Archives For Free Agents

We are on the eve of free agency and the Lakers are looking to add talent. We have laid out the different approaches the Lakers can take in free agency, but practical navigation of these paths won’t be nearly so straightforward. Fact of the matter is, when the Lakers dip their toes into the free agent waters, they’ll likely use a combination of all different strategies to try and upgrade the team, putting out feelers to players at all levels to express interest in the hopes of getting commitments from as many players as possible who can affect the bottom line of wins and losses.

The questions, of course, are who are these players and what positions should the Lakers prioritize? Before we try to answer those questions, though, a few points worth mentioning:

  • The Lakers have several players who have non-guaranteed deals who they will need to make decisions on. Some of these decisions will be impacted by free agency. For the time being, I am thinking they end up keeping Jabari Brown and Tarik Black. I also think Sacre returns (you can never have enough bigs).
  • There are several free agents who I do not believe the Lakers have any chance at signing. These are guys who are either a restricted free agent whose team will almost certainly match any offer sheet or are so entrenched in their current situation, I don’t see them leaving.
    • These players, in no specific order are: LeBron James, Marc Gasol, Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green, and Kawhi Leonard. I have a feeling Dwayne Wade and Kevin Love will join this list, but I’m keeping them off, for now. But I don’t thing there’s really a chance the latter two join the Lakers even though, their names have been linked to the team in one way or another.
  • The Lakers already have meetings lined up with LaMarcus Aldridge and DeAndre Jordan. They’ll meet with Aldridge at 9:01pm PST on Tuesday, right after free agency opens. They will meet with Jordan on Wednesday. Greg Monroe will also have a meeting with the team.
  • The approximate max salary slots for players like Jordan and Aldridge (seven to nine years of NBA service) will be 30% of the cap, which, based on current projections, should be around a $18.9 million first year salary. For players with zero to six years of service, the max will be 25% of the cap, or around a $15.8 million first year salary.

With that out of the way, let’s focus on what the Lakers should actually do when the clock strikes midnight on Tuesday (at least on the east coast).

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UPDATE: Well, the decision has become official:

With Hill’s contract now off the books, the Lakers will have an estimated $22-24 million to play with in free agency. Which path they choose when trying to spend that money remains to be seen, but this move hints at their want to try and make a big splash when July 1st rolls around.

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While I am firm believer the Lakers cannot be fixed in a single off-season, they are in position to make some important signings in free agency starting late Tuesday night when the 2015-16 NBA season officially opens for business. Should Jordan Hill’s option not be picked up (which it, reportedly, will not be), the Lakers look to have roughly $24 million in cap space. This is a healthy amount of money which can be divided in any number of ways to upgrade a roster that, while on the ascension, could sorely use more talent.

The purpose of this post, though, isn’t to look at who the Lakers should chase, but rather what approach they might take in spending their cap space. Before we get into those paths, however, a few points worth mentioning:

  • The $24 million mentioned above is only an estimate, due to a few reasons:
    • Jordan Hill’s $9 million option must be decided on before Tuesday.
    • The Lakers have several players on non-guaranteed contracts for next year — Jordan Clarkson, Tarik Black, Robert Sacre, and Jabari Brown.
    • The Lakers two 1st round picks carry cap holds tied to their guaranteed contracts as first rounders
  • Players of different years of service have different “max” salary amounts. Players who have 0-6 years of service have a maximum salary of 25% of the salary cap. Players who have 7-9 years of service have a maximum of 30% of the salary cap. Players with 10+ years of service have a maximum salary of 35% of the salary cap. Of course, there are ways around these numbers, but for the purpose of the Lakers’ free agency pursuits, these are the percentages that matter.
  • There are unrestricted and restricted free agents. The former are free to sign with whoever they want. The latter are still tied to their current team via an ability to match any offer made to the restricted player. The team who has the right to match has three days to make their decision. During this waiting period, the cap space offered to the restricted free agent by the team making the offer is tied up in the offer and not available for an offer to any other free agent.
  • The longest deal the Lakers can offer a free agent from another team is 4 years.
  • Because the Lakers will once again fall under the cap, they will not have the “mid level” or “bi-annual” exceptions available to them. Instead, they will only have the “room” exception — roughly a $3 million salary slot to chase a mid-level type of player.

With all that information out of the way, below are the three general approaches the Lakers can take in free agency. For the purposes of this post we are going off the $24 million cap space estimate. Let’s start the slideshow. (Just kidding.)

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The NBA Draft is finally here and it seems as though the whirlwind is only intensifying. Whether we’re talking about who the Lakers may draft, whether there are trades to be made, what may happen in free agency, and how the latter two items may affect the former, it seems the only thing we know about the Lakers right now is how much we actually do not know.

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The Lakers, with Kobe Bryant’s disastrous extension wiped away that summer, could sniff three max cap slots. The Lakers’ cap flexibility yielded nothing of note last summer, but a Lakers team with the ability to offer a package deal to multiple stars is the ultimate NBA bogeyman.

(via Zach Lowe: How the NBA’s New TV Deal Could Blow Up the Salary Cap)

In the coming summers, this upcoming one included, the Lakers should have immense spending power. They purposely built their roster to “maintain flexibility” and be able to be a major competitor on the open market for the league’s best free agents.

This upcoming summer, for example, should the team not exercise their team option on Jordan Hill and get two first round picks (their own — which is still in question — and the Rockets, which is not) the Lakers would have between $20-23 million in cap space come July 1st. This number would include cap holds for Jordan Clarkson, Tarik Black, Robert Sacre, and Jabari Brown. Jump to the Summer of 2016 when, as Zach Lowe notes above, Kobe’s contract comes off the books, and the Lakers could be in a position to spend boatloads of money on free agents to rebuild their roster with an influx of amazing talent.

When viewing the team’s trajectory through this prism, visions of what the Miami Heat did in the Summer of 2010 becomes a model many fans hope to follow. Keep the cap clean — maybe even losing a lot next season to get another high pick — and then spend like crazy in the summer of ’16 when there will be a batch of free agents worth spending the cash on. There’s a seductive logic to this that is easy to be roped into. I get it.

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The Lakers play the Suns at home this evening, but all their moves aren’t on the court this Sunday. In a bit of a surprise, the Lakers have made two roster moves:

Releasing Henry is really the no-brainer move here as he’s done for the season after tearing his achilles tendon earlier this month. Henry’s contract was fully guaranteed so he will take his salary and rehab in the hopes of making a strong comeback next season. I wish Henry nothing but the best in his endeavors, though it will surely be an uphill climb for him. Last season under Mike D’Antoni, Henry showed that he has an NBA skill set, flashing an ability to hit the long ball while also getting to the basket regularly. If he can ever find a way to make a higher percentage at the foul line and not have so much tunnel vision once he beats the first defender off the dribble, he can take the next step as an offensive player. Of course, all that comes secondary to simply getting healthy — something that, sadly, has been an all to frequent theme for the former Jayhawk.

As for Black, the rookie big man was released by the Rockets who needed a roster spot to sign Josh Smith after the latter was released by the Pistons. This enabled the Lakers to pick him up for nothing but the commitment of paying his salary. The 6’11”, 250 pound Black has flashed some talent as a reserve big man, getting most of his minutes at center when Dwight Howard sat out due to knee problems. So far this season, he’s averaged four points and five rebounds on 54% shooting in 15 minutes a night.

Shotchart_1419807088927As you can see from his shot chart, Black is mostly a player who stays around the rim offensively and doesn’t seem to step outside of his comfort zone at all. Based on the Rockets’ offensive approach, Black likely gets most of his baskets off dump-offs or as the roll man out of the P&R as evidenced by the fact that nearly 69% of his shots are assisted. His hovering around the rim also contributes to his very good 16.7% offensive rebounding rate (for comparison, Ed Davis’ ORR is 13.3 this season).

Where Black fits into the rotation now remains to be seen. Right now Davis, Hill, and Boozer are the team’s best big men and Robert Sacre has earned the coach’s trust and plays solid minutes as the team’s 3rd Center. With Ryan Kelly reportedly nearing a return (he is targeting next Friday), the front court rotation is already set to get more crowded. So, Black will either displace a current rotation player (Sacre?) or languish on the bench. Unless, of course, a trade is made to remove one of the team’s big men.

I’m not one to speculate, but moving one of the team’s bigs would not be a surprise to me. While Black isn’t really the type of player you sign to throw into the lineup right away, he is a player who should probably play to see what you have in him and right now those minutes simply do not exist. We’ll see, however, what the team decides to do. In any event, they have added an interesting piece to the roster who should get a chance to show whether he is worth an investment beyond this season.

 

With the recent news of Xavier Henry joining Steve Nash and Julius Randle on the shelf for the season, the Lakers have begun to explore their options on adding a player who could help. Well, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo, the Lakers have settled on a familiar name:

Lakers fans are familiar with Earl, of course. He damn near became a household name in his lone season with the Lakers, getting thrust into the lineup after injuries ravaged the team’s front court (sounds familiar!). Playing stretch PF under Mike D’Antoni, Clark easily had the best season of his career. His ability to stretch the floor offensively and multi-skilled game was a nice fit for that system and that coach, who paired him next to Dwight or Pau and let him work on the perimeter as a floor spacer and then use his athleticism to do work closer to the basket as a slasher and finisher in the open court. Earl flourished in that role and turned that production into a free agent deal with the Cavs for four-times what the Lakers likely would have wanted him to sign for.

In Cleveland, however, Clark never found the same magic he had under D’Antoni. While his three point shooting numbers held steady, the rest of his game did not translate as well to Mike Brown’s more methodical approach. Clark did not even finish his first season with the Cavs and was traded to the 76ers and promptly waived. Since then, Clark continued his vagabond career suiting up for the Knicks and getting claimed off waivers by the Rockets, but never finding a home. Now he’s back in LA.

While I do not want to be too down on Clark, I wouldn’t expect the same type of success that had fans making “Earl-sanity!” comments on this site two years ago. Clark is, theoretically, being brought in to play small forward where he can provide depth now that Henry is out. Clark has the perimeter skills and, as noted by Woj, he has been producing some gaudy scoring numbers in the D-League. But unless his game has moved forward in the two years he’s been gone (which is possible), I expect Clark to still have some issues playing against like sized and athletic players who are used to guarding on the perimeter.

In saying all that, though, I am happy to see Earl get another shot in the league. Hopefully he does well and can find a landing spot in the years to come that find a way to maximize his game. He certainly has talent and a unique skill set for a player his size.

Yes, it has been a long summer but the wait is almost over. Training camp is nearly here and the Lakers will soon hit the court, trying to absorb Byron Scott’s schemes while learning each other. Just like the last two seasons, the roster has turned over by half and that type of change takes time to adjust to. Two of those changes have occurred this week when the Lakers signed two guards to help on the wing and provide a roster in transition more veteran players who will challenge for minutes on the perimeter.

The first player added is Wayne Ellington, a 5 year pro out of the University of North Carolina. His Tarheel roots probably helped him get a contract from Mitch Kupchak, but what likely aided him more was the half a season he spent in Cleveland playing under Byron Scott. In those 37 games Ellington played over 25 minutes a night and put up double digit points on on 44% shooting from the floor. This stretch should not be glorified as some extreme run of great play, but it does constitute the best stretch of Ellington’s career even if his three point shot was not falling at his normal accuracy.

That last point is most important. Over his 5 year career, Ellington shot over 39% from deep in 4 of those seasons. His career mark of 38.6% from behind the arc is well above the league average and would make him the Lakers’ best shooter from deep should he find his way to the final roster. What the Lakers are surely hoping, then, is that Ellington finds his range from deep while also being able to duplicate the 49% shooting from 2 point range that he did in that half season in Cleveland. That level of play would be very close to what Jodie Meeks provided last season (40% from 3, 51% from inside the arc). Of course, I’m sure the Mavericks were hoping the same thing last season, but Ellington never found his way into Rick Carlisle’s rotation managing to only appear in 46 games while playing less than 10 minutes a night. In other words, while the skill is seemingly there it remains to be seen if he can earn a role on this team. Even if Scott knows what he’s capable of.

The other key signing is Ronnie Price, whom the Lakers inked to a contract on Wednesday. Price came into the league in 2005 and has bounced around the league, spending time in Sacramento, Utah, Portland, Phoenix, and Orlando. For his career, Price has mostly been a 2nd or 3rd string point guard who saw minutes due to his competitiveness and willingness to play hard. His statistics will not wow you — he’s a career 38% shooter while hitting less than 30% of his shots from deep — and hasn’t really proven to be a guard who can create for others or himself offensively.

He will play hard, however, and that is fine if he’s your insurance guard who will clearly be below Lin and Nash on the depth chart. If I had my way, he’d also be behind Clarkson as I do believe the rookie guard should get chances to see game action and be put on a track of development this year. Whether Scott agrees with this remains to be seen, but Price’s veteran status and willingness to mix it up with any opponent will surely earn him his coach’s respect. That said, as much as playing hard is a skill, Price doesn’t have many others beyond that and while I’d have no qualms if he made the final roster I would start to question things if his presence negatively impacted that of other guards (namely, Clarkson) in the process.

Also worth mentioning is that signing both Price and Ellington brings the Lakers’ roster to 15. And while they also added 4 more players on Wednesday (brining the roster to 19 players), those guys are essentially camp invites who have little chance of making the team. Ellington and Price, though, look to have a path to being on this roster opening night. I did not expect the Lakers to carry 15 players into the season and that may well change before the first game tips off, but as the roster stands now it looks more and more likely my initial thoughts were incorrect.

We will see how this all plays out, though. Camp will be here very soon and, with it, more information as to how the roster will shape up will be out our disposal. Finally.