Nick Young is currently a member of the Lakers. And, if you listen to Young tell it, he would like to continue to be a Laker. This, on a lot of levels, makes sense. Young is from Los Angeles. He went to school at USC. After signing a one year deal with the team as a free agent back in 2013, he had one of his best statistical seasons under Mike D’Antoni and promptly signed on for 4 more years while making it pretty clear he loved playing for the franchise.

Of course, that first season was Young’s high-point with team. His play on the court has steadily declined and last year he also had a very private matter turn public in a way which jeopardized the locker room and his relationship with D’Angelo Russell. Regardless of how you view that situation or who you blame, its impact is still being felt. And, ultimately, that means it is likely time to move on.

Again, though, Young seems open to a return. He told Mark Medina of the LA Daily News that he “can’t be mad forever” and, as Medina explains, is ready to give it a go:

Young indirectly outlined reasons for the Lakers to consider giving him another chance. He reported devoting plenty of his offseason toward improving his strength and conditioning. After clashing the past two seasons with then-Lakers coach Byron Scott about his public criticisms and role, Young sounded thrilled about Luke Walton’s subsequent hiring.

“It’s a breath of fresh air for me,” Young said of Walton, who spent the past two seasons as a Golden State Warriors assistant. “Luke is a big-time coach and came from a championship team. I think I have the tools that we can use as a shooter.”

In a vacuum, that’s all fine. Of course, this situation doesn’t exist within a vacuum. Young has played poorly. There are circumstances which contributed to that, but when you tack on his fit within a locker room which is young and ready to move on without his (potentially negative) influence and, well, it’s clear which way the scales are tipping.

This moves us to how to extricate him from the team. It really comes down to two options: trade or waive.

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In a deal long ago reported as done, the Lakers have officially announced the re-signing of big man Tarik Black. From the team’s press release:

“Tarik is a player whose strengths are well-suited for the style of play we envision for our team going forward,” said Kupchak. “He plays the game with a mix of athleticism, energy, and physicality that make him a valuable frontcourt contributor in today’s NBA.”

In two seasons with the Lakers, Black has averaged 5.3 points and 5.2 rebounds in 16.9 per game while shooting 57.5% from the field over 77 games (27 starts). Awarded to the Lakers on a waiver claim on December 28, 2014, he also appeared in 25 games (12 starts) for the Houston Rockets to begin the 2014-15 season before being waived.

When this deal was initially announced, the crux of my analysis was as follows:

Lakers’ fans should be familiar enough with Black’s skill set, but if there are any questions as to why he’s such a good fit with this group, one only need to see how he attacks the rim as a roll man in the P&R and how hard he works defensively to protect the paint and to get after rebounds on both backboards. Black still has a ways to go in terms of developing the type of craftiness undersized big men like him need to be full time rotation players, but what he lacks in savvy he makes up for with a high motor and by always playing hard.

While Black is a strong fit for how the Lakers want to play, time will tell how much floor time he actually sees. As we know, the Lakers recently signed Yi Jianlian to a contract which could be worth up to $8 million. Yi, of course, joins Timofey Mozgov and rookie Ivica Zubac as other bigs who were added this summer. Combine those three with Julius Randle and Larry Nance, Jr. and the team has 6 players who will compete for playing time at the PF/C spots — and this doesn’t even include Luol Deng (or Brandon Ingram) who could be slotted at PF in small-ball lineups.

Regardless of this potential logjam, Black will get his chance to prove he deserves minutes. This was apparently promised to him as part of his agreement to return, not to mention Walton has a history with Black from when Walton served as an assistant coach during part of Black’s time at the University of Memphis. This doesn’t guarantee Black a role, but it should ensure he gets a fair shot at earning a rotation spot.

Ultimately, I do believe this type of competition will help this team in the long term even if, in the short term, it creates a challenge for the coaches when trying to manage roles and keep players happy while still maintaining buy-in. This is the balance which must be struck, though, and it is up to everyone — coaches and players alike — to continue to be flexible and ready to shift things around in order to maximize the play of the entire group.

Lastly, now that Black is on board, there is little left on the Lakers’ plate in terms of moves to be made. Black’s signing brings the team to 15 roster spots and while there will be additional signings for training camp, the likelihood any of those players make the team will be slim. Those odds could change if Nick Young is waived or traded, but until that actually happens (which I think it will), this is the team the Lakers are very likely to start the season with.

Brandon Ingram is the last 1st round pick from the 2016 NBA draft who has yet to sign his rookie contract. That, though, will change on Tuesday according to Shams Charania of The Vertical:

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The Lakers made the long discussed Yi Jianlian signing official today. From their press release:

“We’re excited to have a player of his worldwide accomplishments,” said Kupchak. “We look forward to bringing him to training camp and hopefully having him make an impact on our team.”

Yi, who hails from the Guangdong Province in China, recently concluded competing for his country at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, averaging 20.4 points (3rd overall in group play competition), 6.6 rebounds (6th), 1.4 steals (t-6th), and 1.0 blocks (t-6th) per game over his five contests while shooting 46.7% from three-point range.

We have discussed this pending signing plenty, but there was still the open question about how much Yi would earn this upcoming season. There had been reports that his contract would be for $8 million, but we now have more clarity on how, exactly, that number could be achieved. From Broderick Turner of the LA Times:

The contract for Yi is one year at the veteran’s minimum of $1.13 million that could reach as high as $8 million this season if he reaches several wide-ranging incentive bonuses in the deal.

Without getting into all the minutiae of contract language or the nuances of the collective bargaining agreement, it will be interesting to know exactly what types of bonuses exist in the deal. Bonuses pretty much fall into two categories: likely or unlikely. That said, bonuses which are considered “unlikely” cannot makeup too high a percentage of overall contract value in order for the deal to be legal by league standards.

So, again, I am interested in knowing what the bonuses are and how that translates to what Yi will actually make this next season. My guess is that by the end of the year he actually will not make the full $8 million.

That said, none of that really matters much to me. As we have discussed previously, Yi fills a role which is currently lacking on the team (stretch big man), but plays a position (PF/C) which already has a lot of players who the Lakers have invested in via draft picks or high salary. How Luke Walton balances minutes while maintaining buy-in is storyline I will be watching intently throughout the season.

The Lakers announced Friday they have added 4 coaches to Luke Walton’s staff. Three of the coaches are new hires while the 4th was an internal promotion from the defenders. The team also hired a video coordinator. From the team’s press release:

The Los Angeles Lakers announced today that the team has hired Jud Buechler, Brian Keefe, and Theo Robertson as player development coaches on Head Coach Luke Walton’s staff, joining associate head coach Brian Shaw and assistant coaches Jesse Mermuys and Mark Madsen. Additionally, it was announced that Casey Owens has been named assistant coach/advance professional scout and Will Scott has been named to the staff as video coordinator.

Owens takes on the most prominent role here, moving up from the head man on the D-Fenders to an assistant and advanced scout under Walton. Owens time with the D-Fenders can only be considered a great success, with his team appearing in the D-League Finals this past season. Owens is considered a smart offensive coach who relates well to players, offering encouragement and building their confidence in the process.

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After a Marc Stein report Tuesday evening stated the Lakers and former lottery pick Yi Jianlian were in advanced talks, there are now reports coming out of China that the deal is done. Our thoughts on how Jianlian fits on the Lakers haven’t really changed — the skill set is solid and a role could be carved out, but that likely comes at the expense of young players the Lakers should be more focused.

But it seems a new wrinkle may impact how this signing could be viewed. Namely, what Yi will be paid. It was originally thought a minimum contract would be agreed upon. As Eric Pincus notes, for a player with 5 years NBA experience, that amount would be roughly $1.14 million. However, back in 2015, Yi signed a contract extension with the Guangdong Tigers which would pay him roughly $3.2 million a season for 5 seasons.

It would seem strange, then, that he would come back to the states to make roughly one-third that amount, even if it did mean playing in the best league in the world. I mean, why would anyone do that? Well, it seems like they wouldn’t. I bet they would for over double that amount, though:

Yeah, one year, $8 million would probably do it.

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Remember back in the summer of 2013 when the Lakers took gambles on former first round picks to see if those guys could revive their careers in Los Angeles? Kobe had just torn his achilles and Dwight Howard had just walked without compensation so the team turned to guys who were called busts or never quite lived up to their draft slot — Wes Johnson, Xavier Henry, MarShon Brooks, Kendall Marshall — as low risk high reward signings.

That summer and those signings instantly popped into my head when I read Marc Stein’s report the Lakers are in “advanced talks” to bring former lottery pick Yi Jianlian back to the NBA from China. Here’s Stein:

Sources told ESPN.com that the Lakers tried in the summer of 2015 to sign Yi and have renewed those efforts in the wake of the former lottery pick’s fourth trip to the Summer Olympics as a cornerstone player for China.

The 7-footer, now 28, has spent the past four seasons with the Guangdong Southern Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association and averaged 20.4 points and 6.6 rebounds for China in its five games in Rio.

A deal is not yet done to secure Yi’s return to the NBA, but sources say talks are ongoing and that the Lakers are hopeful of adding him to the roster before training camp begins in late September.

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Regardless of how one views the Lakers’ off-season, what cannot really be argued is that the Lakers have improved their talent base. A simple look at the players who have come in vs. the players who have departed spells this out pretty quickly:

In: Luol Deng, Timofey Mozgov, Brandon Ingram, Jose Calderon, Ivica Zubac
Out: Kobe Bryant, Brandon Bass, Roy Hibbert, Metta World Peace, Robert Sacre, Ryan Kelly

The only player on that out list who posted a PER over a league average mark is Brandon Bass. Bass played nobly as a back up C last season, playing well on offense overall while providing smart, rugged defense both individually and at the team level. He was everything fans would have wanted from a veteran leader and he will be missed.

However, beyond Bass (and Kobe*, who I will discuss later) the Lakers have essentially let go of players who were well below replacement level and have swapped them for players who are likely better than that. I understand that is not saying much, but when you are working up from a 17 win team, even marginal improvements matter a great deal on the bottom line. This is the new world, Lakers’ fans.

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