5 Potential Free-Agent Small Forwards for Los Angeles Lakers to Pursue in 2015

Howard Ruben@howardrubenContributor IApril 12, 2015

5 Potential Free-Agent Small Forwards for Los Angeles Lakers to Pursue in 2015

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Lakers have a player shopping list almost as long as their worst losing streak of the season, a nine-game slide in January that fell just one game short of the team record.

    In what has become a record-setting campaign of futility, the 21-58 Lakers have just three games left and should finish with the NBA's fourth-worst record.

    So, while the Lakers currently have an 83 percent chance (per L.A. Times) of keeping their protected top-five lottery pick in the June NBA draft, they have a 100 percent chance of having enough money to spend on free agents in July.

    With about $25 million to shop for talent upgrades, the Lakers most definitely will be in the market for a small forward. It's just one need of many.

    L.A. has two players on its roster who man the SF position in Wesley Johnson and Nick Young. Neither one has done enough to claim the job as solely his.

    Johnson has been consistent in his inconsistency (Mark Medina, L.A. Daily News). Despite Scott’s belief that Johnson’s untapped potential could be realized this year, it just hasn’t. Johnson contributes 9.8 points in about 30 minutes every game he plays.

    Nick Young has had a wasted season in which, after signing a new four-year contract last summer, he played in just half the team's games due to various injuries. Young has also been at odds with Scott (per Mark Medina, L.A. Daily News). Their polarizing personalities have clashed on numerous occasions.

    What the Lakers must decide is: Do they go after a restricted free agent with great upside who will cost them plenty or play it safe with an unrestricted free agent looking for work and a second or third chance at redemption?

    Forget LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard. We're talking realistic possibilities only.

Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks, RFA

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    Aaron Gash/Associated Press

    Khris Middleton is a young, athletic hybrid shooting guard/small forward hybrid for the Milwaukee Bucks who could step right into a Lakers uniform and a starting position.

    At 6'7" and 225 pounds, the 23-year-old Middleton has developed a nice solid game on both ends of the court. In 76 appearances this year, he's averaging 13.3 points on 46 percent shooting, including 41 percent from beyond the arc.

    Middleton collects close to five rebounds in about 30 minutes per game. He is a restricted free agent who will likely command a big increase over the $915,000 he is earning this year, possibly in the neighborhood of $13 million, according to some reports (per CBS Sports).

    According to HoopsHype, Middleton is "an athletic freak with a nice inside-outside game".

    The former Texas A&M star was drafted 39th overall by the Detroit Pistons three years ago but has seen his game steadily improve in the two years he's been with the Bucks. He's mainly played guard for the Bucks but has seen action at the small forward spot and would be a versatile addition to the Lakers roster.

4. DeMarre Carroll, Atlanta Hawks, UFA

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    Jason DeCrow/Associated Press

    DeMarre Carroll is an unrestricted free agent and likely to find a sweetened deal over the $2.5 million he's making this year with the Atlanta Hawks.

    The 6'8", 28-year-old Carroll is having the best year of his five seasons in the NBA. As the team's starting small forward, Carroll averages almost 13 points in 31 minutes, shooting 49 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range.

    The former Missouri Tiger is regarded as one of the toughest defenders in the league and has leaned on that reputation.

    Via Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

    DeMarre Carroll knows what got him to the NBA. The Hawks forward is all about the defense. Carroll is the Hawks’ defensive stopper. He routinely guards the opposition’s best non-big player. Want to know what player the Hawks are trying to stop? Generally, you can look to see who Carroll is assigned to guard. Carroll should garner attention for one of the All-NBA defensive teams following the season.

    Carroll's scoring has picked up considerably in his two years with the Hawks, making him an attractive option for teams like the Lakers.

    In many ways, Carroll's game recalls a former Laker who manned the position during the team's last championship years: Trevor Ariza.

    He would make it easy for L.A. to demote Wesley Johnson as a starter next season. 

3. Kyle Singler, Oklahoma City Thunder, UFA

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    Brandon Dill/Associated Press

    The 6'8", 26-year-old Kyle Singler of the Oklahoma City Thunder has earned a reputation as an excellent shooter who hustles on every play.

    As cited by Hoops Hype, Singler is an "Excellent outside shooter... Plays with a lot of effort... Unselfish... A team player."

    Though he may not be at the top of the Lakers' shopping list, the former Duke star could provide scoring depth for their woeful bench and at a reasonable price. Singler is making $1.09 million this season.

    Singler converted 41 percent of his three-point shots in 54 games for the Detroit Pistons before his trade to the Thunder.

    When given the minutes, Singler has proven he can score—he made five of seven shots for 13 points in 29 minutes against the Memphis Grizzlies earlier this month. His minutes have been limited, though. He is averaging just 18 per game with OKC.

2. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors, RFA

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Signing Draymond Green would be a major coup for the Lakers and worth every penny they would need to shell out for the restricted free agent.

    The former Michigan State small forward has come into his own this season as the Golden State Warriors forged their way to the top of the NBA heap. Though overshadowed on offense by the Splash Brothers—Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry—Green still averages 13 points on 44 percent shooting and converts a respectable 34 percent from long distance.

    The 6'7", 230-pound small forward shines on the defensive end, where he grabs over eight rebounds a game while playing 32 minutes a game.

    As a restricted free agent earning just $915,000 this season, Green's price tag for next year will soar and could hit in the range of $15 million. He may even command a max contract from some suitor, particularly his hometown Detroit Pistons (per Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski).

    Green just turned 25 and may be the best defending small forward in the NBA. The Lakers should make a serious pitch for this guy.

1. Tobias Harris, Orlando Magic, RFA

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Orlando Magic small forward Tobias Harris is about to finish his fourth NBA season and is still just 22 years old.

    Set to become a restricted free agent, Harris will go from earning $2.5 million this season to at least $13 million for whomever is fortunate enough to sign him. There may even be a max deal offered by someone—could it be the Lakers?

    The 6'9", 235-pound Harris has truly blossomed in Orlando after spending his first two seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks. He was a first-round draft pick of the Charlotte Hornets out of Tennessee in 2011.

    Harris averages 17 points in 35 minutes for the lowly Magic, shooting 46 percent from the field and 36 percent from downtown. He also pulls down six rebounds a night.

    Harris has the potential to be the Lakers' starting small forward for the next decade. For now, he's just focused on his last few games of the season in Orlando, telling Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

    There's a lot of things you have to look at in any type of free agency, but what I think what everybody's beginning to forget is that [I'll be] a restricted free agent. So whatever happens, it's in the organization's hands to make a call. So I think everybody has to really keep that in mind and not just say, 'You might want to go here and there.'

    According to Magic GM Rob Hennigan, the team "intends" to resign Harris next season "no matter what" (per Orlando Sentinel's Brian Schmitz).

    The Lakers would be foolish not to make a legitimate offer anyway. After all, they already have a history (Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard) of bringing big-time players from Orlando to L.A.

    Howard Ruben has also written for UPI, L.A. Times, Los Angeles magazine, Adweek, and Ad Age.

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