Projecting Landing Spots for Lakers' Top Free Agents

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistApril 14, 2022

Projecting Landing Spots for Lakers' Top Free Agents

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    The Los Angeles Lakers could be in for an overhaul after a disastrous 2021-22 NBA season.

    Head coach Frank Vogel was already ousted, and the changes may continue as the club looks to construct a contender on the fly ahead of what will be LeBron James' age-38 season.

    With most of this roster ticketed for free agency, the Lakers probably couldn't bring everyone back even if they wanted to. Our purpose here is to spotlight the potential landing spots of their top three free agents.

Carmelo Anthony

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    The No. 3 pick in the famed 2003 draft, Carmelo Anthony has enjoyed a career for the ages—and made a megayacht-load of money along the way.

    At this stage, the 37-year-old is on the hunt for two things: that elusive championship ring and, more than anything, a happy environment.

    "If I've got to be unhappy to try to go fight and win a championship, I don't want that," Anthony told reporters. "I don't want that unhappiness. I don't want that energy around me. So, do I want a championship? Hell yeah. ... But I think at this point in my career, it's about just being happy."

    The 10-time All-Star was supposed to find happiness and a ring when he linked up with close friend LeBron James last summer, but the Lakers seemingly had one of the more unpleasant campaigns in recent memory.

    Maybe Anthony saw it differently and wants to run it back, but if happiness is what he truly seeks, he might dial up a different former team to find it.

    Prediction: Anthony signs with the New York Knicks.

Malik Monk

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    L.A.'s minimum investment in Malik Monk was a smashing success.

    Frankly, it went too well for anyone hoping he'd run it back with the Purple and Gold next season.

    The 24-year-old says he is interested in a reunion, but it's hard to see that being financially feasible. He should be in high demand after posting career marks in several different categories, including 13.8 points, 2.9 assists and a 47.3 field-goal percentage. L.A. is capped what it can offer at either a 120 percent raise (roughly $2 million) or the taxpayer's mid-level exception (roughly $6.3 million).

    League personnel previously told B/R's Jake Fischer that the Kentucky product's next contract could feature an average annual value "between $5 million and $10 million," and it only takes one suitor to go on the high end of that range to knock out the Lakers.

    Given the priority placed on perimeter shooting, Monk's three-ball and ignitable scoring should fetch him a deal richer than what the Lakers can pay.

    Prediction: Monk signs with the Detroit Pistons.

Dwight Howard

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    Dwight Howard's third go-round with the Lakers was—all things considered—pretty OK.

    Obviously, the team fell woefully short of expectations, but the 36-year-old provided a steady presence in the paint. His 61.2 field-goal percentage outpaced his career rate (58.7), and his per-36-minutes averages of 13.8 points, 13.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks weren't worlds removed from his career marks (17.8, 13.3 and 2.0, respectively).

    Assuming the eight-time All-Star wouldn't cost more than minimum money again, he could certainly stick around for another campaign.

    The Lakers and Howard seem right for one another. He allows them to fill the center spot for cheap, and they give him the chance to play a not-insignificant role for a not-insignificant team.

    Prediction: Howard re-signs with the Los Angeles Lakers.