Lakers Players Who Need to Boost Free Agency Value in 2021 PlayoffsMay 13, 2021
Lakers Players Who Need to Boost Free Agency Value in 2021 Playoffs
The spotlight of the NBA playoffs is bright on its own.
When it's attached to the Los Angeles Lakers, though, it's especially radiant.
The Lakers are a storied franchise in a major market and get every bit as much attention as that implies. Win big in Hollywood, and legendary status becomes attainable.
But it works both ways. Struggles are magnified, maybe more so now than ever given the ticking clock of LeBron James' remaining prime.
For the following three free-agents-to-be, they need a strong postseason run to boost their bank accounts this summer.
Andre Drummond (Unrestricted)
Last season, Andre Drummond was unceremoniously salary-dumped at the trade deadline. The same thing could've happened this year had the Cleveland Cavaliers sniffed out a willing trade partner. When they couldn't, they bought out the former All-Star.
Clearly, the big fella could use a reputation boost ahead of his journey to the open market.
He's a ridiculous rebounder and previously booked a pair of All-Star trips by posting some big numbers for the Detroit Pistons. But he has never contributed much to winning, and his lack of perimeter skills grew increasingly problematic in today's NBA.
Still, his size and athleticism could sway some suitors his way with a strong postseason. If he uses that stage to showcase better defensive feel and a willingness to fill the rim-running role, he could still fetch a decent contract this summer.
Montrezl Harrell (Player Option)
Montrezl Harrell has made a habit out of terrorizing second-team frontcourts.
If you need some interior buckets in a hurry, few are better at scratching that itch. He's on a four-year run of averaging at least 21 points per 36 minutes, and in three of those four seasons, he has shot better than 61 percent from the field.
That role has value, but Harrell's challenge is proving that value can sustain (or ideally increase) in the postseason.
That hasn't been the case so far in his career, as his defensive limitations have typically led to a diminished role in the playoffs. Last season, the Los Angeles Clippers went from giving him 27.8 minutes a night in the regular season to just 18.7 in the playoffs. He was lucky the number was even that high, since the Clippers were 27.2 points worse per 100 possessions with him than without.
The Lakers are deep enough at center that if Harrell doesn't have it going, they can quickly pivot in a different direction. If he can't convince potential suitors that he might work as a starter or, more importantly, a closer, he could find a more tepid market than his per-minute production would suggest.
Wesley Matthews (Unrestricted)
Wesley Matthews looks like the kind of player you would want alongside your star.
That's why the Lakers brought him in to run with James and Anthony Davis this season, and it's why the Milwaukee Bucks lined him up alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton last season. Matthews is fearless and physical on defense, owns a typically reliable three-point shot and has nearly 50 playoff games under his belt.
But the Lakers are learning, as the Bucks did last year, that this version of Matthews isn't quite what they remembered. The 34-year-old is getting a career-low 19.7 minutes per contest and doing little with them. For the second straight year, he has a single-digit player efficiency rating. His 33.3 three-point percentage is easily the worst of his career.
Saying that, narratives can change quickly in the postseason, and Matthews will have the stage and opportunity to rewrite his. The Lakers often entrust him with high-profile defensive matchups, so if he handles those well enough and rediscovers his three-point touch, he might again have contenders lining up to plug him into a complementary role.
All stats courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.