Archives For Free Agents

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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We have officially hit a lull in the roster construction portion of the off-season. The Lakers had an eventful stretch from late June through the first week of July, adding players who will be key contributors to next year’s team.

For summary purposes, let’s run down the transactions:

  • Drafted Brandon Ingram
  • Drafted Ivica Zubac
  • Signed Timofey Mozgov in Free Agency
  • Signed Luol Deng in Free Agency
  • Re-signed Jordan Clarkson
  • Traded for Jose Calderon
  • Re-signed Tarik Black
  • Re-signed Marcelo Huertas

While not all of the contracts associated with these deals are officially signed (we’ll discuss this more in a bit), all of these agreements have been reported by credible sources. Add the players listed above with those who were already under contract and the Lakers have commitments to 14 players.

The question is, are they done?

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After the Lakers traded for Jose Calderon, my initial thought was that Marcelo Huertas would no longer be brought back. The Lakers had tendered Huertas a qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent, but Calderon, to me at least, made Huertas redundant and no longer needed.

Turns out I was wrong. Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical is reporting Huertas will return to the Lakers with a 2-year contract and Huertas himself confirmed it via instagram:

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The Lakers have been pretty busy through the first 4 days of free agency. The signings of Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng have added quality veterans who, even if not on the same timeline of the team’s young core, can still play quality basketball and will help move this team forward. Retaining Jordan Clarkson and Tarik Black have brought back two parts of that young core and guys who have proven (Clarkson, more than Black) they can be rotation players in this league.

Adding to these moves the drafting of Brandon Ingram and Ivica Zubac in June and the Lakers have reshaped their roster in needed ways. For a team which only won 17 games last year this should be expected, but it is still good to see. The team has filled needs and been decisive in doing so.

Their work, however, is not done. Counting all the above players, both free agents and draftees, the Lakers have a roster of 12 players (though, it should be noted, Zubac has not signed a deal yet). The roster minimum is 13 and the team can carry up to 15 players. So, there are still additions which can/need to be made. With that, let’s take a closer look at what the Lakers should still be targeting.

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The Lakers made Tarik Black a restricted free agent by tendering him a qualifying offer earlier this week. With the market moving quickly, however, and big men signing for some big dollars through the first 3 days of free agency, the Lakers did not wait for Black to sign an offer sheet and instead have signed him outright:

I really like this signing. With the type of money being thrown around in free agency so far, inking him to a deal that averages slightly over $6 million a season is a nice value. Who knows if the Black could have gotten more on the market, but if he was about to be offered a larger deal or the Lakers had a sense they wouldn’t want to match a figure higher than that, getting him on board without having to go through those issues is a smart, proactive move.

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In the lead up to free agency, one of the main concepts I heard about most from fans was the timeline of the Lakers’ young core. As the argument goes, the best way for the Lakers to continue to build the team is to seek out players of similar ages to their already existing young core.

LA needs a center, try to get 27 year old Hassan Whiteside or 23 year old Bismack Biyombo. Need a small forward? Look at 24 year old Allen Crabbe, 24 year old Harrison Barnes, 23 year old Maurice Harkless, or even 27 year old Kent Bazemore. These players, the argument goes, could grow with the Lakers’ young core so that when Russell, Randle, Clarkson, and Ingram are more mature and ready to win, the Lakers could potentially have an entire rotation of players in various stages of their respective primes.

All of this sounds great and makes total sense. In some cases, I have even argued for it myself.

In the wake of the Lakers signing soon to be 30 year old Timofey Mozgov and 31 year old Luol Deng — besides the case against paying them what the Lakers are (this applies more to Mozgov) for the number of years they are — the most frequent criticism I have heard about the signings is that neither player is on the young core’s timeline. When the Lakers’ young core is ready to win, these critics say, Mozgov and Deng will be too old or no longer very good.

While there’s a certain logic to this, my counter to this argument is…why should we really care about that?

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The Lakers made some waves — and received some scorn — for handing out some rich contracts to Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng in the first two days of free agency. While there are plusses and minuses to each deal and on-court fit, there was still an open question of whether either contract could become a more team friendly one via the presence of team options for the 4th year of either deal.

Sam Amick of USA Today is reporting that is not the case for either contract.

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We knew the Lakers had a need for a wing. While they just drafted Brandon Ingram, he’s the only SF currently on the team who I expect to be on the team when the season starts. The Lakers need more options, period.

Late Friday night it was reported that they had offered Kent Bazemore a 4 year contract worth $72 million. Bazemore turned them down and re-signed with the Hawks instead. The Lakers, then took that same money and offered it to someone else. They got their man.

My first two thoughts about this deal are 1. I really like Deng and 2. I am still getting used to the amount of money in these contracts. I do the math conversions in my head and understand the economics how the rise in cap is impacting deals, but I’m just not used to seeing the actual numbers yet.

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