Archives For June 2012

It’s no secret that the Lakers need to improve their team. Draft night came and went with the Lakers grabbing two experienced college players that have some promise, but should not be seen as solutions to this problem. The Lakers need more than two rookies, they need contributors that can improve the talent base of the roster.

With the draft in the rearview mirror, the Lakers move on to phase two of the improvement plan: free agency. They’re not armed with many resources but the ones they possess can net them some talent if used appropriately.

First on the agenda is figuring out the players whose rights they still hold through Bird exceptions. Ramon Sessions tops this list and Mitch Kupchak has openly stated that he’ll be calling Sessions’ representatives at midnight tonight to make his pitch. Both sides would like Sessions to re-up so this will mostly come down to what’s most important to Sessions. Does he want big money? A long term deal? He has some leverage over the Lakers due to Steve Blake being the only seasoned PG on the roster with Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock offering potential at the position (in vastly different ways, I should point out) but not much else at this point. I expect the Lakers to move quickly on Sessions and to put the ball in his court to make a decision on how he’d like to proceed. His decision to opt out was a difficult one and now he’ll have another on his hands in navigating the market to find his value.

Second on the list of in house targets that can be retained is Jordan Hill. The Lakers have the luxury of being a bit more patient with Hill as his price is essentially fixed. The CBA states that when a player on his rookie contract has his team option declined (as was the case with Hill; the Rockets declined it before he was traded), that he cannot be resigned to a higher dollar amount than what his option year was to pay him. So, whether Hill stays with the Lakers or not he knows what his earning power is. This makes negotiating simple and allows the Lakers to profess to Hill that they like him while also informing him that they’ll be patient in their approach with him. (Update: I’ve since learned that Hill can sign for more money with another team should they offer him a contract more than the declined player option amount the Lakers are limited to. Also, Dave McMenamin tweeted that Golden State may show interest in Hill – with the ability to spend up to the full MLE – while reiterating that there’s mutual interest between Hill and the Lakers for him to return.)

Moving to outside the organization, the Lakers are armed with few resources. They have the mini-mid level exception which will be valued at approximately $3.1 million dollars and will look to use it on a priority target. In past seasons the Lakers went after the guy they wanted quickly – Radman, Ron-Ron, Blake, and McRoberts were all signed relatively quickly to their mid-level deals – and I anticipate the Lakers will try to do the same this off-season. The list of FA’s isn’t extremely promising, but there are names on the market that can help the Lakers.

As I’ve said, one of the Lakers biggest needs is finding a wing that can play shooting guard to back up Kobe and, potentially, play other positions in order to give the team lineup versatility. They could also use another big man, as relying solely on what’s in house (without Hill, their only backup bigs are McRoberts and recent draftee Robert Sacre). My ideal scenario is the Lakers targeting a wing early with their mini-MLE and then using their veteran exceptions to sign another big (and potentially another wing besides their initial target).

The hope is that the Lakers can find young players that’s ready to contribute right away but those are few and far between, especially in the Lakers price range. OJ Mayo, Nick Young, and Lou Williams are examples of guys that the Lakers would want, but will surely find higher value contracts than the Lakers can offer. So, I’d look more closely at veteran players that are past their prime but still able to contribute meaningful minutes (in other words Jason Terry types). We just saw how impactful players of this ilk can be (see Battier, Shane), so snagging one could be of great benefit to the Lakers.

Ultimately, unless there’s a major trade, there won’t be any big fireworks for the Lakers this evening. They’ve been doing their due diligence on free agents and surely have a few in mind that they’re targeting. Maybe tonight brings a key signing or two or maybe it will be early next week. But, we’ll have some new Lakers to talk about soon enough, I’m sure.

Friday Forum

Dave Murphy —  June 29, 2012

The first annual FB&G handicapper’s special was won by Darius who picked the best name on the board, Darius Earvin Johnson-Odom (#55 via Dallas). Congratulations. We got us an athletic, dead-eye 6’2” shooting guard. As for my own prognostications, I am apparently clueless. I was somehow of the mind that we might need a POINT guard, and was delighted when Scott Machado fell all the way to #60 (he of the 9.9 APG last season and pure point guard skills). And then Adam Silver stepped up to the mic for the closing ceremonies and announced that we’d taken Robert Sacre – a big Canadian by way of Gonzaga – who’d been destined to play for the Pacoima Palookas in the West Coast Boom-Boom League. Welcome aboard, big guy.

Mike Bresnahan from the L.A. Times writes about Darius & Robert.

Ben Rosales at Silver Screen and Roll writes about Darius & Robert.

Kevin Ding of the OC Register writes about Darius & Robert.

Janis Carr reports of the OC Register reports on…. Minnesota’s continued interest in Pau Gasol!

Kurt Helin at ProBasketballTalk looks at three winners and three losers.

Dave McMenamin at ESPN says that Mitch Kupchak says that there’s more to come. We hope so.

There may be more Lakers news out there. I’m sure there’s more Lakers news out there. But, I can’t find it. Next stop is free agency, about 36 hours from how. According to one of the links above, we’ll be active. And then comes the long hot months and summer league and maybe we’ll bring in some of the guys that fell off the board if somebody else doesn’t get them first. As for my man Atomik, there’s always next year.

– Dave Murphy

With the Lakers unable to move into the top 5 or the latter half of the 1st round – despite trying – the draft-day fireworks many hoped for didn’t materialize (looks like we’ll have to wait until Independence Day). But, that doesn’t mean the Lakers walked away empty handed last night.

The Lakers ended up buying the #55 pick from the Mavericks and using their own selection at #60 to take two seasoned college players they hope can come in and compete for roster spots.

At #55, the Lakers selected Darius Johnson-Odom, a 6’3″ shooting guard out of Marquette. Athletic, with long arms, and a sturdy build, Johnson-Odom was rated between 30-40 on the Lakers’ draft board. He’s known as a strong defensive player with a bulldog mentality that is aggressive in all aspects of the game. His jumper is above average as he shot 40% from the three point line during his college career and is lauded as a good catch and shoot player that should be able to hit spot up jumpers with some consistency. These skills should serve him well with the Lakers where he will mostly have to play off the ball with Kobe and the Lakers bigs getting the majority of the touches and acting as facilitators to create shots for others.

There are concerns about whether he has enough size to play SG full time in the pros but his athleticism and length (he has a 6’7″ wingspan) should mitigate that some. This is important because it’s not likely he’ll ever transition to being a PG. He’s shown the ability to create for others but being a pure set up man isn’t his strong suit as evidenced by an assist to turnover ratio that’s flat (1.1 to 1.0). And with a developing off the dribble game in general, he’ll be best suited not handling the ball too often when making the jump to the NBA.

That said, overall, this was a good value pick by the Lakers. If he can come out right away and prove he can defend and hit shots from distance at the NBA level, he’ll have immediate value. Players like him aid in lineup versatility and give coaches solid options to match up. Guys like Eric Bledsoe and Avery Bradley serve as an example of how undersized 2’s who defend, play hard, and show a knack for scoring can contribute by being able to play next to a variety of teammates. And, based off his attitude, he sounds like a guy that has a bit of a chip on his shoulder that’s ready to compete and show he can contribute at this level. Playing hard at all times is a skill too and this kid seems to have that in spades.

With the 60th pick, the Lakers drafted Robert Sacre, a 7’0″ Center from Gonzaga. Obviously what stands out right away with Sacre is his size. He’s a legit 7 footer with a pro body. He’s said to have pretty good feet and the knowledge of how to use his large frame to his advantage. He’s a solid offensive rebounder and a decent post player that shot over 50% his sophomore and senior seasons with the Zags.

Athletically he’s only average, however. He doesn’t have long arms and only shows decent lateral quickness. He will not play an above the rim game on either end of the floor and that limits his ability to finish in the paint over similarly sized players or dominate the defensive glass. So, he’ll need to improve his polish on O to be more effective at this level and will need to work even harder on positioning to be an effective rebounder. That said, his size and know how around the paint should make him a solid one-on-one post defender and he’s already said that he takes pride in his ability to play on that end of the floor.

Ultimately, Sacre reminds me of another recent #60 pick – Semih Erden – only with a bit more natural strength. Whether he can crack the rotation and contribute remains to be seen but his size and experience give him a solid foundation to do just that. And considering the Lakers have long been looking for a player with good size to play behind Bynum/Pau and provide spot minutes (Mbenga & Ratliff come to mind immediately), it’s worth taking a chance on him as the last pick in the draft.

Overall, the Lakers had a solid if unspectacular draft. They drafted experienced college players with tons of starting experience for good coaches at strong programs. These are the types of players with less upside but a better chance of contributing out of the box. We saw that last year with Goudelock and the same could end up being true with these two. They’re not the impact players many are clamoring for and their status as 2nd round picks indicate that they have a lot of work to do to become rotation level professionals. But their skill sets combined with the positions they play certainly add to a team that needed more in those spots.

Draft Day Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  June 28, 2012

I’ve always loved the NBA draft.

Not because of the human interest stories or because of the prognosticators telling us how player X will play in the pros because of his lengthy-motory-upside potential-character flawed-medical red flag condition. And certainly not because of the best player available lists, who’s a reach or a value pick, or the poking of holes into the games of these young men (must improve on “everything”).

I love the draft because today is a day these guys start their NBA careers and where they go from here will interest me a great deal. There are no games played today and no X’s and O’s to break down, but the players that get drafted today (and even some that don’t) will end up impacting the league in ways that we can’t foresee. Some of tomorrow’s best players will be picked up by a team today and that alone intrigues me. They’ll contribute to championship teams, hit big shots, win awards, and entertain us all as they do it. Every year we’re treated to a new batch of these guys trying to make their way. It’s great.

Of course, there’s more than that to it.

There also promises to be a lot of action. There will be trades. Trades of players, of picks, of draft slots, of players and picks to be named later, and conditional trades that are trades in name only. Twitter will be on fire, so will the comment sections of sites just like this one. There will be cheers and moans, high-fives and hung heads. There’s drama in the draft and that’s how we all like it (or at least how I like it).

Whether the Lakers are in the middle of any of this drama remains to be seen. In the past two days there have been many leaks to the press about what could happen with the Lakers. For example:

The Lakers may not do anything tonight besides hand their card in for the 60th pick and call it a day. There are prospects that can be had in that part of the draft and if nothing develops beyond making that pick, I can’t say I’d be disappointed (though I would be bored waiting).

However as Mitch Kupchak has said recently, he plans to be active in making calls around the league to take teams’ temperature about how players are valued (both his own and players he may like). These conversations may lead to abrupt thank you’s and hang ups or expansive talks. The reports we’re reading are surely part of this process playing out in a public way. This is today’s NBA.

Of note, however, is that Mitch has also been able to deftly identify talent at the top of the draft and in the trade market. Via trade, he’s turned assets into better players for the past several seasons and I distinctly remember rumblings of the Lakers interest in moving into the top of both Deron Williams’ and Brandon Roy’s drafts to nab them. Both of those guys turned into elite players within their first few seasons (though Roy’s career was cut short due to injuries).

Whether this leads to any action tonight remains to be seen. The Lakers have surely have multiple plans of action they’re trying to implement and how their night plays out will likely depend on who’s on the draft board when certain picks come up, whether those teams have other assets the Lakers like, and whether those teams like any of the assets the Lakers hold. The calculus gets complex quickly as you can see.

But, the way that I see it tonight can play out a few different ways:

  • The Lakers do nothing besides pick at 60.
  • The Lakers try to get into last half of the first round by buying a pick or trading a player (or future considerations) to pick a player they like (Perry Jones? Quincy Miller? Marquis Teague?).
  • The Lakers try to get into the top part of the draft and draft MKG or another top flight prospect that fits what they want to do.

Logically, I think the Lakers either stand pat or look to get into the last half of the draft. There’s value later in the draft and this front office has long been about value. Plus, I think finding a partner early in the draft that’s willing to make a deal is slim. Tonight is the night where potential for the future rules over present day production more than it likely should. This makes high draft picks valuable to the teams who possess them, these slots are like their reward for being bad teams. They don’t like to surrender them.

However it goes though, we’ll be here to discuss. Hopefully you’ll join us.

The 2012 Draft Expresso

Dave Murphy —  June 27, 2012

Instead of the usual Wednesday Storylines, presented for your reading pleasure is the Forum Blue and Gold “draft preview” by Dave & Emile plus the staff’s lucky longshots: Shout out to Draft Express by the way. There’s a lot of data and draft sites out there but Jonathan Givony goes way above and beyond. He’s on it all year long.

Dave Murphy – By a confluence of events including overall record, trade-aways, give-aways, and sheer dumb luck, the Los Angeles Lakers possess the worst possible draft scenario in the entire league. One pick only and it’s #60 – butting right up against nothing. The Lakers are trying to improve their lot of course, but at this point we don’t know if they’ll find any givers or takers and we probably won’t know until either Stern or Silver steps up to the mic.

That said, we thought we’d toss some names against the wall. The last slot’s pretty much a crap shoot – it’s most definitively getting somebody that nobody else wanted. Still, Isaiah Thomas fell to #60 last year and there’s always the story of Manu Ginobili who was taken at #58. And of course, Jeremy Linn, who wasn’t drafted at all. So, never say never. We’re due for a miracle.

Emile Avanessian – Not gonna lie, at first blush, the idea of handicapping the final pick in the NBA draft struck me as slightly nuts. That is, however, until one remembers that last June’s second best player slotted in at #60. That same evening, the Lakers cashed in four second-rounders of their own, with Darius Morris (hope springs eternal, but man…), Andrew Goudelock (presumably deported in March – wait, he was still there?), Chukwudiebere Maduabum (take it away, Dave), and Ater Majok (I got nothin’).

It’s hardly reasonable to look ahead to a draft in which a team is not slated to belly up to the bar before last call with legitimate expectations. More reasonable, however, is the assertion that at least one player – and probably two or three – whose name is not among the first fifty called on Thursday night will not only succeed in earning a place on an NBA roster, but will carve out a career as a professional rotation player.

Why not us? Let the brilliance begin.

Dave – my first inclination is to look for backcourt help, somebody who is rabidly dedicated to at least one thing – passing, shooting, or defending. It’s either that or pick someone who’s halfway competent across the board which will mean a seat on the bench or a ticket out of town. Tu Holloway seems to be a guy that everyone’s keying on as being right on the bubble. Atlantic-10 player of the year for Xavier last season, barely six feet, led the conference in assists.

Somewhere up the ladder is Scott Machado, a four-year point guard from Iona College who led the nation in assists at 9.9. Again, on the small side and I can’t image he’ll be available when it comes our turn. Certainly a possibility if we can leapfrog up about 15 slots or so. Machado was a finalist for the Cousy Award and the Wooden Award his senior year, and was named MAAC (Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) Player of the year. He’s got good three-point range and has worked out for a lot of teams, including the Knicks, Celtics, 76ers, Nets, and Spurs.

I’m intrigued by Tomas Satoransky from the Cech Republic. He’s still only 21 and has been playing in Spain for the past few years, most recently with Banco Civica Sevilla. He’s a 6’7” combo guard and has been described as one of the best euro prospects in this year’s draft. Video shows that he has great passing skills. He’s skinny at about 200 lbs, and doesn’t have consistent shot mechanics. Tomas has been making the rounds for workouts, was in L.A. very recently and then was headed back to Spain where there’s an offer on the table from Turismo de Merida. Hus plan was to come back for more workouts and the draft – he’s projected around the middle of the second round.

I’ve been living in Austin the past few years and J’Covan Brown is well-known around here as a member of the UT Longhorns (hook ‘em horns!). He’s a pick and roll combo guard, 6’3”, played mostly off-ball in college but doesn’t have the size for that in the NBA. Mostly a pull-up jump shooter, fairly decent from beyond the arc but gets a bit wild sometimes. Definitely likes to score the ball, passes well off the dribble-drive. A lot of the boards have him right around the upper 50’s.

Given the latest Mo Williams rumors, I should probably back up my guard selections with a few bigs. Leon Radosevic, 6’10”, playing PF/C for Milano by way of Croatia, has some nice paint moves but isn’t particularly strong. Dusan Cantekin, a Serbian who’s playing for Mega Vizura, is extremely tall, 7’4” and 245, and mobile, with a nice shooting touch. He doesn’t appear to have any backdown moves whatsoever though. Getting away from the euro bigs, Miles Plumlee out of Duke could easily be available at the tail end of the draft. Good size at 7’0” and 247 lbs, has a knack for offensive boards and putbacks and probably wouldn’t be a huge gamble. He’s my sleeper pick.

Emile – This feels like a pretty good time to point out that when it comes to the draft, I am far more “ideas man” than “problem solver.” Like any consultant worth his salt, vague solutions to difficult problems with little in the way of personal risk are my stock in trade. So, what the hell, right?

Many will look at the Lakers’ roster and conclude that Jimmy Buss and his mixologist must look to (again) address issues at the point (especially should Ramon Sessions opt to move on this summer) and with size off the bench (ditto for Jordan Hill). And they would be right.

In response, Texas’ J’Covan Brown, a 6’1” combo guard probably best suited to the point at the pro level – is worth a look if he is on the board when the Lakers step to the podium. A bit reliant on the jump shot (per Draft Express, 68% of his shots in 2011-12 were jumpers) despite not being the most accurate shooter (41.5% FG), Brown is by all accounts supremely confident at the offensive end. He stepped up admirably (20.1 points per game, 86.3% FT) for a Longhorn team that had lost Tristan Thompson, Avery Bradley, Jordan Hamilton and Corey Joseph to the last two NBA drafts. He’s got NBA range and is an effective ball-handler in the pick-and-roll. The more I learn about J’Covan Brown, the more visions of Nick Van Exel dance in my head.

Should Brown be off the board as the draft winds down, another possible option for the Lakers is Georgetown big man Henry Sims. Though he is raw offensively and is still learning to rebound, Sims is an intelligent player, has an extremely live body, is an able and willing passer and possesses a 7’4” wingspan. These will qualities will make him an asset at the defensive end of the floor and allow him to quickly carve out a niche for himself coming off the bench.

Should the aforementioned duo no longer be available come pick #60, I will toss my support behind Tomas Satoransky, Furkan Aldemir (Turkey), Leon Radosevic (Italy), Tornike Shengelia (Republic of Georgia) or Josep Franch (Spain). Not because I know anything about any of these guys or their games, but because I feel like it’d be fun to be “stash a guy overseas.” Y’know, all slick, Bufordy.

As much as I hate the idea of surrendering even more assets (remember the first round pick it cost to land Sessions) to maybe address the point guard situation, if the persistent (though unsubstantiated and wildly speculative) rumors of the Lakers moving into the first round prove accurate, I would love to see either UNC’s Kendall Marshall or Kentucky freshman Marquis Teague draped in purple and gold.

In their absence, Michigan State senior Draymond Green. At 6’7’”-235, Green has an NBA-ready body to go with his solid ball-handling skills and high basketball IQ. This dude can score (16.2 per game on 44.9% FG), board (10.6 per game), pass (3.8 assists per) and shoot from distance (38.8% on 3-pointers). The greatest flaw in his all-around skill set is the lack of a single, elite skill.

On a related note, my greatest fear heading into the draft is that the Lakers will in fact trade into the first round to draft Perry Jones, III. Not that he wouldn’t be the perfect modern day Laker – talent to spare but iffy on the effort.

Rounding the clubhouse turn, we’ve got our crack staff handicappers’ picks.

Darius’s Double-Down Doozy: Darius Johnson-Odom (with a name like that, how could he fail?) 6’3” SG, Marquette.

Phillip’s Lucky Lefty Long Range pick: Hollis Thompson, 6’8” SG, Georgetown (because my nickname is Lefty and this guy can really shoot).

JM’s Just Money (trademarked) Longshot Bet: Alex Young. 6’6” SG, IUPUI. Boom!

RR’s Railbird Special: Kostas Papanikolaou (because he has a long name – remember last year’s Chukwaiarjeaijiaiaj teaitjaeiot io jaji?!) 6’9” SF, Olympiacos, Greece.

Jeffrey’s Stop Watcher: Mike Scott, 6’9” PF, Virginia (good motor, rebounds hard, plays D – sounds like Josh Powell 2.0 to me).

Emile’s Trade-Up Trifecta: Draymond Green (sans the one elite skill) 6’7”, PF, Michigan State.

Dave’s Daily Dime: Tomas Satoransky (because he reminds me of Kiovanic Atomik), 6’7”, PG/SG Sevilla, Spain.

Now it’s your turn. The FB&G commenters have been bringing it home all season and we appreciate you! Tell us who and why you’d draft – for talent, for position, or for any particular skill. And more than anything, give us names!


Since the season ended what’s been on everyone’s – from fans to front office members’ – minds is improving the Lakers’ roster. If a second round defeat wasn’t enough to show the team needs to improve, the quality of play exhibited in the Finals hammered the point home. The Lakers must get better if they want to raise another Larry O’Brien trophy and the must do so quickly.

How to do so, of course, is the key question at hand. The Lakers don’t have many resources at their disposal and working within the boundaries of the new collective bargaining agreement offers new challenges not yet mastered by any front office. But, even with those challenges, the need for improvement is as apparent as the nose on your face.

Up to this point, the Lakers top executives – Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak – have spoken about the realities the team faces and how it will be difficult to pull off the type of radical change that some seek. Be it mentioning the rarity of blockbuster trades, the difficulty of obtaining a high draft pick that can yield an impact player, or the type of talent that can be lured by the types of cap exceptions the Lakers have available, Mitch and Jim are both setting expectations for a hungry fan base and working to let others know how much they value the players currently on their roster.

That said, what’s also being acknowledged – simply by having the conversation – is that better is needed. And while it’s more than reasonable to expect there to be some natural improvement from the familiarity of working under Mike Brown and all that comes with that – better cohesion, understanding of his systems, etc – getting better players is still the goal. With that in mind, we offer a general plan to try and improve the roster solely using the resources at their disposal. For the purposes of this exercise, I’m not yet entertaining any trades for the Lakers’ big three. We’ll touch on that eventually, but at this point, let’s take Mitch and Jim at their word that they expect Kobe, Gasol, and Bynum to all be wearing Lakers’ jerseys when next season starts.

Re-sign Ramon Sessions
Fans aren’t yet sold on Sessions as a long term answer at point guard and I can understand those concerns. His defense needs work, he’s not yet the type of shooter that can consistently stretch the floor, and there were times where he looked overwhelmed by the raised stakes of the post-season.

However, I’m still of the mind that he’s quite a good player that will still improve. Remember, he’s not yet 27 years old and does have several good aspects to his game and a foundation for growth. His speed, decision making, and floor generalship are all above average. He’s a very good pick and roll player, makes plays for himself and his teammates, and can score the ball well. He adds an open court dimension, has shown he can hit big shots, and also showed enough smarts and hard work to pick up the team’s schemes on the fly and make an impact.

I don’t know if he’ll ever be as consistently good as his first 10-15 games with the team but I definitely don’t think he’ll ever be as consistently out of sorts as he was in the playoffs. So, if he can be had for a reasonable price – which, for me is in the $4.5 to $5.5 million per year over the next 3 to 4 years – I think that’d be a good deal for the Lakers. Remember, starting caliber players in this league often make much more than that once they’re beyond their rookie contracts so getting him at that price, I think, would be a good deal for the Lakers and would give them a starter with good growth potential in the fold. And with him in tow, the team could move on to other needs.

Attempt to use the trade exception from the Lamar Odom trade
I’ll be the first to admit that making trades can be complicated. Outsiders never really know how other teams value assets on the trade market and making a deal requires that two sides who both want to achieve something positive for their franchise get what they want. Using a trade exception can be even harder because teams typically don’t just hand over good players only for the salary relief a trade exception offers. This typically means the team who gets the player has to sweeten the offer somehow. Another issue can be the length of the contract the player possesses, thus making his “value” as a player much less due to the money he’s still owed. The Lakers don’t have a lot of sweeteners and also must be careful about taking on long contracts that affect their ability to avoid the repeater tax in the 2014-15 season.

All that said, the Lakers have this $8.9 million resource at their disposal and using it before it expires on a player that can help the team should be a priority. Maybe the Lakers look to use it via a sign and trade on a player that’s leaving his current team as FA and would like a contract bigger than the MLE that a lot of teams are sure to offer. That would require getting on the phone with agents and getting a feel for whether or not a player would want to come to the Lakers. Then more work would have to be done convincing the team that holds that player’s rights to make a deal. The Lakers could also make calls to teams with desirable players and see if salary relief is something those teams would want in exchange. There are other options as well.

However they go about it though, they need to actively try and find a partner. The Lakers only have so many ways they can add talent and this is one of them. I’ll understand if they try to make a deal and fail. But, they need to try.

Re-sign Jordan Hill
Let me say this upfront: Hill’s not a great player. What he is, however, is a good role player that can help a team win within a well defined role. And after he got healthy and found his way into the Lakers’ rotation, that’s exactly what he did.

Hill showed great instincts on both backboards, meshed well into the Lakers show/recover defensive scheme, and complimented both Bynum and Gasol well when he shared the court with both players. He worked hard, played within himself, and never seemed to be about anything else other than doing his job well. Of course there were times that he didn’t play well and that is to be expected with any player. But as a 3rd big man the Lakers can do a lot worse and need only look at the production they were getting from that spot before Hill emerged as a rotation player.

A wrinkle in the collective bargaining agreement states that Hill can’t make any more money than what his declined team option would have paid him next season (approximately $3.6 million). I’m not sure he’ll command that much money on the open market but at least the Lakers know what his contract ceiling will be can use that to work with him on a reasonable contract to return. Remember, the Lakers essentially traded a 1st round pick for Hill and to lose him in free agency would be a step back – even if only a minor one. At this point, the Lakers can’t take steps backwards when trying to improve their talent base.

Use the mini-MLE to sign a viable player
As Mitch Kupchak said, “You might not be able to really go out there and dramatically improve your team with a $1 million player or a $3 million player. But there’s value out there and we’ll search for it.”  So, we can only assume he’s going to be scouring the market for good players that will fit into the $3 million slot that the mini-MLE offers. My preference is that the Lakers search for a viable wing using that exception, especially since Matt Barnes is a free agent and Kobe could use a back up that helps get his minutes down.

I won’t get into skill-set specifics with this player because I honestly don’t think it’s as big a deal that the Lakers find someone that is a “shooter” or a “great athlete”. Targeting those specific skills doesn’t always pan out and can lead to signings that don’t work out (see Radmanovich, Vladimir). The Lakers need the most talented players that they can find, period. Give me a good talent base to work with and the weaker parts of a player’s game can be developed and improved. In the end, the team simply needs to find more contributors and that doesn’t mean finding a specialist.


These are only four steps, but if all of them can be executed the Lakers can end up with a quality roster. These moves would net them a starting point guard, a third big man, a back up wing, and another player of consequence that would contribute. When you add those players to Kobe, Gasol, Bynum, Artest, Blake, and McRoberts, that’s a 10 man rotation of players that should be able to compete even in a crowded Western Conference. If the Lakers are able to add another player in the draft (Jim Buss has openly said they’d like to get back into the 1st round) that could be another player that bolsters the talent base to help them compete nightly.

I understand many are looking for the homerun deal. But if that doesn’t materialize, these are the types of deals the team can make to get better. How much better isn’t known by anyone, but this would certainly be a start.

Friday Forum

Dave Murphy —  June 22, 2012

Like basketball fans everywhere, I was glued to the game last night – the Miami Heat getting it done in convincing fashion. I was pulling for OKC the whole way but there’s a reason teams don’t come back from three games down – it’s nearly impossible to swing the tide of that kind of momentum, especially when you’re away from home. Regardless, the Thunder have now been close enough to taste it. They’re young, hungry, athletic, and they’ll come back stronger, and more determined.

And then there’s the rest of the league. We entered the off season at different points but somehow, it feels more official now. The summer of positioning begins, the draft and free agency and the power rankings and guessing games. The Lakers are one more year removed from the epicenter, bounced from the second round, twice in a row. For some organizations, summer begins with the cyclical process of “how can we ever get there?” For the Lakers, it’s how to find a way home.

There’s a glaring problem with that last statement – this organization has been divesting itself of ring holders ever since the Dallas series. A couple key trades and we could find ourselves down to the last man standing – Kobe Bryant. To an arguable extent. we’re in the same boat as much of the league, on the outside looking in. Odds-makers have put our chances of winning next year’s title at 12-1.

We have an organization that has feasted at the table, many times over. We have Kobe, and at least at this moment in time, we still have Pau and Andrew and even Metta, a guy who played with true heart this past season, and could possibly fit a new role next time around. Regardless, we’re at a crossroads. The Miami Heat have begun their summer party. The Thunder are going to try and settle their coaching situation.

It’s incredibly hard to win a championship. The competition is brutal, and we cannot succeed without change. So what should it be? Here’s a few possibilities: Jim Buss’s recent assertion, to keep the Kobe/Pau/Andrew nucleus intact, and shape Brown to fit them, rather than vice-versa – go all in on the power game, the system game.

Mitch Kupchak followed the same line of logic, that the likelihood of major change is slim. And yet as Darius wrote the other day, this is how a smart organization works, playing their cards close to the vest. It can work. It has in the past. That approach takes true discipline though – Phil Jackson had the stature and the success and the blueprint to make it work. Until it didn’t work.

The mixed grill approach – a little bit of this and a bit of that. Keep as much of our valuable resources as we can, and try to fill in the gaps, maybe find a way to pull the trigger on one or two vets with legit playoff experience, maybe trade up into the first round.

And then there’s the nuclear option – blow it up around Kobe – going young, fast, furious, and hungry. Surround an old assassin with young killers. No more Pau, as excellent and versatile, and smart as he is. He’s not bloodthirsty. And no more Andrew. He’s a beast, sometimes. He can can pull down 30 boards against the Spurs on their home court. And look off into space the next night. And loaf back down the court, hauling the bulkiest knee brace in the game with him.

I couldn’t find any links that actually support the idea of this final notion – probably because it’s the riskiest path possible. Nonetheless, it’s one that I almost like. Then again, I amuse myself by making up stories about Craig Sager. I’ll leave it up to you, readers, to figure out this dilemma. Have a great weekend.

– Dave Murphy

A New Role For Ron?

Darius Soriano —  June 21, 2012

When the Lakers traded Lamar Odom, they lost a lot of useful qualities. They lost a locker room leader. They lost an unselfish glue guy. Maybe most importantly, however, they lost a talented player with diverse skill that could play all over the floor on both sides of the ball; a player that could use his versatile skill set to effectively play off of his teammates. When looking back to 2011 (and years prior), some of the Lakers best lineups were ones where Odom played PF next to either Gasol or Bynum. His value, in that way, was really immeasurable.

In replacing Odom with Josh McRoberts, Troy Murphy, and (later) Jordan Hill the Lakers went with more traditional archetypes of players and found mixed results. All three players proved useful for stretches, but none could truly approximate the skills Odom brought to the table in a single player (McRoberts came closest but he’s not nearly the talent that 2011 Odom was). This led to Mike Brown shuffling back and forth between them, ultimately settling on Jordan Hill down the stretch of the season as his defensive consistency and work on the glass proved most valuable out of what each brought to the table.

Moving forward, however, it’d be nice if the Lakers could approximate more of what Odom brought to the table in a single player. Interestingly enough, they may have that guy on their roster already. His name is (was) Ron Artest.

Once upon a time, Ron was one of the best two way players in the league and while his decreased athleticism has made him less effective, he’s still got all the facets of his game. He has a good handle, can create off the dribble for himself or teammates, is a decent shooter from the outside, and can post up and finish in the paint. Defensively, we know that Ron can still play well even though his foot speed isn’t quite what it was when he first came to the Lakers. But, overall, these are skills that could translate well to playing some PF if the Lakers decide they want to go small.

In fact, this past season it already started to happen. In some very small sample sizes, the Lakers performed quite well with Ron playing PF in small-ball lineups next to Gasol (mostly) and Bynum (much less frequent). The most standard lineups were those that used a PG (Fisher, Sessions, or Blake), Kobe, Barnes, Ron, and Gasol. Those lineups all produced efficiency differentials of over 10 and performed, on average, much better on both sides of the ball than the Lakers standard personnel groupings.

Of course, with samples as small as the ones I looked at, the results can’t be extrapolated out to longer stretches without taking into account how things could go wrong. Ron’s jumper has been inconsistent and that could compromise spacing. His lack of height and below the rim game would make it an even bigger challenge to post up against bigger players and still be effective. Rebounding could also become an issue should he be matched up against someone with superior quickness and leaping ability that could beat him to the ball.

However, even when considering those potential pitfalls, I’m of the mind that it could work. Simply by having Ron space the floor against traditional PF’s the Lakers could open up their offense more. His ability to knock down open shots or drive past slower closeouts could also boost his effectiveness as a play maker. He still shows good instincts when moving into open space, bodying up his man, and in chasing loose balls, which would aid him when rebounding on both sides of the ball. Defensively he has the foot speed to keep up with most PF’s and has the strength to battle anyone in the post. In the past two seasons the Lakers have switched Ron onto Blake Griffin and Kevin Love on key possessions late in games to get the stops they sought. He held his own against both players and they happen to be two of the better players at that position.

As the league moves forward there will be a greater emphasis on lineup versatility. We’re seeing it right now in the Finals with LeBron and Durant both staples of traditional and small lineups their teams deploy. And while Ron isn’t in those players class as elite talents, his skill set is varied enough and his tenacity more than enough that a part time role as a PF could be worth exploring more in the future. I wouldn’t expect Ron to replace what Odom brought to the team, but he could mirror some of LO’s skills and give the Lakers another option outside of the more one dimensional players they used this past season. And, as we look to what this team needs to be more successful moving forward, that’s surely on the list.