Lakers Notes: Key Signings, KCP, Pelinka, Davis

Four of the Lakers‘ low-cost signings within the last year have been crucial in helping bring the team to within one win of a championship, writes Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

As Slater details, the combined 2019/20 cap hits for Alex Caruso ($2.75MM), Rajon Rondo ($2.56MM), Markieff Morris ($1.75MM), and Dwight Howard ($1.62MM) total just $8.69MM, but those four players have become extremely important parts of the Lakers’ rotation, especially in the postseason.

Rondo’s return from a broken thumb has helped lessen the need for the Lakers to experiment with backups like Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith, while Morris’ ability to play center in small-ball lineups has come in handy multiple times in the playoffs, particularly against Houston. Howard had his best moments against Denver as a Nikola Jokic irritant, according to Slater, who adds that Caruso has been a steady, reliable contributor through the postseason.

Caruso is under contract for $2.75MM next season as well, but the other three vets will have the opportunity to reach free agency — their strong playoff showings could put them in line for raises.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hasn’t always been a fan favorite in Los Angeles during the last three seasons, but he’s coming up big for the team in the postseason, writes Jordan Greer of Sporting News. Caldwell-Pope, who has knocked down 38.5% of his three-pointers in the playoffs, made some big shots down the stretch in Game 4 to help seal the Lakers’ win. He has a $8.49MM player option for 2020/21.
  • A championship would be vindication for Lakers head of basketball operations Rob Pelinka, who took the reins following Magic Johnson‘s abrupt resignation last spring, then negotiated a trade for Anthony Davis, came up short in his pursuit of Kawhi Leonard, and had to quickly fill out the roster around his stars six days into free agency. Sam Amick of The Athletic has the story on Pelinka’s “let-it-all-out moment” near the end of Game 4.
  • The role of franchise savior never quite fit Anthony Davis in New Orleans, according to Justin Verrier of The Ringer, who writes that the former No. 1 overall pick has been at his best and is reaching his full potential alongside another superstar in LeBron James.
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