The draft is over and the Lakers snagged two guard prospects they hope can make their team next year. That said, the Lakers nowhere near being finished completing their roster as relying on 2nd round picks to contribute to a championship contender isn’t what smart organizations do.
So, there is much work still to be done. Normally at this time of the year we’d be exploring free agent options and identifying who the Lakers could potentially sign and how those players could help the team win next year. But, ongoing labor negotiations and pending lockout have put that on hold for front offices around the league.
Even with that being the case, we’d be remiss if we still didn’t look at who this summer’s free agents are and who could be a good fit with the Lakers. You can bet the Lakers have identified targets to try and sign once a deal is struck between the owners and the players, so we too will look at what options are out there.
First, some caveats:
- While I’m looking at the entire list of free agents, I’m zeroing in on unrestricted free agents that are have either already exercised player options to opt out or whose contracts have already expired.
- I’m operating under the assumption that Shannon Brown will opt out of his contract and test the market.
- With Mitch Kupchak openly denying he’s shopping players while also expressing confidence in the “core” of this team, I’m looking primarily at players that can play shooting guard and ones that can be the 4th big man (preferably a center or someone that can swing between PF and C, though this is not mandatory).
- I’m looking solely at players that I think will play for the veteran’s minimum as the likelihood of their being a mid-level exception in the next CBA is not clear and I’d prefer to only look at players that could come cheaply yet still contribute.
Now, on to the list:
- Shannon Brown, SG: It seems strange that he’d return to the Lakers if he opts out of his contract, but one never knows how the market will treat Brown. There’s familiarity here and if Shannon doesn’t find a deal to his liking or a role that he thinks he can grow in, he may see if a return to the Lakers is his best option. While I’d bet against all of this happening should he actually opt out, he would, theoretically, be an option here.
- Mike Dunleavy, SG/SF: Dunleavy is a tricky call here because he’d likely command more money on the open market. But, he’s played on losing teams his entire career and may enjoy playing for a contender like the Lakers even if it means taking less money. Dunleavy’s a good shooter (40% on threes last year) and has some ability to create off the dribble in both isolation and P&R’s. He’s seen as an underachiever for most of his career, but as a 4th guard playing 18-22 minutes a game, he could be a very good player.
- Michael Redd, SG: Redd’s coming off multiple knee surgeries over the past two seasons and his injury history will scare a lot of teams away. However, he’s a very good shooter that before he was hurt played for Team USA and was a perennial all-star candidate.
- Tracy McGrady, SG/PG/SF: McGrady showed that he was sufficiently recovered from his knee issues last season to be a surprise contributor to the Pistons. He showed good playmaking skills as a PG and should come cheap. At this point in his career, he could certainly play 15-20 minutes a game as someone that sets up his mates and takes smaller defenders into the post. His jumper is still only okay, but he’s enough of an offensive threat to still be taken seriously.
- Sasha Vujacic, SG: Don’t discount the Machine, here. He’s still a descent shooter and is familiar with the team dynamics in Los Angeles. Yes, he fell out of favor with the last coaching staff (and was overpaid), but those coaches are now all gone and he should come cheaply.
- Kwame Brown, C: Yes, another former Laker on this list. I know many have a visceral reaction to Kwame whenever he’s brought up, but his skill set matches what the Lakers need here. He plays good post defense, is durable, rebounds well, sets good screens and would come cheap. Plus, by all accounts, his former teammates from the Lakers (many of whom are still here) liked him a great deal.
- Dan Gadzuric, C: The former UCLA product is available is actually a good fit here. He has size, tries on defense, and is an adequate rebounder. In 3 of the last 4 years he’s averaged around 10 minutes a game and has never been an issue in the locker room. As a fourth big man, the Lakers could do worse.
- Kyrylo Fesnko, C: He has excellent size (7’1″, 280lbs) is young (24 years old) and is a good athlete. He’s a presence around the rim on defense and consistently works hard on both ends of the floor. If he’d sign for the minimum, I’d be more than happy to have him as a 10-12 minute a night player to spell Bynum and/or keep Pau’s minutes at Center to a minimum.
- Kenyon Martin, PF: There’s some overlap here as he’s strictly a PF and couldn’t play C unless the team went really small. However, he’s aggressive on the glass is a versatile defender (he can switch P&R’s and cover wings for a possession or two) and is physically imposing. I’m not sure if he’d really fit as the 4th big on this team, but he’d be a good pick up that could provide energy for 15 minutes a night and could step in for longer should he be needed.
There are more players to look at, but this is our first stab at it. There are lots of intriguing names to consider and many that could step in next season and help this team. And while there won’t be a rush this Friday to snatch these guys up, it’s good to do some window shopping now to get familiar with who is available how they may fit.