Archives For Free Agents

We recently told you the Lakers had upped their training camp roster to 18 via the signing of 3 players. Well, their camp roster is now up to 20 after the additions of Metta World Peace and Thomas Robinson according to Shams Charania of  The Vertical.

Before we get to the merits of each player, I think the best way to look at both signings as a continuation of the major theme of the Summer. After Luke Walton was hired, almost every soundbite coming from him or his staff has been related back to two central themes — competition and culture.

Walton has openly discussed wanting to establish a culture where players wanted to come into the gym and work hard. He wants players to have fun, but he wants that fun to come out of competing every day and cultivating an environment where players can improve.

The Metta and Robinson signings are an extension of these ideas.

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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.

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.

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 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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During his exit interview after the season, Robert Sacre said he wanted to return to the Lakers next season. As the only NBA team he’d ever played for, Sacre said he was comfortable in Los Angeles, loved the city and the fans of the team, and did not want to uproot his family.

Well, despite his professed hopes, Robert Sacre will not return to the Lakers next season. Instead, he will fight for a roster spot in New Orleans:

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The Lakers officially announced they have re-signed point guard Marcelo Huertas. From their press release:

“Marcelo’s understanding of the game, unselfishness, and professionalism are assets to our team and he has an uncanny ability to change the pace of the game,” said Kupchak. “He’s fundamentally solid but also has a flair and excitement to his style of play, which makes him a fan favorite.”

In his first NBA season with the Lakers last year after playing professionally in Brazil, Spain, and Italy since 2001, Huertas averaged a team-best 3.4 assists per game in addition to 4.5 points and 1.7 rebounds over 53 games. Prior to coming stateside, he spent the previous four seasons (2011-15) with Spanish power FC Barcelona, where he was a key piece on their 2011-12 and 2013-14 Spanish National Championship and 2013 Spanish National Cup-winning teams. He also has 165 games of Euroleague experience, and was the 2013-14 Euroleague Top 16 Round Two MVP.

While the Lakers did not announce the terms of the deal, the contract is believed to be worth $3.3 million over two season with the 2nd year non-guaranteed.

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During a game between the Lakers and Thunder this past season Kevin Durant had a brief in-game exchange with former Lakers’ head coach Byron Scott. Durant said to Scott that the Lakers were a lot better than they had been earlier during the year and Scott responded that his young guys were “starting to get it”.

It was a nice exchange and acknowledgement from Durant that the Lakers had made some progress — especially the young players. It really shouldn’t have been taken as anything more than that, but, well, we all know that’s not how these things work.

Fast-forward to this summer. The Lakers were interested in meeting with Durant in free agency. Durant did not reciprocate that interest, shunning the Lakers entirely and never granting them a sit-down. This was big news. Well, it leas it was treated as big news. In reality, it shouldn’t have been.

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