Archives For Free Agents

With training camp a little over a month away, the Lakers are starting to fill out their roster with players they’d like to see more of over the course of camp and preseason. The team had already signed Vander Blue to a make good contract, giving him a $50K guarantee to come to camp and try to make the team. I don’t think Blue’s chances are great to do that, but he showed some flashes in Vegas and I’m happy for him to get this chance.

The team also has already inked Alex Caruso to a two-way contract. So he’s automatically at camp and, in theory, not competing for a roster spot. Caruso will get some time with the big team, I’m sure, but will spend most of his season with the SBL in the G-League, running the system and being used as insurance should the Lakers need an extra body in practice or on the bench for potential game minutes.

With Blue and Caruso, the Lakers had 16 players under contract for camp. They are allowed 20. So, more were coming. And, now, more are here:

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While there were reports that the Lakers were likely done signing free agents, the team has reportedly picked up a familiar name:

First, I’m happy for Blue. He’s been with the Lakers in some way — either with the big team or their G-League affiliate — since 2015. Last year, he was the league MVP. He’s played for their summer league team multiple times and after his exploits in Vegas this past month in helping the team to the LVSL championship, he openly spoke about wanting to catch on with the Lakers and get his shot in the NBA. It seems he’ll get his shot to try to stick this fall.

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Just two days ago we wondered what moves the Lakers might still make with an unbalanced roster and needs in both the backcourt and the wing. Well, the first domino has fallen as the Lakers will reportedly bring back a somewhat familiar face to serve as their backup to Lonzo Ball.

First, getting Ennis for the minimum is a nice pickup. After flirting with Derrick Rose for what was likely their full room level exception (roughly $4 million), the team found a viable backup for much cheaper than that.

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Early this morning, it was reported that the Lakers would be signing Alex Caruso to a contract. This was the first report I, personally, saw:

Ramona Shelburne is reporting further details, noting it will be a 2-year contract and one of the NBA’s new “two-way” deals which allows a player to shuffle between a parent club and their G-League affiliate. In this case, then, Caruso will likely spend most of his time with the South Bay Lakers, though could get an opportunity with the Lakers for stretches.

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The Lakers’ quiet off-season is now officially over. After having discussions with several free agents (George Hill, Dion Waiters), the team has found its man (and someone to take their money) in former Piston Kentavious Caldwell-Pope:

First, it’s important to note how unlikely this exact signing would have been a week ago.

KCP entered this summer as a restricted free agent with the Pistons. It was not until the Celtics secured Gordon Hayward in free agency and needed to off-load some salary did things shift. Danny Ainge executed a trade with the Pistons, sending Avery Bradley to Detroit for Marcus Morris. Adding Bradley meant that Stan Van Gundy found his “shooting guard of the future” and it made KCP expendable. Gone went his qualifying offer and with it his restricted status. He could now go to any team he wanted.

And he chose the Lakers and their one-year deal. Excuse me if I seem shocked. I am. Caldwell-Pope surely had longer term offers on the table. To eschew those to sign with the Lakers for one year seems almost unfathomable to me. Credit to the Lakers’ front office of Magic and Pelinka for getting this done. They got a young FA, about to enter his prime, to sign in LA for a single season. Yes, the dollar amount is high, but that seems irrelevant to me at this stage. Again, he could have made much more on a longer deal.

As for fit, KCP instantly slides into a thin backcourt at SG and can be slotted between Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram rather seamlessly. He’s a good (not great, but good) shooter from distance, hitting 35% of his 3’s — but he did so on nearly 6 attempts per game. That volume from distance is what intrigues me more than his percentage as it shows me a player who is comfortable taking the long ball and someone who, because of that volume, teams will defend him more seriously out on the arc.

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July 4th has come and gone and, with that, some dominoes have started to fall. Gordon Hayward is a Celtic. George Hill is a King. As is Zach Randolph. Otto Porter signed a max offer sheet with the Nets and several other lower tiered free agents have also agreed to new deals. Of the eight players I covered in my free agency primer, only KJ McDaniels (#7) and Tyler Ennis (#8) remain unsigned.

This leaves the Lakers in an interesting, though not unpredictable place. Anyone with some foresight could have seen this exact scenario playing out.

The Lakers, strapped with good, but not great, cap space (a little over $16 million) and armed with only 1-year deals to offer voluntarily put themselves in a corner when negotiating with any target. JJ Redick signed a 1-year deal, but it was for $23 million — or about $7 million more than the Lakers have in total cap space. The team spoke with Hill about a 1-year deal, then he signed with the Kings for three years with an annual salary of $19 million. Even second tier targets like Justin Holiday and Darren Collison signed for two years. Omri Casspi was a player I wanted and he signed for 1-year for low dollars but did so with the world champion Warriors.

You see where I’m going with this. There’s really not a deal signed by FA’s to this point where the Lakers had any sort of an advantage in negotiations or where the final deal signed lined up at all with what the Lakers could offer.

So, what should the Lakers do with their cap space now? Let’s look at a few options:

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It’s July 4th and while Lakers fans are waiting for their free agency fireworks, they might just settle for some sparklers at this point. The team has been fairly quiet since the market opened, making contact with Andre Iguodala (stayed in Golden State) and Ben McLemore (signed in Memphis), had multiple conversations with Rajon Rondo (still unsigned), and have met with Dion Waiters and George Hill — who are both still on the market.

Hill is the best name among this group for what the Lakers need. He’s a point guard in name, but more of a combo guard in skill set. He’s a fine lead ball handler who can initiate the offense, run P&R’s, and create shots for himself and teammates (though this is not his best strength, to be sure). He’s also a very good off-ball worker, someone who can make spot up jumpers, understands spacing, and knows how to attack a compromised defense when the ball rotates to him and the opposition is in scramble mode.

Defensively he’s also an excellent player. He offers good size and length, has a keen understanding of opposing team’s tactics and habits, tracks his man and gets to his help responsibilities fluidly, and competes hard on that end. Due to his size and smarts, he can guard either backcourt position and not be overwhelmed. He’s not an all-NBA level performer on that end, but everywhere he’s been he’s helped make his team’s defense a top third of the league unit and while that’s a team stat, I don’t think you can dismiss Hill’s role in making that happen.

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The Lakers have been quiet in free agency through two days, having discussions with several players and waiving Tarik Black, but that’s about it. No signings, not even any face to face meetings with potential additions. That last part, at least, is going to change on Sunday night, however:

Waiters is a former client of Lakers GM Rob Pelinka, so the meeting makes sense if only looking at it from that angle. Of course, it makes sense on other levels too.

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