Free Agency Opens

Kurt —  July 1, 2006

Right after midnight, Mitch Kupchak made a phone call or two. Not the kind of midnight phone call I used to make back in my single days after stumbling home from a bar, although I guess we were both looking for a little help.

The Lakers are looking for help in two key areas from free agency (or possible summer trades): 1) backcourt help, specifically a veteran who can defend at the point; 2) some scoring punch at the three (so Walton can come off the bench). These were pretty obvious areas of need, but Kupchak has confirmed these as priorities in recent interviews.

Below are the names of some guys who the Lakers will likely take a look at and maybe even offer a deal to, with a few thoughts and stats thrown in. These are preliminaries, if things get serious with someone we’ll get into detail then.

First, let’s start with the one guy we know will be in a Laker uniform next year, Maurice Evans. I turned to one of the best bloggers out there, Tom Ziller from Sactown Royalty, to give me his impressions (remember Evans played for Sacramento two years ago):

Mo Evans is one of those guys with a “motor” that does some of everything when he comes into the game. He’s not a sparkplug like a Bobby Jackson or Ronnie Turiaf, but he does get in to do the gritty work when needed. Not a great scorer, so the Lakers will still need someone to break Kobe as far as the scoring load goes, but he’s not going to embarrass himself out there either. He needs consistent minutes to stay confident. He rebounds well as the need arises. Best asset might be man defense – not a Bowen, but he can definitely stay in front of his opponent. A true role-player.

Marcus Banks: This is the obvious choice, and it’s certainly not a bad one. I’ve written about him at length on this site, but the bottom line is he can defend and he can shoot the three. Most importantly, he’s within the Lakers price range — his agent says he wants the full MLE, which is what the Lakers likely would offer. His agent also talked up the Lakers. And Mitch tried to get him two years ago. You get the idea.

Sam Cassell. This is the hot rumor, apparently even Kobe has backed the idea of getting Cassell (although I wonder how much of this heat is driven by Sam’s agent — if you wanted to put pressure on the Clippers is there a better way than suggesting you might sign with the Lakers?). I am not a fan of the Lakers signing Sam for three reasons: 1) He’s 36; 2) I don’t think he’d like his role in the triangle, Cassell is used to having the ball in his hands, which could lead to “Gary Payton Syndrome”; 3) He can’t defend. Here’s what Kevin from Clipperblog said:

Herein lies the problem with Sam Cassell – Jack Black could take him off the dribble…..

Now, I know if you look up Cassell’s stats for last year you’d argue that he defends quite well (opposing points shot just 45.9% and had a PER if 15.4)) but I think that had to do more with the fact anyone who got past him had to deal with Kaman and Brand. The year before in Minnesota it was a PER of 17.9, and Cassell is two years older now.

Bobby Jackson: This would probably be my guy, but with only a two-year offer of the MLE with a team option for the third year (when ideally Farmar can step in). He’s not tall like Phil prefers (6-1) but he’s a solid defender (opponent PER of just 15.5, about average, although they shot 50.2%) and he hit 38.9% of his threes last season. He was a +2.1. I think he fits the “point” position in the triangle well. And, like Ziller said above in the Evans quote, Jackson is a spark plug.

Al Harrington: Atlanta is looking to deal him and he’d be a great fit at the three for Lakers. To get him likely will mean a sign and trade of Mihm and another player/draft pick. Rumor is Indiana, Golden State and Minnesota also will go after him, so would that Laker offer even be good enough? Last season in Atlanta Harrington had shot 34.6% from three, had a true shooting percentage of 51.3% and had a PER of 16. He will not be option #1, but if he’s willing to be #3 he’d be a good fit.