Free Agency Day One

Kurt —  July 2, 2007

The first thing the Lakers did — one minute after they could talk to free agents — was something so obvious it could get overlooked, but it shouldn’t. They called Luke Walton.

Among the things it is clear the Lakers need to get to the next level is some quality role players to go around the stars (hopefully one more star) the team already has. Walton is exactly the kind of quality role player that the Lakers need more of. The numbers suggest that the Laker offense was not much more efficient with Walton on the court compared to him off it (0.3 points better per 100 possessions), but observation suggests that the offense may have been more balanced when he was on. The offense ran more smoothly, the passes moving more crisply. We know Kobe alone can carry the offense, but he seemed to need to do that less when Luke was on the floor.

In previous years, other teams were willing to let Luke shoot from the outside — in the 05-06 season he shot 42% (eFG%) on jump shots and 49.7% in close to the basket. But Luke worked on his shot — last season he shot 44.7% on jumpers and 61.7% in close. His three-point shooting improved from 32.7% to 38.7%. His PER jumped from 14.7. Bottom line, he made himself into an offensive threat.

This is also a good contract for a young role player — six years at $30 million. That’s enough money to pay his rent, even the South Bay, but not tie up the Lakers with a bad contract. Good moves all around.

Some other thoughts.

• Reports are the Lakers have reached out to Steve Blake, the former Terrapin PG. Of the guys the Lakers can afford, this is the best guy in my mind. He can hit the three — he shot 41.3% from there in 05-06. In this year’s playoffs, he was a +24.3 in the five games and shot 50% from three. On defense he is not a stopper but he is average — opposing PGs last year in Denver shot 46.6% (eFG%) and had a PER of 14.8 (right at the league average). In the playoffs, when he was on the floor the Spurs PG (usually Tony Parker) shot just 42%. Blake would bring some veteran PG presence to go with Farmar and maybe our new rookie.

• There had been suggestions the Lakers might go after former Bruin Jason Kopono, but instead he goes to Toronto. That’s just as well. The Lakers have plenty of guys who can shoot the three (including Mr. Walton), what they need to bring in are defenders. Kopono is not that.

• Coby Karl has signed to play summer league ball for the Lakers (in Vegas this summer, leaving Long Beach after decades there and just as I move back to the ciy; coincidence?). He is the son of George Karl and a star at Boise State with a great story. Glad to see him get a chance to showcase what he can do.