We are a month away from the NBA trade deadline, but as of January 5th, teams can now sign players to 10-day contracts. The Lakers are one team starting to explore the current free-agent market.
With Anthony Davis still out indefinitely, the Lakers reportedly are bringing in former All-Star big man Demarcus Cousins. Cousins last played for the Denver Nuggets in the 2021-22 season, averaging 8.9 points a game. Myles Leonard has not played since January of 2021 with the Heat.
Injuries have played a part in Leonard’s absence, but he also faced backlash for racist remarks he made on a Twitch stream. Leonard apologized and claimed he did not know what the word meant, but he had not seen the court in two years.
Other available players can help teams as we get closer to the playoffs. Here are the top five free agents that could help bolster team’s playoff runs.
The 35-year-old point guard has played for 11 teams in his 14 seasons. He last played for the Lakers above in the 2021-22 season. Even though he only averaged a little over five points a game last season, he still shot over 41 percent from 3-point range (a little over three attempts per game) in his time with the Lakers and Houston Rockets.
Augustin can still help run a second unit and knock down open shots from deep, which is something any playoff team can use off the bench. No, Augustin is not a flashy name or will go out and score 25 points, but he will help stabilize a team bench unit and can be a spot starter if needed.
As I mentioned, Cousins has a workout scheduled with the Lakers on Friday. Cousins averaged 9.0 points and 5.6 rebounds last year in 31 games for the Nuggets. Cousins showed he still had some gas in the tank as he played in all five of the Nuggets playoff games vs. the Warriors.
Cousins had one of his best games of the season in the Nuggets game five loss to the Warriors. Cousin scored 19 points in only 15 minutes of play and pulled down four rebounds. With their lack of depth at center, the Lakers could use a player like Cousins, who occasionally can still give you solid minutes off the bench.
Teams can never have enough of one skill set, which is shooting. With teams routinely putting up 40 3s a game, shooting is always at a premium. Ben McLemore won’t make any highlights on the court’s defensive end and sometimes is a liability, but he can spread the floor.
Last year while playing for the Portland Trailblazers, McLemore shot .362 from deep on 6.5 attempts per game. McLemore played 64 games last year for the Blazers and was a starter for six of those games.
McLemore averaged 16.1 points over the final 14 games of the season. McLemore had a couple of 28-point games last year, and in both of those games, he made eight 3-pointers. A streaky shooter who can shoot you into some games and out of others.
The future Hall of Famer has bounced around the league over the last several years. Anthony has played for six different teams over his almost 20-year career. Anthony may not give you much on the defensive end, but his willingness to come off the bench and the fact he is still a good shooter from deep has extended his career.
Last year in 69 games for the Lakers last year, Anthony shot .375 from 3-point range after shooting over 40 percent for the Blazers the previous season. Anthony can still provide scoring off the bench for a playoff team, even in reduced minutes.
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Of course, his mid-range scoring is still there as he has changed his game over the years to more of a 3-point shooter; he can still score in the mid-post with the best of them. At 38, Anthony still has enough left to contribute to a team, even if that means he is the 10th or 11th man off the bench.
The veteran big man last played for the Utah Jazz in 2021-22 as Rudy Gobert’s backup. Even in limited time, Whiteside was top 10 in the NBA in block shots averaging 1.6 per game and 7.6 rebounds in only 17.9 minutes a game.
Whiteside may seem like he has been in the league forever, but he is only 32 years old and can still provide elite shot-blocking and rebounding when engaged. Of course, staying engaged and being consistent has always been part of Whiteside’s issue. But in a minor role, that is less of a problem.
Whiteside can also fill in as a starter in an emergency. In eight starts in Utah last season, he averaged 11.5 points and 11.3 rebounds. He also shot a career-high 65.2 percent from the field last season for the Jazz.
With teams looking to improve their rosters, many teams will look to trades before the deadline passes. In some cases, that is the best route, but occasionally, teams can find a free agent who may still be available via free agency for one reason or another. The players in this article can all help potential playoff teams.