Archives For June 2008

“Free” Agents

Kurt —  June 30, 2008

The term free agent applies to the players and their status, but for the Lakers any signings will be anything but free. Which is why we can expect limited if any action from the Lakers on the open market that starts tonight.

Let’s start with this — the Lakers payroll right now is about $75 million with 10 players signed. Next year’s salary cap will be about $58.5 million, meaning the Lakers can only resign their own players or offer the mid-level exception (about $5.6 million this year) to other team’s players. Those signings are allowed over the cap, which is a “soft” number.

However, the luxury tax is a “hard” number and next season should be about $71 million. For every dollar the Lakers are over that (and right now they are $4 million over it) Jerry Buss and friends will pay a dollar-for-dollar penalty.

So, resign Sasha to $4 million a year and that is actually an $8 million payout by the owners. Throw in Ronny at $1 mil + and suddenly the idea of the Lakers bringing in a big free agent seems less and less likely. Buss is willing to spend some over the tax number to win, but he has never gone Cuban/Knicks crazy with that philosophy. (And, both of those franchises have learned doing that is not the way to win anyway.)

So what do the Lakers do starting tonight at 9 p.m. (Pacific, midnight along the Eastern Seaboard):

1) Call Sasha Vujacic and his agent. There is going to be some interest in him, but the Lakers appear willing to go to up to $5 million a year to keep their key shooter off the bench. And they should keep him, because for all the ribbing Sasha took from fans, coaches and teammates he has developed into a very nice contributor off the bench, a guy who knows the offense and how to work in it. When you look at the list of free agents available, there is not someone out there who better fits the Lakers needs.

2) Call Ronny Turiaf. Like with Sasha there will be some interest in him, although not as much. Maybe his is worth up to $2 million a season. But his skill set is easier to replace, if it comes to that, but Ronny is a solid big off the bench. What would be harder to replace is the infectious energy and how much he is loved by the fans. And the dancing, it would be hard to replace the dancing.

3) Make a couple of free agent calls, and take any calls from agents, just to see what is out there. Don’t expect much, but you’ve got to look and listen. Reality just intrudes on deals. Lakers fans would love to see Posey in Lakers colors but look at the reality: 1) That is going to cost at least $5 million of the Midlevel Exception, which means a $10 million payout by the Lakers owners for a bench role player; 2) There is almost no way he leaves Boston.

Look up and down the list of available unrestricted free agents — it’s not a deep or exciting class. (Forget the restricted ones, anybody worth having the team would match what the Lakers can offer.) Who on that list really improves the Lakers and would really be worth double what you are going to have to pay him due to the tax? Not a lot of names leap off that list. Commenter Kwame a. suggested James Jones as a possibility.

A year ago I would have been thinking about Chris Duhon at the MLE to be at the point, but that doesn’t work well now. That said, in the next couple of years the Lakers need to decide what to do long term about that position — give Farmar the starting job and find a backup, or bring in some free agent and keep Farmar on the bench. Not a decision that has to happen now, nor should it (let’s see how Farmar grows from the playoff experience last season) but it has to be on the radar.

One thing the Lakers can consider is getting a cheap backup center, in case they think Mihm is not really going to be able to fill that role. Someone like Primoz Brezec of Toronto that you may be able to get for $1 million or so. Francisco Ellison and Pietrus may fit into that same mold, and there are other names out there. Again, that is only something to consider based on what the people who have seen more of Mihm think he can do next year. (Don’t base your thoughts solely on the Finals, that was a brutal situation to throw a guy into who hadn’t played in forever.)

The more likely option is the Laker roster looks exactly like last year’s with Sasha and Ronny back and the last two spots on the bench going to the inexpensive Coby Karl and Joe Crawford (both of whom should make the D-Fenders much better next season).

And that would be fine with me — I think some blew out of proportion what happened in the Finals. If the Lakers come back next year with a healthy Andrew Bynum in the paint, a healthy Trevor Ariza to defend on the perimeter and the lessons of the finals burned into those young players memories, they will be a serious title contender next year. And, going into the season, that is all you can ask.

Draft Thoughts

Kurt —  June 27, 2008

Lots of things to talk about, but as this is a Lakers blog and all, maybe we should start there. As word filtered through the Kentucky faithful that Crawford had been drafted, more information on the newest Laker came out.

That starts with long-time reader here Zach who is a UK fan, lives in Louisville and saw a lot of Crawford.

Since I’m a UK fan, Crawford has been one of the most frustrating players in recent memory, almost as frustrating as watching Rondo mature into everything that we thought we should’ve had at UK, now only see him win a title w/ the Celtics compounds the frustration tenfold. Crawford is a Tubby Smith guy. He came to UK w/ Rondo and Randolph Morris (and Ramel Bradley) w/ the hopes that this was going to be the recruiting class that got UK back to the Final Four. 3 McDonalds All-Americans, you had to like your chances. Well, to say the least it didn’t work out as planned.

Defense is probably what he’ll need to do to be able to make the team….I don’t think his stroke is anything special…but he is a “scorer”, not a spot up shooter by any means. Offensively he’s a scorer, gets in the lane, could hit the college 3 well enough for defenses to have to cover it, because he can drive to the rack, now with the bigger bodies he’s going to face, he’s going to have to become a better shooter. Did I trust him to hit a big jumper when need be? I wanted him to shoot it because that’s all UK had, but was I confident…eh…not so much. I would trust him to make a move and get a shot though, which is a plus.

Zach also pointed me to an article on Crawford in the Louisville Courier-Journal that summed up what seems to be a lot of UK fans thinking.

Prince, Bogans, Rondo, Azubuike, Hayes – all Tubby guys, all guys that have their knocks, but have lasted in the pros. Whether it’s the toughness that Smith instilled, or the defensive work ethic, not sure, but they’ve all seem to have made some sort of impact in the league. Crawford didn’t flourish under Smith, he really picked it up under Gillespie, who’s a defense first coach, and who made Joe play defense. There are no doubts about his offensive capabilities, the only doubts I have is whether or not he’s good enough. He played thru injuries, and I think he’s been mentally toughened by Gillespie, but there are still doubts to whether or not he could play, and whether or not the Lakers could’ve waited and invited him to a tryout, instead of wasting a draft pick on him.

There also was some interesting stuff at Sea Of Blue, what looks to be a very good UK blog (SB nation really only has quality guys)

Crawford really came on in the last 2/3 of this season after a slow recovery from minor knee surgery last year and a bit of a rocky start with Kentucky’s new coach, Billy Gillispie. As the year progressed, Crawford and teammate Ramel Bradley developed into a dynamic duo and became the backbone of a Kentucky team that reinvented itself after a rocky non-conference season to finish second in the SEC East.

What I will always remember is the sudden appearance of noticeable heart and passion in Crawford, who for three years at Kentucky played with a kind of disinterested and even surly demeanor. Later in his senior year, it became obvious that he was leaving it on the floor every single game, and Crawford became an unmistakable leader for the Wildcats.

As has been said before, it is basically down to Crawford, Coby Karl and some summer league free agents to get that last roster spot (assuming Sasha and Turiaf return, and some money is spent on one vet off the bench and/or another backup center). That should make summer league more interesting to watch.

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As for other thoughts, count me in the group that loved what New Jersey did. I think they waited a couple years to long to start to rebuild, but when they did they did it right. Darius summed it up well:

Lopez, Anderson, CDR. That’s a 7 footer with a low post game, a 6?10? PF with perimeter skills, and everyone’s fave CDR. As I mentioned yesterday, you add that to Devin Harris, Marcus Williams, Yi, VC, Josh Boone, and Sean Williams and you’ve got some good, high regarded talent and a lot of youth. They’ve also dumped all their contracts except for Carters and can make a run at FA’s in the Summer of 2010 when Wade, Melo, Lebron, and Bosh are all their. Not bad work in a season for Thorn and Kiki.

The Knicks are willing to move David Lee? I thought he’d be a great fit with D’Antoni, so color me confused.

Wow I really don’t get what Memphis did. Well, I think if that had been a Love for Mayo swap it would have been fine (but can you see Love throwing the outlet to Gay in transition — that would have been impressive). But putting Mike Miller in that deal? That’s a win for Minny now. It’s pretty clear that Memphis loved Mayo (unless the trade for Beasely rumors are true) and wanted to totally shake up the roster in rebuilding, but they paid a very high price to do that. Unless Mayo turns out to be better than we all thought….

If I were the Clippers, and I thought I needed passing and a true PG to start to use the talent on the roster, I might be calling Chicago today about Kirk. Not cheap, but he’s a quality PG they could really use.

NBA Draft Chat

Kurt —  June 26, 2008

UPDATE: The Lakers took Joe Crawford, a guard out of Kentucky. He’s 6-4, 210 and described as a bit of a tweener. Last season was his senior year at Kentucky and he took 32% of the team’s shots when he was on the floor, still shooting a nice 54% eFG% and a more average 36% from three. Apparently he had a pretty good pre-draft camp in Orlando. Here is what caught my eye from the Draft Express profile: “Crawford’s spot-up jump shot has very good form, boasting a fairly deliberate release (but not in a bad way), with near textbook mechanics and a high and consistent release point.” Now, they go on to dismiss his pull up jumper, but you can at least see what the Lakers front office is thinking — can this guy become a spot up shooter in the triangle? Maybe, not a bad risk at 58.

Like we said before, he will likely be fighting Coby Karl and some free agents on the Summer League team for a roster spot.

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It’s going to be interesting tonight, it looks like a lot of movement on the board. This thread is up to talk draft as the picks go on, and any moves made today (sounds like the Clippers really want Bayless, and he’d be a good fit for them).

While we’re talking, there will be plenty of really interesting stuff on the Web today. Maybe the person most on top of it is Matt at Blog-a-Bull, and I would be too if my team were about to pick Rose. If you are looking for updates on trade rumors throughout the day, that is a great place to start.

If you want more analysis, friend of the site Kevin Pelton has an interesting statistical breakdown of the incoming class, including a discussion of why it is harder to predict point guards than any other position.

In part, this might be because rookie performance tends to be less meaningful for point guards. If you followed the 2005 link, you saw I was way down on Deron Williams. Lo and behold, Williams did struggle as a rookie, but that hasn’t stopped him from developing into an elite player. In the case of a player like Rose, a relatively low rating is not exactly encouraging, but not entirely damning either.

Another place worth checking out tonight is Deadspin, where Bethlehem Shoals (the blogger we all wish we were) will be live blogging the draft, and getting a little weepy about Will.

If the Lakers are going to do anything, it likely will be some sort of cash deal to move up and get one of Seattle or Portland’s many second round picks. Apparently, the Lakers have their eye on George Hill. Pelton had an interesting comment about him as well:

Hill is an interesting second-round prospect. The numbers suggest he should be able to hold his own at the point while providing offense off the bench. If Eddie House can play point guard in the NBA Finals, there’s a spot in the league for Hill.

We’ll be posting updates if the Lakers make any moves today, and we’ll be talking about who is hiding out in the green room as he plummets down the draft board.

Who Can You Draft At #58?

Kurt —  June 25, 2008

As was said when going through the roster, it is clear that whomever the Lakers end up taking in this draft (if anyone) is going to have to fight to make the roster. They are going to have to beat out Coby Karl for that last roster spot, and we know Coby can throw it down. The winner of that tussle for the end of the bench seat likely would spend most of the season with the D-Fenders. The Lakers roster is stacked, and while maybe one more vet may be added to the rotation, any rookie that comes in will be treated as a potential project.

Which means this is a good place to take a “flier” — pick some guy that has potential but needs a lot of work. Dare I say it, a guy with huge upside and motor.

First things first, if the Lakers brass really like Karl, they may trade this pick for some minor consideration. That would not be a shock.

Or, the Lakers may try to trade up to early in the second round, as was rumored on Draft Express. The target would be George Hill, who comes out of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Needless to say, I have seen none of his games (if you have send me a note), so what follows in terms of a preview is culled from Draft Express and other places. Hill is a 6-2, 180 pound guy who is projected as a point at the NBA level. He can shoot the ball from the outside — he took 26% of his team’s shots while on the floor (so you know defenses were focused on him) and still shot 60% eFG% and 45% from three. Despite his size he was also his team’s best defensive rebounder. He turned the heads of a lot of scouts in Orlando with very solid play, and had guys talking about his basketball IQ. Also, his team ran the triangle offense in college. The knocks are that he is not a traditional point guard (not a problem in the triangle) and that he can turn the ball over some. Also, scouts were divided on his athleticism. He may be a guy who can be groomed into a backup PG in the triangle.

Hill is projected to go in the middle of the second round, so if the Lakers want him they would have to move up and get him. The question is, what are you willing to give up to move up in the second round? Not anything of consequence. So this may well not happen.

If they decide not to trade up or trade out, who might the Lakers get at 58? Predicting anything this late in the draft is very difficult, but here are a few names from people who follow this more closely that I do.

Draft Express has them taking James Mays, a power forward out of Clemson. This is a guy who may fit that project mold — he is 6’9”, 218 pound power forward with a lot of athleticism and is very active on the inside. Reports out of the Orlando pre-draft camp suggest that he is not very polished, particularly on offense, but that he works his tail off and is willing to do the dirty work inside. His numbers at Clemson show sort of the same thing — he only shot 48% this past season and had an offensive rating of 100 (points per 100 possessions) which is not impressive. But he did grab 12% of his team’s missed shots, which shows tenacity on the boards. Apparently in Orlando he tried to show a face-up, dribble penetration game that had a little promise. Bottom line, he could develop into an energy guy off the bench, but as he is already 22 years old how much better is his game going to get?

Chad Ford’s latest mock at ESPN.com has the Lakers taking Davon Jefferson out of USC. Somebody we have seen a lot of. He came around as the season went on and showed great athleticism in his 6-8, 215-pound body. He shot 58% on the year and grabbed 16% of the available defensive rebounds. His explosive leaping ability meant a lot of blocked shots. He likes to get out and run on the break. He turned the ball over a bit much, but the kid has the skills. But here is what scares me off of him — he showed up to pre-draft workouts woefully out of shape (12% body fat) and not showing a lot of fire. Here he is trying to impress people he should be paid to play and he isn’t working out? If you take a risk on someone, you do it on a guy with great work ethic and I’m not sold that is the case here (maybe there are extenuating circumstances, but they’d have to be biggies).

NBAdraft.net has the Lakers taking JR Giddens, a 6-5 two guard out of New Mexico. He was the focus of the Lobo’s offense and shot 54.7% (eFG%) and 33% from three. He is supposed to be a great leaper, a good athlete who likes to run the floor and has deep range as a shooter. But the questions here are much like Jefferson — what kind of work ethic does he have. That was questioned while he was at Kentucky, and when he transfered to New Mexico he actually was suspended by the team for the second half of the 06-07 season for “being a bad teammate.” Reports are his defense is shaky because he doesn’t really work at that end of the floor. This is another case (like Jefferson) where if he can play up to his potential he would be a second-round steal, but the question is do you want to take that risk on a guy with a questionable work ethic. Personally, I don’t, but I have not interviewed the guy to see if he has matured.

Another guy that may or may not be on the board, but is worth a look, is Luc Richard Mbah A Moute, who is 6′ 7″. 224 lbs. Those of us in Southern California have seen a lot of him in recent years and at the next level he will be a defense and hustle guy who can guard threes out on the perimeter. He can get out and run but his offensive game in a half-court set is limited (he shot 48% last year). His rebounding numbers were down a little last year but I think that had more to do with Kevin Love than anything else. Reports out of pre-draft workouts were that he showed well on the defensive end. Frankly, I don’t think you can go wrong with a guy who can defend on the wings — you can teach him to shoot threes (see Bowen, Bruce).

He may not fall that far, but if Mbah A Moute is on the board I would like to see the Lakers grab him (some mock drafts have him going higher, some have him undrafted). If not, someone like Mays would be good, or maybe a Euro we don’t know much about that could be stashed overseas for a few years (ala Sun Yue).

Whatever happens, this is a guy for down the line, not next year. But it should be fun to watch.

Fast Break Thoughts

Kurt —  June 23, 2008

As the frustration level subsides in the Lakers nation, we should look at some odds and ends issues that did not get much discussion here. What that means is that for now we return to the regular rules for discussion an Odom (or any other) trade — it is off the table until credible media sources say talks are taking place. For the many new readers here, that does not mean some media guy saying “the Lakers can expect a call” or a mention from Peter Vessey. It means more like Bresnahan at the Times or Ding at the Register saying talks are taking place. The hypothetical trade conversation can continue in the thread of the last post.

There are a lot of other interesting topics to discuss.

• It’s official, Kobe is on the US Olympic team. No shock there. I look at the roster and while it may be small (all the better to run with) like the balance — having Redd and Prince will be key in international ball. Kidd will help push the pace (although I sympathize with Cuban here, Kidd is the player most likely to feel the impact next season from no summer off).

The two complaints I heard were: 1) Not enough big men; personally, with international ball and the “big men” being more Dirk than Shaq, I think having Howard and Bosh with Boozer for muscle will be fine (it’s more about quickness and team defense, we’ll see if they get the rotations together); 2) Too many stars. I don’t look at this lineup and see a ball-hogging group, they guys on this roster can pass and the shooters (Redd) fit a need. Frankly, there are no Iversons on this squad.

Should be interesting, because Spain and Argentina (if Manu plays) should be right there with the US.

• By the way, it’s interesting to see the “club or country” debate in the USA about basketball after reading so many of the same arguments around international soccer for so many years.

• And while I’m on soccer, a Russia/Spain Euro 08 finals next weekend semifinal Thursday will be fun. I love watching Andrei Arshavin play.

• Rose or Beasley?

For me this comes down to my draft philosophy — take the best player, regardless of position. From what I saw during the season and Tournament (I saw Rose on television maybe five times, Beasley twice), I like Rose. I think in a league not allowing hand checking on the perimeter, his quickness and strength are going to make him a very valuable force for a decade or more. But, if the Bulls took a close look at Beasley and thought he was basically just as good, they should go that direction as he does fit their needs more. I’m just not sure he’s as good. Hollinger disagrees.

• Anybody have any draft sleepers they think will be good? I saw a good question the other day — who will be next year’s Carl Landry?

• By the way, a post looking at the Lakers options at #58 in the draft will be going up in the next few days. On Draft Day I’ll have an open chat going for people who want to swing by and make fun of what Kevin Love wears to the event (can he top this?), as well as follow the happenings.

• In case you didn’t see it, Ariza did exercise is option and will be a Laker next season. After that he is an unrestricted free agent.

• I’m excited to see Wimbledon starting, although to be honest the French Open is still my favorite to watch. Even if Nadal is unbeatable on the red clay. (I think he may win on grass, too.)

• I am surprised the Suns are shopping Barbosa around. If I were a GM of a team that wanted to get out and run…..

RIP George Carlin. Fuck I’m going to miss that son of a bitch.

• Yes, I just broke one of my own rules for this site, but in that one instance it seemed appropriate.