Archives For Free Agents

When I talked with Sam Vecenie about the Lakers’ offseason, he asked me to make one bold prediction for this summer. I asked Sam if it was bold to say the Lakers would sign Hassan Whiteside in free agency. After all, there have been murmurs of the Lakers’ interest in the Heat big man and he fills an obvious need.

Fast forward a few weeks and Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne are reporting the Lakers interest is quite real and they plan to target Whiteside when free agency opens on July 1st:

The Los Angeles Lakers plan to aggressively pursue Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside when NBA free agency starts, according to league sources.

With rim protection and perimeter shooting ranking as the Lakers’ foremost areas of concern heading into the open market, sources told ESPN that Whiteside has emerged as a priority target.

The report further notes that Whiteside is expected to command a maximum salary and, while not spelled out directly, the expectation is the Lakers would be willing to offer that amount. With a projected $94 million dollar cap, the starting salary for Whiteside earning the max would be $22.2 million in year one and would total nearly $95 million over a 4 year deal.

That, my friends, is a lot of coin.

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The Lakers (and their fans) have always viewed this summer as one where they would be able to retool and grab talent in free agency. It is no coincidence Kobe Bryant’s contract expired this year or that when the Lakers did not sign top flight free agents the past two summers they did not throw long contracts at mid-tier talent. They instead signed or traded for players on short term deals which would keep their cap relatively clean this summer.

They have preached flexibility for years and this summer was a major part of that. Or, more accurately, Kevin Durant was a part of that. Getting a chance to pitch Durant on the merits of being a Laker and, potentially, bringing whoever else he wanted with him was an opportunity this franchise wanted to have. It may have been one they were even counting on. It seems, though, they may not get it.

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NBA fans love to play armchair GM. They have the ESPN Trade Checker bookmarked. They know the general workings of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. And they have ideas of fixed price points for players based on ideas of “value” and “worth”. This all fine and good. I think a more informed fan-base is a better fan-base. It makes for better, more nuanced conversation.

This summer, though, it’s better to forget some of what you think you know about player value. This summer, it simply doesn’t apply. I may have changed majors from Economics to History when I was in college, but I took enough of former to understand supply and demand and how market forces help determine pricing. And, this summer, with the NBA cap about to go up by $22 million, the concept of what a player is “worth” is going to change.

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With the Lakers poised to have slightly over $60 million in cap space burning a hole in their pocket, they have several paths they can take to try to reshape their roster. With all that cap space, they have been linked to nearly every top FA in some way shape for form, even if only from the standpoint they would be “interested” in signing him.

One name where there was supposedly mutual interest, though, was with Toronto Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan. Whispers around the league were that the Compton native and former USC Trojan would love to play for the franchise while it was long believed the Lakers would be willing to shell out the max in order to lure DeRozan back to his native Los Angeles. The thought was that the Lakers need a huge infusion of talent and DeRozan offered a player who could step into the rotation spot Kobe Bryant vacated after retiring.

Well, it seems like that position has changed, and from both sides.

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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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