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Apparently, the Lakers aren’t done doing business today after trading for Jeremy Lin. According to multiple reports, the team has agreed to bring back Nick Young:

Nick Young is entertaining. And last year he proved to be a good teammate, bringing good spirit and a sense of joy to a lockerroom that desperately needed both. He also had one of, if not his best statistical seasons of his career. There is no doubt that he can play and when you combine that with his love of the game and how he can bring a fun loving nature to a team, I can understand wanting him back.

That said, I am not in love with this deal. Young is already 29 and, if the above report is true, the 4th season is a player option. Maybe a 32 year old Swaggy P decides he wants to test the market one last time before his contract expires, but that seems doubtful to me. In essence, then, the Lakers are paying Young roughly $5 million a year for the next four years. As much as an argument could be made for paying a bench scorer of his caliber this much money, his age makes it more of a gamble than, say, if he were even two years younger.

The flip side to all this, however, is that the Lakers now have another good player on a roster that desperately needs them. Young has his warts and will always have his detractors because of his shot selection and only average defensive ability, but he can impact a game offensively. If his skills on that end of the floor can be harnessed to their maximum potential while finding ways to cover up some of his limitations, he can be a very good contributor on a *contract that is not, from a pure numbers standpoint, totally okay.

If all that sounds like I am trying to sell myself on this deal. It’s because I kind of am. Young surprised me this past season however. Maybe he will do so again.

*The number on Young’s deal — roughly $5 million per year — may be seen as an overpay, but in reality is the equivalent of a mid-level exception contract. Those contracts are typically very tradable assets on the market and can make for good filler in larger deals. I am not trying to trade Young right as he inks his new deal, but it is worth noting that should it ever come to that, his contract could be useful in a variety of ways down the line. Just something to keep in mind.

Just as we figured, the LeBron James decision has started a flurry of moves around the league as teams now move on to their own plans. That includes the Lakers who have helped facilitate the Rockets’ pursuit of Chris Bosh by taking Jeremy Lin off their hands. From ESPN:

The Houston Rockets have traded guard Jeremy Lin and a future first-round pick to the Los Angeles Lakers, a league source told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The Lakers were amenable to this deal, according to sources, because Lin is only under contract for one more season, thus preserving their cap space next summer. They also covet draft picks, after trading away their first-round picks in 2015 and 2017 to Phoenix and Orlando as part of the Steve Nash and Dwight Howard trades, respectively.

If the Lakers are going to miss out on the big name free agents this summer — and with each passing minute that seems increasingly likely — they needed to move on to their Plan B and start to fill out their roster. Acquiring Lin helps in that.

Lin is the exact type of asset the Lakers have said to be pursuing this summer. He’s a good player (we will get into this later with a full analysis) and he is only signed for one more season. This allows the Lakers to preserve their cap space and financial flexibility for next summer when they can again pursue the top free agents on the market.

The sweetner here, however, is the 1st round pick the Lakers will also receive. While the Rockets are likely to be one of the top 5-10 teams next season and deliver a pick in the mid-20′s next June, that pick is much better than the one the Lakers would be slated to have should they finish outside the top 5 selections — which would be no pick at all. Now the Lakers will be armed with a pick that can be used in another trade or used to select another young player who can potentially be part of the team.

Viewing the deal through this dual prism, I am quite happy with what the Lakers have accomplished. When the Lakers talk about “financial flexibility”, this is one of the ways in which they use the term. Having money under the cap isn’t just about signing FA’s, it is about leveraging that space to absorb players and getting additional assets for their trouble. The fact that Lin can actually play, fills a position of need, and has other marketing qualities that will help the Lakers is icing on the cake.

It is about time the Lakers got creative and started to use all the assets at their disposal to improve the team in the short and the long term. Drafting Julius Randle was step one in this process. It remains to be seen what becomes of Lin as a player next year or what the pick they will receive from the Rockets produces, but the hope is that they too become pieces that improve the short and long term trajectory of the team.

Fast Break Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  July 10, 2014 — 106 Comments

Some links and thoughts to hold you over while we wait for the free agency dominoes to fall…

  • Julius Randle remains unsigned, though is on his way to Las Vegas as part of the Lakers’ summer league team. Randle isn’t likely to suit up until he puts his name to a contract and at this point we will wait — a day, more? — for that to occur. All signs point to Randle remaining unsigned so the Lakers can preserve the extra bit of cap space that will be tacked on to his contract. Rookies generally sign for 120% of their slotted salary and every little extra bit helps. As an aside, with Randle unsigned the Lakers could still, technically, trade his rights to a different team whereas if he was signed there would be a waiting period before they could do so. I don’t believe that will happen, but it is something to keep in mind.
  • Speaking of summer league, Ben Rosales of Silver Screen & Roll has a nice breakdown of the players who will suit up for the Lakers. Get to know these guys, they should be fun to watch.
  •  While summer league will be a nice distraction, all eyes do remain on the free agent ticker. Several Lakers from last year’s team have already inked deals with other teams, for good money too. If you’re keeping score at home, Jodie Meeks got $6 million a year for 3 years from the Pistons, Chris Kaman got $10 million over 2 years from the Blazers, Jordan Farmar got $4 million over two years from the Clippers, and Steve Blake just got similar money as Farmar from the Blazers. I wish all these guys nothing but the best on their new teams. Last season they all showed they could be rotation players in the league and they will get their chances on their new rosters.
  • Of course, some would have liked the Lakers to bring back one or more of those guys. Personally, I could go either way. While all are serviceable players, none truly stood out to me last season. The closest were probably Meeks and Farmar. Meeks had an excellent season and showed growth in several areas, but when his career is over, last season’s numbers may stand as his best season. Farmar, while showing he is now a very good shooter, was also injured for half the season and didn’t quite show as much next level passing as you’d like from a starting caliber guard. Again, I like both players fine and would have welcomed them back, but losing them to another team isn’t the end of the world. Best of luck to them.
  • This is nearly two weeks old, but if you missed it, give Zach Lowe’s piece on Jason Kidd departing the Nets for the Bucks a read. The Kidd stuff is very good and worth your time on its own. But the bullet points also have a couple of Lakers’ related nuggets that speak to the team’s financial health.
  • On that note, Brian Kamenetzky wrote a very good piece on why the Lakers should be patient this off-season.
  • Lastly, Kobe Bryant is holding his annual basketball camp in Santa Barbara right now and did a press conference to open things up. He spoke on a variety of topic, but in this clip he speaks on his health noting that he feels “great…strong and crisp” and notes that he doesn’t think about his knee or his achilles when he’s training. He also talks about the way he “pitches” the Lakers as a free agent destination.

On Thursday, July 10th the free agent moratorium period is officially over. What this means, is, all the deals you’ve been reading about — Farmar to the Clippers, Channing Frye to the Magic, Kyle Lowry back to the Raptors, Dirk re-upping with the Mavs — become official. So, expect a lot of tweets from athletes with pictures of them inking their new deals.

What you can also expect is for the dominoes start to fall in terms of the major free agent decisions coming.

It’s not just your imagination that we have been waiting longer for the biggest fish to make up their minds on where they are going to sign. As someone pointed out to me on twitter, last year Dwight made his intentions to sign with the Rockets on July 6th. When LeBron left Cleveland for Miami, he made his decision public on July 8th. We are now beyond those dates and none of the LeBron, Carmelo, or Bosh trio have made their decisions known.

Sure, there have been stories about LeBron choosing between the Heat and the Cavs, Bosh mulling an offer from the Rockets should he not re-sign in Miami, and Melo choosing between the Knicks, Lakers, and Bulls. But nothing concrete has emerged and all we have is rumor and innuendo. That will likely change very soon, however.

In fact, it could be as early as Wednesday.

That is the day that LeBron will meet with Pat Riley in Las Vegas (where LeBron is holding his basketball camp). One can only guess what James will tell Riles, but it’s likely to be more than just a check-in on the Heat’s progress in making moves beyond the deals they inked Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger to.

No, LeBron is likely going to tell Riles whether he’s staying or going. After all, everyone’s chips are now on the table. It’s pretty much known that LeBron wants the maximum contract allowable (at least in terms of dollars per year) that he can make under the collective bargaining agreement. Riley knows what that means in terms of being able to sign Bosh and Wade while honoring the commitments he just made to McRoberts and Granger.

After LeBron informs everyone of what his plans are, expect soon after for Anthony and Bosh’s plans to also be made public. If not by them, then through leaks reported to the masses. And then the floodgates should really open as teams who were waiting on the stars to sign start to ink the Luol Deng, Trevor Ariza, and Lance Stephenson types to their respective deals.

So, be patient for just a couple more days and we should have our answers. Hopefully, when it’s all said and done the Lakers will be getting some good news.

There are few things certain with the Lakers right now. Whether it’s their coaching search, their pursuit of free agents, or the production their holdover players can provide to next season’s roster this is a team with more questions than answers.

One open question, though, has been answered. After being drafted with the 7th overall draft, the questions shifted from Julius Randle’s talent to whether a pre-draft report about him potentially needing foot surgery would turn out to be true. On Wednesday the Lakers sent Randle to a foot specialist and, for what seems like the first time in a couple of seasons, the Lakers actually got some positive injury news:

This, of course, is a huge sigh of relief. Concerns that a screw would need to be removed and, with that, deal with a recovery period of up to 6 months were quite real. Instead, Randle will likely be in Las Vegas with his summer league mates, showing off his skills and generating excitement for the fans.

In the midst of all the wondering, at least the Lakers have something they can hang their hats on. And hopefully for a long time to come, too.