Archives For Free Agents

Over at SB Nation, Tom Ziller did his yearly rankings of the top 100 pending free agents. It’s a must read for anyone interested in what player movement might be coming this summer and how teams’ dollars will be allocated in the search for outside roster help (non-trade variety). I’d suggest giving the entire entry a read, especially since the Lakers are primed to be major players in the FA market with, potentially, $60 million to spend on reinforcements.

But my focus isn’t on who the Lakers might target from outside their roster, but instead on one of their own core players who enters free agency: Jordan Clarkson. The 2nd year guard ranks 21st on Ziller’s list and has the following entry attached:

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Before their final preseason game, the Lakers made minor waves (well, for some) by waiving undrafted big man Robert Upshaw in favor of keeping Tarik Black and Robert Sacre. Upshaw tantalized with his inherent talent and upside, but ultimately a combination of his checkered past and not showing as much as the coaches or front office would have liked during training camp and the preseason got him waived.

After he was cut, however, head coach Byron Scott mentioned the team was hopeful Upshaw would clear waivers and sign with the D-Fenders. Well, Scott’s hopes have come to fruition.

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Earlier I tried to project what the Lakers’ final 15 man roster would look like. That projection has already been proven wrong as the team announced its first two cuts:

The Los Angeles Lakers have waived guard Michael Frazier II and center Robert Upshaw, it was announced today by General Manager Mitch Kupchak.

Frazier II, an undrafted rookie from Florida, was originally signed by the Lakers on August 25. He appeared in four preseason games for Los Angeles, averaging 2.0 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 0.8 assists in 13.5 minutes per game.

Upshaw saw action in four of the Lakers’ seven preseason contests, averaging 2.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 0.75 blocks in 14.1 minutes per game. The undrafted rookie out of Washington was originally signed on September 14.

Cutting Frazier is not much a surprise, though I might have struggled with it. As I have noted, he has real two-way potential and has enough of a shooting stroke to project into a viable three point shooter with some seasoning. He’s clearly not there yet, though. Releasing him now reflects that. I’m guessing the team is hopeful he’s open to playing for the D-Fenders this upcoming season.

Cutting Upshaw will make more waves than Frazier, but in a way the situation is exactly the same. Upshaw’s potential is one of a rotation player who can impact the game on both ends of the floor. Because he projects to be that player, however, doesn’t mean he is right now. In fact, he’s not close yet.

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Once the word leaked this was a possibility, maybe we should have known this was always coming. We really should have known when it was reported this was getting closer. It turns out, today is that day. If you didn’t read the title of this post and have no clue what I’m talking about, the Lakers will (reportedly) sign Metta World Peace:

As simple as it would seem a deal like this would be, nothing is ever really like that, is it? At his pre-training camp press conference, Mitch Kupchak spoke today about the positive influence he believes Metta can have on the lockerroom, in helping to mentor young players, and in passing down knowledge from his decade-plus career as an impact (and elite) defender. Noting that, while observing him in scrimmages and pick-up game sessions, MWP could still play is also meaningful.

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Robert Upshaw told us he was going to go to Lakers’ training camp and it looks like he was right. Today the team officially announced his signing via press release:

The Los Angeles Lakers have signed center Robert Upshaw to a multi-year contract, it was announced today by General Manager Mitch Kupchak. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not released.

The still unknown terms of the contract are important, but likely not a huge difference maker here. My assumption is that Upshaw’s deal is either fully non-guaranteed like Marcelo Huertas’ or has only small, partial guarantees like those given to Jonathan Holmes and Michael Frazier. In either case, Upshaw will have to prove his worth in training camp to crack the final 15 and earn a roster spot. (UPDATE: Baxter Holmes of ESPN is reporting Upshaw’s deal has a partial guarantee in the 1st year and is fully non-guaranteed in the 2nd year. While not outright stated, I am assuming his contract is for the minimum both years.)

(UPDATE II: Eric Pincus of the LA Times is reporting that $35K of Upshaw’s first year salary is guaranteed. The 2nd year, as Holmes also reported, is non-guaranteed. The totals for the contract are (roughly) $525K in year one and $875K in year 2.)

The fact that we’ve gotten to this point, though, should not be ignored. Yes, Upshaw said he’d be joining camp (while adding he thinks he’ll make the team), but the rhetoric coming out of the Lakers’ front office did not make any such assurances. Those statements were likely just the carrot the team was hanging out in front of the big man as motivation to do what was needed of him, but the chance he wouldn’t was always there.

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When it was reported the Lakers signed Marcelo Huertas, part of my analysis focused on my thoughts that his contract was likely to be fully guaranteed and, thus, his roster spot was basically set in stone. Well, it turns out that is not the case. Not at all, in fact:

Huertas taking a fully non-guaranteed deal is a bit of a shocker to me. Considering he could have more than likely continued his career in Europe with guaranteed money, coming to the NBA on the equivalent of a make-good training camp invite is not something I saw coming.

This leads me to two conclusions. First, Huertas really wanted to come to the NBA this season. When he told Yahoo! Sports in April that “now is the right time”, that was clearly not him just blowing smoke. He put his money where his mouth was, putting his desires to come stateside over what were surely more fruitful guarantees overseas.

Second, Huertas likely sees himself as having a good chance to make the Lakers’ final roster. Training camp invites, much like Summer League choices, are all about finding a team where 1). adequate opportunity to play exists and 2). a path to a potential roster spot is clear enough to inspire a fair shot at making the team. The Lakers, for what it’s worth, look to offer both to Huertas.

While D’Angelo Russell is clearly the PG of the future and Jordan Clarkson played well at that spot last season, the team does not currently have a veteran signal caller who could play behind either player. Add to this Byron Scott’s affinity for veteran players and Mitch Kupchak’s on the record comments about wanting to add a veteran signal caller and Huertas’ chances only increase.

With all these variables working (at least somewhat) in his favor, Huertas is taking his chance. Now all he has to do is play well enough in camp to make the front office want to keep him around.

With about a month left until the start of training camp, the Lakers continue to add talent to their roster. The most recent addition, according to Adrian Wojnarowski, is Brazilian Point Guard Marcelo Huertas:

Free-agent guard Marcelo Huertas – one of the Euroleague’s most accomplished playmakers – has agreed to a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Huertas also provides some background as how he believes he can be successful in the NBA:

“There’s so much more space in the NBA,” Huertas told Yahoo Sports in April. “It’s not like Europe now, where you have one guy full-time in the paint. Space is harder to come by. One of my strengths is playing in the pick-and-roll, finding open guys and making shots in the mid-range game off the dribble.

“I think that part is harder to find now, because you mostly have guys who get all the way to the hole, or they’re three-point shooters. And if I’m open, and I can get my feet set, I’m going to make a lot of those kind of shots.”

Huertas believes he can make a difference in the locker room, too, by mentoring young players and meshing with veterans. For the Lakers, Huertas could give them an ideal partner as Russell is groomed to become the franchise’s cornerstone.

“If you look at NBA rosters, there are unbelievable starting point guards, but maybe not as many guys who can come off the bench able to run the team, score the ball, as well as being able to be a leader for young players,” Huertas said. “Those are things I know I’ll be able to bring with me.”

Mitch Kupchak and Byron Scott have both mentioned their want for another point guard — preferably a veteran — on the team and it seems they have found him.

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The Lakers currently have 16 players under contract, but will look at to add anywhere from two to four more players to their roster for training camp. Among the players they have shown interest in is former Kings Forward Eric Moreland. From Shams Charania of Real GM:

Free agent Eric Moreland has multiple deals to compete for a roster spot in NBA training camp, with the Detroit Pistons as frontrunners, league sources told RealGM. The Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings are strong under consideration for Moreland, sources said, and their front offices expect the 6-foot-10 forward to settle upon a destination once the final offers are presented. The Kings waived Moreland on July 29 before his contract guarantee date for the 2015-16 season.

After having a good summer league with the Kings (6.4 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 20 minutes a game), Moreland is looking to catch on and find a more permanent role with a team. That said, any contract and camp invite from the Lakers isn’t likely to bring that security.

The Lakers are already very deep at PF with no fewer than 5 players who could draw consideration for minutes at that spot. There might be more flexibility if Moreland could play C, but with a listed weight of 218 pounds, that’s an unlikely solution.

Ultimately, then, I’d not expect Moreland to stick even if he did choose the Lakers. There are simply too many players he’d need to unseat to earn a regular season roster spot, nearly all of them players the team has already invested in. He would likely just be camp fodder who could compete with the other Lakers’ bigs in practice and provide an extra body as insurance should injury occur or if a player needs a day off for rest.

Whether that situation is enough to entice him would likely depend on how he and his agent view the opportunities with the Kings and the Pistons. Detroit currently has more guaranteed contracts than roster spots and will need to make cuts to get down to the maximum roster size. The Kings offer familiarity, but also just drafted Willie Cauley-Stein and added Kosta Koufos and Quincy Acy in free agency.

Whichever team Moreland chooses, then, offers an uphill climb to a roster spot. We’ll see if the Lakers end up being that team.