Archives For July 2005

Waiving Hello

Kurt —  July 5, 2005

The latest “what ifs” on possible off-season Laker moves are rounded up in a new piece by Eric Pincus at Hoopsworld. (And as a side note, credit to Eric for stepping up and taking responsibility for rumors he reported that never came to fruition, and saying he learned some lessons. Most jounalists in that position blame their sources or say things just changed at the last minute.)

The article talks about Bynum’s workouts and how he wowed Lakers’ staff, but the most interesting news was about the Lakers looking at picking up other players who might get waived as part of the one-time CBA get-out-of-jail-free cards teams may get.

Rumors are that Jalen Rose, should he be waived, would sign with the Lakers for the lower level exception as the triangle point guard. That could enable the Lakers to sign Theo Ratliff with some or all of the mid level exception if he is available.

Pincus (and, I’m sure others) sees these two as “significant upgrades,” but I’m not as sold on them. Rose, maybe, but I have concerns about Ratliff. Let me explain.

We’ll start with Rose. He is entering his 12th year in the league and last season had a bit of a bounce-back year in Toronto, improving his numbers from the previous years. He had a PER of 16.95 and an eFG% of 50.1%, both big bounces from the previous several years (his PERs were 12.4 and 14.9 the two previous years). He also had a career best 1.12 points per shot attempts. Of his shots, 82% were jumpers from beyond 15 feet, and he shot 47% on those.

But for those that picture him as a tall (6-8) point guard in the Laker triangle, I have a question: What about defense? I don’t know how Rose will perform against point guards because last season he spent 54% of his minutes guarding the opposing three and virtually none against point guards. Two years ago he covered some points and had a solid opponents PER of 14.5, but the year before that he guarded twos and threes, never a point. How is he going to do against Steve Nash or Barron Davis? Is he at his age really a step up over Chucky Atkins in this regard?

I also have concerns about how much Rose’s numbers will regress next year, but for the lower level exception (about $1.6 million) he could provide some scoring punch. I’m not opposed to getting him, but I wouldn’t expect much.

I’d expect even less from Theo Ratliff. At age 32 this past season his numbers entered their second year of decline and it’s a trend I’d expect to continue (just like Brian Grant’s numbers). Ratliff’s FG% fell from 48.5% to 44.7%, he grabbed just 11% of the available rebounds when he was on the floor, down from the above 13% he had the previous three years, and his PER dropped to a career low of 10.1.

But we’re getting him for defense and blocked shots, you say. Last year he did average a very good 3.7 blocks per 40 minutes, much better than the best Laker last year (Mihm at 2.3 per 40). However, that was the lowest number for Ratliff in seven years. His opponents PER last year was a worse-than-average of 16 against centers and 17.2 against power forwards. The year before, Ratliff was at 15.2, sticking with the theme of his skills declining. Or look at it this way: Last year Ratliff’s defensive rating (the points scored by the person he was guarding per 100 possessions) was 106, right at the league average. The season before it was 101. Last season was Ratliff’s career worst defensively.

Ratliff is another Brian Grant, albeit a much less expensive one. I would love to have the Ratliff of a few years back, but the one playing now is on the downside of his career. The Lakers need a younger, longer-term answer.

Looking At Antonio Daniels

Kurt —  July 4, 2005

As names of free angents (or in trades) come up that the Lakers may be interested in I’ll try to give some detailed info on those players. (There may be a bigger post with some of the more discussed names coming up, when I have more time, but I didn’t want to wait on the hottest name on the board.)

Mitch Kupchak’s first call apparently was to Antonio Daniels — and that was a good choice. No free agent may be better suited to Phil’s system and fit a Laker need more than the Seattle back up point guard. He would be a great pick up and make the Lakers better almost instantly.

Daniels was fourth on the Sonics this past season in +/-, a solid +5.3, and he had a PER of 18.45 (which would have been second on the Lakers to Kobe). He averaged 16.6 points and 6.1 assists per 40 minutes, with just 1.5 turnovers during that same time. He also had a good 1.11 points per shot attempt, which would have ranked him third on the Lakers last year. When on the floor he took about 19% of his teams shots and had an eFG% of 47.8% (solid but not spectacular). To break that down further, about 75% of his shots were jump shots outside of 15 feet, where he shot 42.5%. He shot just 29.7% from three-point range last year, but that may have been on account of how he was used because he shot 36.2% the year before and is at 32% for his career. On the 23% of his shots Daniels took inside of 15 feet he shot 60.7% and he drew a foul on 13.7% of his total shots.

More important to filling the Lakers needs is defense, and his opponents PER was just 13.5 (against opposing point guards, he does even better against shooting guards). Opponents shoot just 45.1% (eFG%) against him, for comparison Chuck Atkins number was 49.6%.

Daniels would not be a risk-free get for the Lakers — last year he played just 51% of the Sonics minutes, he would likely play more this year and traditionally when minutes and workload go up, efficiency goes down. That said, what Daniels would be asked to do inside of the triangle would be very structured and plays to his strengths — he is not going to be asked to be Steve Nash, but he will get some key opportunities.

The biggest problem may be getting him — Cleveland has more money under the cap to offer him and it would take him back to play close to where he grew up (he was born in Columbus), as the linked article above points out. Oh, and they have that LeBron guy. Seattle wants him back as well, but the rumor is he wants to start, something he could do in LA. The Lakers have just the mid-level exception to offer (expected to be about $5.3 million), which would be a big step up from the $2.2 he made the last two years but maybe less than other offers. But the Lakers do have the draws of Phil, Kobe and the legacy, not to mention the chance to meet Jack Nicholson.

I’ve got my fingers crossed for this one.

It was one of the most common refrains of Laker fans and management last year — “Just wait until 2007 when we clear out some cap space.” Allow me to translate that: “Just wait until 2007 when we don’t have to pay Brian Grant $15 million a year to be a washed up power forward forced to play center.”

Then came a ray of light from the new CBA — the Lakers may be able to dump Grant now. The new CBA is allowing a one-time only chance to waive players with bloated contracts — you still have to pay them and they still count against the salary cap, but they don’t take up any space on the roster and, most importantly, they don’t count against the luxury tax (which next season likely will be at a threshold of about $60 million, a figure the Lakers are over). Waiving Grant could save Jerry Buss as much as $30 million in the next two years, which from his perspective may make it seem like a no-brainer.

But if he does it he will set the franchise’s rebuilding back.

The reason the Lakers have and will struggle to get top players in trades (ala Baron Davis) is that most teams want expiring contracts back. What the trading team is trying to do is send off a valuable asset and his big price tag for players that will be gone come the end of the next season so they have money go after players they think better fit whatever rebuilding plan they have.

In recent years, the Lakers have had few expiring deals to dangle, but this year they finally have a few — Chucky Atkins, Devean George, Vlade and more. But next year, Brian Grant is the big chit. Here is $15 million in salary a team can trade for and then kiss goodbye at the end of the season — teams will give up a fair amount of talent to get something like that.

Waiving Brian Grant and watching him walk out the door (likely to pay for pennies somewhere else in the limited minutes backup role he should be in anyway) will save Dr. Buss a lot of money, and it’s easy for me to say not to because it’s not my money being risked. And I know keeping Grant is a risk, it ties up a roster spot this season and there is no guarantee you will be able to make a trade next year.

But, just like drafting Andrew Bynum was a risk now for a potential big payoff down the line, keeping Grant is the same type of move. Send him off and save money, but keep him and next summer, or maybe right before the trading deadline in the 06-07 season, you may very well get a big payoff. A payoff that will make the Lakers contenders again a lot sooner.

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One final quick thought on Andrew Bynum. I wrote this about Gerald Green in a pre-draft preview:

Here’s my thing with high schoolers — it’s more about their mental makeup. They’ve got to have the physical skills or they wouldn’t be considered, but does the kid have maturity about him and a good work ethic? Kobe did. Garnett did. LeBron did. You get the idea. I don’t know about Green, but the Lakers need a good answer to this question first.

I don’t know about Bynum either, but I like what I’ve heard from him so far.