Archives For Free Agents

The Lakers made LaMarcus Aldridge their top free agent target. They set up a meeting with him right at the opening of free agency, used social media as a tool to express their desire to have him sign (#LAtoLA), and brought in their full crew of basketball and off-court team to the pitch meeting to go over every possible angle of what being a Laker for the next four years would mean.

Despite this full court press, it is being reported Aldridge will not sign with the Lakers:

The fact it was, supposedly, a “50-50 choice” is somewhat encouraging on the surface and should not be totally disregarded. The Lakers were a bad team last season. Beyond Kobe Bryant, they currently only have Julius Randle, Ryan Kelly, and Nick Young under contract. Yes, they have all-rookie 1st teamer Jordan Clarkson and just drafted D’Angelo Russell (and Larry Nance Jr.), but overall he would be joining a team with a legend who doesn’t have a lot of time left in the league and several young, unproven players who are not on the same timeline as him to win now.

Choosing not to sign with the Lakers should not be a surprise, then. In saying, that, though, none of the reasons stated above are actually being reported as the reasons he is choosing a different team:

Oh. Okay.

Let’s try to unpack this a bit more since you can only glean so much from 140 characters.

I’ve no clue if what’s being reported here is a shot at the Lakers’ talent level, an implied lack of analytics driven data to maximize him as a player, a perceived lack of strong coaching, something entirely different or a combination of all the above. What I do know, however, is that it’s not a great look for the Lakers. At some point, perceptions do become reality and if the team is consistently trying to sell something besides basketball and it comes at the expense of basketball, that is not likely to make a great impression.

Further, the idea — subtle or not — that Kobe could be seen as some sort of obstacle towards bringing in a talented player is…worrisome. Again, we do not know all (any?) of the facts here. None of us were in the room and the tweet above mentions outright the vagueness of what led to that lack of connection between Kobe and Aldridge. But, on the heels of Dwight leaving (no matter your feelings about Howard as a player, teammate, or anything else, the Lakers wanted him back) and Kobe’s reported role in greasing the wheels of that exit, the above is something worth taking note of. Not worth putting all the emphasis on, just as an additional talking point.

Ultimately, maybe all of this is a bit unfair. The Lakers have been a bad team for two consecutive years. Last year they won 21 games. They have a roster of mostly unknown, unproven players and Aldridge — who is 30 — is trying to win now. The Spurs (the presumed front-runner) won the title the season before last, just signed the MVP of that Finals series for five more years, brought back Danny Green, and also still have Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili. If we’re looking at rosters and the money is even close to the same, this ins’t really a choice. The fact the Lakers were in this at all, again, is somewhat encouraging.

But that nagging feeling the Lakers don’t have it together persists. Even if that’s not true (or fair), perception is starting to shift that way. So, while I can say with a straight face that I am not really heartbroken over Aldridge not signing — especially when his fit on the roster is not ideal — the reasons why he made this choice do cause a bit of concern. Not because we should take the reports above as 100% accurate, but because they contribute to a perception which is shifting more and more towards unflattering about the Lakers.

Free Agency is now in full swing as teams have made their priority calls, have started to have meetings, and already inking players to deals. For a review, I have already covered some strategies the Lakers could take in allocating their FA dollars and taken a look at positional priorities and targets for the front office to focus on.

With that, below is what we know and how things are looking with the Lakers’ pursuit of players and what is going on around the rest of the league…

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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.