The Vision Thing

Kurt —  May 8, 2006

In the heat of the playoffs, I got an email from a new Web site asking bloggers to play GM-for-a-day and tell us what their team should do in the off-season.

I’m not sure how you do that in any serious detail yet — free agency signings can’t happen for two months (July 10) and that is virtually a lifetime in this league. The NBA ground can shift a lot by the time you could sign anyone, heck you can’t even talk to anyone until July 1.

But what the good franchises do is have a big-picture vision and follow it. The Spurs probably haven’t looked in detail at the free agent market this summer yet, still they have an idea of what type of player they want, who will work in their system. If a player they want gets a big offer to go elsewhere, they have an understanding of where to go next, who else would work for them.

In the case of the Lakers, they have again started to get “the vision thing.” Jerry Buss seems to have always had it, as did Jerry West, who was the master of finding the right role players. But after the breakup of the Shaq/Kobe team, the team looked lost for a while. What the hiring of Phil Jackson did, besides appease angry season ticket holders, was give the team direction. That direction started to become cohesion by the end of the year.

But, as was exposed in the loss to the Suns, there are certainly things that need to be done, changes that need to be made. I don’t expect big moves this off-season, but whatever moves come do need to fit the big picture plan.

Player season breakdowns and report cards are coming. What I want to do now is start a list of priorities, to discuss what the next steps need to be. Below I lay out a few I have, which are up for debate, or you can add your own.

• New starting point guard. I love Smush, but right now he’s a backup (opponents shot 48.8% against him [eFG%] and they had a PER of 18.7 — better than Chucky Atkins the year before, 49.6% and 19.1, but still not great). All we likely will offer here is the mid-level exception for two or three years (about $5 million per). I’d like to get Mike James for that, but he’ll likely cost more.

I think a more likely target is Bobby Jackson of Memphis — he’s not tall like Phil prefers (6-1) but he’s a solid defender (opponent PER of just 15.5, about average) and he hit 38.9% of his threes last season.

Also, I’m not on the Speedy Claxon bandwagon, at least for the Lakers. Speedy will thrive in the right situation, but in the triangle he’d be as happy as Gary Payton. He’s a solid defender but his offensive game is all about penetration — we’ve got Kobe for that. And last season Speedy hit just 27% of his threes — and that was a career best. For his career he is shooting 18.9% from beyond the arc. That doesn’t fit the triangle.

• Kwame Brown is staying, not that anyone would take him in a trade anyway. The question is really this: Do you trust Kwame enough to trade Chris Mihm? Mihm may be the only real trade bait you have this summer, but get rid of him and your center combo for the next two years is likely Kwame starting with Bynum off the bench. Is that enough?

My gut feel is no, unless you are getting something very good in return — and big, a power forward or better. For those of you thinking Carlos Boozer, well, that is another column, but I will say this: The Jazz will not trade Boozer for just Mihm. Not only don’t the salaries match, but the Jazz need a shooting two guard not another big. Who are you going to entice them with, Sasha?

• That said, another big is needed. One name that intrigues me is Reggie Evans, he can board (grabbed 21.5% of the available boards last year, way better than any Laker), and is an average defender. Not sure what his market will be compared to the $1.75 the Lakers can offer (he made just $880,000 last season) as part of the lower level exception (this money could also resign Laron Profit). Other names on the list include Melvin Ely and Al Harrington.

Turiaf will provide a boost here as well but he’s a 15-minute guy off the bench at this point.

• Lamar Odom isn’t going anywhere. There’s only one player I’d likely trade him for, and KG is not leaving Minnesota despite how many times you post that on a message board.

• I’m not resigning Devean George unless he wants half his current salary (he made $5 million this season). He’s be a good fit in the right spot (San Antonio, Detroit) and will get a decent offer.

• As for the draft, picking number 26 in a weak year means we’ll be getting a project. I forget who said this in the comments on my one earlier draft posts, but at that point you take the best player regardless of position, and I think that’s correct.