under the pressure of scrutiny and the media spotlight, his talent alone should make him work the risk. 

    There is no big man in the league with his athleticism, size and power, and a specimen of his physical dominance hasn't been seen since Shaquille O'Neal.

    While his back injury has made many forget what he once was, Howard will continue to round back into form and merits consideration as a max-contract player. 

2. Al Jefferson

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    If the Los Angeles Lakers are in need of a traditional pivot man, the best interior force available on the market this offseason is Al Jefferson.

    Averaging 16.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 71.7 percent free-throw shooting for his career, Jefferson is a traditional back-to-the-basket player who the Lakers can run their offense through.

    At 28 years old, Jefferson is still in his prime and is the type of player who the Lakers can rely on for years to come.

    While he isn't the passer or the mid-range shooter that Pau Gasol is, he is just as dangerous on the low post and is more physically imposing in the paint. 

    Although he is no Dwight Howard defensively, he is still capable at blocking shots and is a decent ball thief for a big man. 

    If the Lakers wish to go back to having a frontcourt that dominates via offensive versatility and interior scoring, there may be no better option that Jefferson. 

3. J.R. Smith

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    With Kobe Bryant out indefinitely following his Achilles tendon injury, the Lakers are in desperate need of a player who can create his own shot on the perimeter. 

    While J.R. Smith is no Black Mamba, his scoring prowess and excellent perimeter defense may be a good way to try and compensate for Bryant's absence next season.

    Smith is probably one of the most streaky players in the league. Depending on how he plays, Smith is the type of player who will shoot other teams out of the building or his own team. 

    His shooting ability and athleticism, in terms of getting into the lane, make him a versatile perimeter threat in the same vein as Bryant.

    In fact, given Bryant's propensity to take the ball into the post more and more as he ages, Smith will bring more of an athletic approach to the offense not seen since the Black Mamba was a youngster. 

    Perhaps his biggest contribution would be his perimeter defense, which was a big a factor to the New York Knicks' success this season.

    Smith is definitely a player the Lakers should target to try and fill up the holes and weaknesses they have on the perimeter. 

4. Jarrett Jack

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    Ever since the Smush Parker era, the Lakers' perimeter defense has been shoddy.

    While Kobe Bryant has always been a consistent and proficient defender, the point position has always been exploited by opponents.

    Whether it was Derek Fisher, Steve Blake or Steve Nash, the Lakers did not have the point guards to stay in front of the quicker and more explosive guards in the league.

    However, Jarrett Jack is the type of strong, quick and intelligent point guard who has the veteran experience and physical attributes to stick to his man and give him a hard time.

    Besides his defensive abilities, Jack is a proven scorer and distributor. 

    Without Bryant for perhaps the entirety of next year, Jack can be a stabilizing force in the locker room and is intelligent enough to run the offense like a proper point guard.

    He can score for himself and create for others, and he has range out to three-point land. His versatility makes him a great option for the Lakers on the perimeter, as Jack has shown the ability to play both the point guard position and the shooting guard position in stretches. 

5. Tony Allen

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    With Steve Nash locked in for another season and Mike D'Antoni's obvious favoritism, Tony Allen may be the perfect complement for Nash's defensive liabilities on the perimeter.

    If nothing else, Allen is a lockdown defender.

    Dating back to his days as a Celtic, Allen has been regarded as one of the league's toughest and stingiest defenders.

    While there are still flashier and more dynamic free agents out there (i.e. O.J. Mayo), given his age, Allen's veteran status and defensive prowess may come at a discount.

    Allen doesn't bring much in the way of offensive contributions; however, there is no doubt that his elite level of defense will shore up a perimeter defense that will be in shambles without the Black Mamba in uniform next season. 

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