2006, 2008 and beyond

Kurt —  March 23, 2006

The win over Sacramento has me feeling a little more relaxed. The Lakers have been likely to make the playoffs for a while, but that win, along with another this Sunday over New Orleans, would likely be enough. That is, barring a last-season like collapse, and Phil Jackson wouldn’t let that happen. So, for a minute, let’s think about next season and beyond.

TJ Simers of the LA Times, in his own curmudgeonly style, sat down with Mitch Kupchak — or maybe interrupted his dinner is a better way of phrasing that — and talked about the coming off-season:

He said the Lakers will have the ability to sign a midlevel, $40-million player for five years this summer, a starter, a veteran with the ability to push the team to victory in the close games they’ve been losing, which would allow them to compete with Phoenix, San Antonio and Dallas.

First off, I think it’s going to take a little more than one mid-level exception player to compete with the big three in the West (and I think a five-year MLE is worth closer to $30 million), but the Lakers can continue to build the foundation of veterans and role players that compliment Kobe, Lamar, and eventually one other big-time guy needed to lead this team. The Lakers already have $67 million committed for next year, although only $52 million of that counts against the luxury tax (Brian Grant’s salary). Coming off the books will be Slava and Vlade (both gone already but being paid $5 million combined) and Devean George, who makes $5 million per year.

George is one of the big questions of the off-season — can you do better for $5 million per year? George is not headed to the Hall, but he plays solid defense, is decent on offense (PER of 11.9) and knows the system. My two cents: the Lakers don’t really need more guys that play the 2/3 swing spot, so I’d let him go and try to find a veteran point or another big (something hard to come by for just $5 million these days). There are some interesting names out there (note that this list is a bit dated, for example Caron Butler will not be available).

Other nuggets on the future from this sit down with Mitch includes conformation that the Lakers picked up the third year on Kwame Brown at $9 million and that the Lakers now are officially committed to the “2008 plan,” (which has its own set of questions and issues).

…he admitted the team had money earmarked for free agents, but those free agents had their contracts extended this season. So the Lakers spent that money elsewhere (Brown), pushing their free-agent plans back to 2008.

Kupchak called the possibility of trading for a franchise player was “probably remote.” Just for all you holding out Kevin Garnett fantasies.

I see the next off-season as a chance to bring in better defenders, fill in some weakness, add depth, just basically continue to build a team and bring in pieces for the sign-and-trade likely needed to secure the big time player that would fill out the roster — preferably a 4/5. But that I would think is a couple off-seasons away.