The Los Angeles Lakers are no longer a team in the middle of a rebuild. With LeBron James now on the roster, they'll be expected to compete in the Western Conference following the longest postseason drought in franchise history.
Shortly after Klutch Sports Group announced that LeBron will join the Lakers on a four-year deal on Sunday, it was reported that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee will also make Los Angeles their homes next season. Now, the Lakers face some tough questions with some of their current and younger players on the roster. Are they done dealing or will they move some pieces to surround LeBron with veterans who can help them compete for a title next season?
From Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram to Josh Hart and Mo Wagner, we look at the Lakers' roster and decide who's worth keeping and who should be sent packing.
Lonzo Ball - $7.5 million in 2018-19
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): Take him. Like LeBron, Ball is a player that consistently tries to make the right pass and the right play. In order to be better suited to play alongside LeBron, Ball must improve upon the 30.6 percent 3-point shooting in his rookie season. Despite his shortcomings, Ball was still named to the All-Rookie Second Team. James, who has greatly improved as a shooter over the course of his career, is the perfect player to help mentor and groom Ball into the player he has the potential to become.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): Take him. Not only is Ball a pass-first point guard who doesn't dominate the ball, he lives in transition and has the physical tools to defend a number of positions. The problem, of course, is he needs to improve significantly as a shooter to have long-term success next to LeBron. (Ball made 33.1 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts last season, a miserable mark for someone who took as many as he did). He showed enough improvement as the season progressed for me to believe he and LeBron can make it work down the road, though, especially when you factor in their collective basketball IQs.
Julius Randle - Restricted Free Agent
Gil: Take him. This may come as a surprise, but a potential lineup of Ball, Ingram, James, Kuzma and Randle could be very scary. If the idea is to dethrone the Warriors, a team needs as much talent as possible - it's hard to justify doing away with a talent like Randle. While it might be difficult to envision he and James co-existing on the offensive end, Randle (23) is young enough to mold his game based on the tutelage of an older, wiser player. He's already played alongside Kobe. It's only right he continues with LeBron.
REPORT: Randle to sign two-year deal with the Pelicans
Scott: Leave him. Letting Randle walk and not getting anything in return for him after the season he just had would hurt, but there's less of a need for his scoring and playmaking now that LeBron is in town. While it would help having one of the best pick-and-roll scorers next to LeBron, Randle had the third-highest usage rating on the team last season and still hasn't developed into a scoring threat outside of the paint. The combination would make for an awkward fit, which is probably why Randle could be ready to move on from the Lakers in restricted free agency.
Brandon Ingram - $5.8 million in 2018-19
Gil: Take him. Without LeBron, Ingram was on the path of becoming one of the most potent scorers in the NBA. Add LeBron to the equation and Ingram's development will skyrocket. While shooters and athletic bigs are a given, shot creators are an understated aspect in the formula for a successful LeBron James-led team. Ingram's developing ability to create his own offense will take a great deal of offensive pressure off of James, who is entering his 16th season.
Scott: Take him. What made Kyrie Irving a perfect fit with LeBron in Cleveland was he had the skills to complement the 14-time All-Star while he was still in his prime and the potential to carry the torch when he was entering the twilight of his career. Can Ingram be that player in Los Angeles? Ingram isn't as polished of a player as Irving was when LeBron returned to Cleveland in 2014 - particularly in isolation, where Irving has always been a stud - but the No. 2 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft made great strides in his sophomore season and proved to be a star on the rise. It he isn't on the Lakers next season, it's probably because he'll be the centerpiece of a trade for Kawhi Leonard.
Luol Deng - $18 million in 2018-19
Gil: Leave him. Deng is set to make $18 million next season after only playing in one game in the 2017-18 season simply because it's a poor fit. As the roster is shaping up, there simply is not a spot for Deng to contribute to this team. It's probably in the best interest of both parties to find a way to split.
Scott: Leave him. LeBron probably would've enjoyed playing with the Deng of old, but that player is no longer around. The 33-year-old struggled in his first season with the Lakers with averages of 7.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game on 38.7 percent shooting from the field. He then played in only one game last season despite being healthy. The Lakers have struggled to unload his contract in the past, so their best bet might be stretching the remaining years to open up cap space while there are still impact free agents on the market.
Kyle Kuzma - $1.7 million in 2018-19
Gil: Take him. Last season, Kuzma showed that he had one of the most complete offensive skill sets in his rookie class. While creating for others is a huge part of LeBron's game, Kuzma's ability to create his own shot will take some of the offensive load off of the 33-year-old James. The fact that Kuzma hit the second-most 3-pointers of all rookies last season at a 36.6 percent clip is an added bonus.
Scott: Take him. LeBron is at his best when he has shooting around him, so it makes sense having a power forward who knocked down 36.6 percent of his 3-point attempts as a rookie. Kuzma is more than just a shooter, too. One of the most polished rookies in the 2017 NBA Draft class, he's shown that he can attack closeouts when teams run him off the 3-point line, make timely cuts his defender helps off of him in the halfcourt and create a decent shot for himself when he finds himself in a mismatch. The fact that he's on a team-friendly contract only helps his case.
Josh Hart - $1.7 million in 2018-19
Gil: Leave him. In addition to the team's two new rookies, Ball, Ingram, Kuzma and Randle are all under the age of 24. While Hart (23) spent four years honing his game at Villanova, he's the odd man out - the team has committed money to veterans Lance Stephenson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and need to counterbalance the abundance of youth.
Scott: Take him. An excellent shooter who can switch on defense, keeping Hart is a no-brainer as far as I'm concerned. His rookie season got off to a slow start, but he made 41.1 percent of his 3-point attempts from Dec. 1 onwards and saved his best performance for last, scoring 30 points on 7-for-9 shooting from the perimeter against the Clippers in the season finale. Hart is on just as friendly of a contract as Kuzma as well.
Mo Wagner - $1.8 million in 2018-19
Gil: Take him. Wagner is a young, versatile player that is the essential big man of the future. In addition to his size and shooting ability, the 21-year-old can score from the post and is not afraid to clean up the glass.
Scott: Take him. Wagner is a 6-foot-11 big man who can stretch the floor as a 3-point shooter, having made 39.4 percent of his 3-point attempts in his sophomore and junior season at Michigan on decent volume. He's also on a team-friendly contract. Are you sensing a trend yet?
Ivica Zubac - $1.5 million in 2018-19
Gil: Leave him. At 7-1, Zubac has great size and is a skilled, traditional big, but he isn't the calibre of athlete for this to be a good fit.
Scott: Leave him. He's on a cheap contract, but it's hard to see Zubac making an impact on a LeBron team next season and beyond. There are still some centers in free agency the Lakers can target depending on how much they are willing spend, such as DeMarcus Cousins, Brook Lopez, Greg Monroe, Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel.
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk - Unsigned Second Round Pick
Gil: Take him. In his senior year at Kansas, Mykhailiuk attempted nearly seven 3-pointers per game and connected on 44.4 percent of them. More importantly, LeBron has never won a title without a Jayhawk as a teammate (Mario Chalmers in Miami, Sasha Kaun in Cleveland).
Scott: Take him. You can never have too much shooting on a team with LeBron.
All signings will not be official until the end of the NBA moratorium period on July 6. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.