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Lakers Shuffle Deck To Get Deeper And Better

Ross Everett
by in NBA on
  • The Los Angeles Lakers aren’t content to ‘stand pat’ after winning the NBA Championship.
  • Free agent Montrezl Harrell–the reigning sixth man of the year–is joining the Lakers.
  • Out is venerable Dwight Howard who has signed a one year deal with the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Los Angeles Lakers clearly don’t want to be a ‘one and done’ NBA championship team. Even with Anthony Davis still technically a free agent after declining his $28.7 million player option for the 2020-201 season the Lakers have established themselves as once again the team to beat. In the process, they’ve taken some starch out of their crosstown rivals the LA Clippers.

On Friday, the Lakers added free agent Montrezl Harrell to bolster their bench. Harrell signed the full midlevel exception that will pay him $9.25 million this season and $9.72 million next season. The 6’7″ Harrell was a highly sought after catch–he’s the defending Sixth Man of the Year and has size and skills. He’s a considerable upgrade over Dwight Howard (more about him in a moment) and should contribute all across the stat sheet. Last season he averaged 27.8 minutes a game putting up 18.6 PPG, 7.1 rebounds per along with 1.7 assists, 1.1 blocks and 0.6 steals. He could stand to improve his free throw shooting (just 65.8%) and has shown questionable defensive intensity at times but is otherwise solid in every phase of the game.

In the process, it gives the Lakers a bigger edge over their arena sharing rivals the LA Clippers. Harrell spent the last three seasons with the Clippers and his move down the Staples Center hallway initially caught his teammates by surprise. Harrell was a dangerous option in pick and rolls with the Clippers’ Lou Williams and should only get better in that department playing with LeBron James. It won’t be a huge surprise to see Harrell become a much better defender given the Lakers’ focus in that area. Before heading to Los Angeles there was a rap on Anthony Davis that he was some times unfocused on defense and within the span of a season has become arguably the nastiest defender in the league.

The Lakers also picked up versatile veteran swingman Wesley Matthews who played last year in Milwaukee. Matthews has averaged 13.1 PPG in his 11 years as a pro. The expectation also is that Anthony Davis will re-sign with the Lakers though he’s reportedly ‘considering his options’ and won’t do anything until after Thanksgiving.

Leaving the Lakers, however, is Dwight Howard who will reportedly sign with the Philadelphia 76ers. This came out in a somewhat bizarre turn of events that began with Howard tweeting that he was going to remain a Laker at approximately 4 PM Pacific Time. Several respected NBA reporters served to validate that report–until they didn’t. Within the hour, those Tweets were deleted as was Howard’s tweet. The news then became that no deal had been brokered and that Howard was continuing to evaluate his options:

About an hour later at approximately 5:30 PM Pacific the word came that Howard would sign a one year deal with the Sixers:

It wasn’t long after Charania’s report that the word came that the Lakers had signed Montrezl Harrell. Howard was at one point among the most dominant players in the NBA but over the past five years had bounced from one team to another putting up mediocre numbers and having a questionable attitude. That wasn’t the case in Los Angeles–the Lakers were his fifth team in five years and while not a huge factor statistically made a big contribution off the bench and generally had a positive attitude for one of the first times in a long time.

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