Archives For Free Agents

UPDATE: The deal is reportedly done. The amount being reported is $64 million over 4 years. We do not yet know if there are options in the deal or the structure of the contract (flat, raises each year, decreasing over time), but it’s all pretty firm now. My initial analysis is below. I will have more up soon.

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The Lakers have a pretty big hole at the Center position. In the lead up to free agency, it was thought they might chase Hassan Whiteside hard and were even linked to Bismack Biyombo earlier today. It seems, though, they will go in a different direction:

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While the wooing won’t officially begin until midnight eastern time tonight, that doesn’t mean things aren’t already taking shape in free agency. Teams are making plans to meet with free agents and there are already reports of reciprocated interest among those targets to their linked teams.

The Lakers? Well, things aren’t quite shaping up as I’m guessing many would have hoped. We have already profiled potential targets a C and at SF the Lakers could use, but it seems some of those players have other plans in mind. Let’s get to the latest buzz:

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Free agency begins this evening and with that there are some accounting and loose ends to be tied. One which is the extending of qualifying offers to your own restricted free agents in order to keep them restricted and maintain matching rights. The Lakers had several such players on their roster and made decisions on them today:

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We know the Lakers should be interested in Hornets Small Forward Nic Batum. Besides Kevin Durant and LeBron James — neither of whom the Lakers will sign, much less meet with — Batum is the top SF on the market and has a skill set the Lakers desperately need. It will take the max to sign him which, for Batum, is a salary starting at $26 million.

He will make this amount of money and, in the new NBA economy, will make it easily. Teams will line up to offer it to him. The question is which team will he want to pay it to him?

This is where the Lakers come in. It has long been believed the Hornets have more than just the inside track at retaining Batum, but that it is a foregone conclusion. The versatile forward was a lynch-pin to Steve Clifford’s schemes on both sides of the ball and helped the Hornets return to the playoffs. They would give him the money and he would return.

Maybe those assumptions jumped the gun a bit? Brad Turner of the LA Times says the Lakers may be in play:

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The Lakers’ biggest free agent need may be in the pivot, but you don’t total 17 wins if your only problem is needing a new Center. And despite the Lakers drafting Brandon Ingram #2 overall and having D’Angelo Russell and (restricted free agent) Jordan Clarkson as young players on the rise, the team could really use some help on the wing.

First, I think it’s worth repeating the prices for free agents are going to be outrageous this summer and you should prepare yourself for sticker shock. We discussed this some in our look at big men, but bigs always command high salaries. With wings, though, there’s typically more leeway. The supply of wings typically outpaces demand and while the cream of the crop will always get paid, there is usually some value to be found when going to the 2nd or 3rd tier.

That may end up being true this summer too, but “value” will be a relative term. When the cap explodes and teams have so much money to spend they won’t actually be able to spend it all, the formula inverts where the supply of dollars is going to vastly outpace players who would, in a normal year, make that much money. So, even if the Lakers go down-shelf shopping, they’re still likely to be paying a premium for their target simply because the availability of money¬†for all players will ratchet up contract amounts.

With that out of the way and the Lakers need for a wing established, it’s time to go shopping. But first, let’s again take stock of what’s in the cupboard. As noted, the Lakers already have Russell and Ingram. Re-signing Clarkson is a priority and will almost certainly happen. They also have Lou Williams who will demand some minutes. Looking at this group, however, two things become clear: There’s only one SF in that group (Ingram) and there’s not a lot of defense-first guys (zero).

The team’s needs mostly revolve around those two areas and they’d be wise to chase players who fit a certain profile. Namely, if the guy can play small forward and has the potential to be a plus defender, he should get a long look. Of course shooting still matters. And being at least an adequate passer and having enough ball skills to initiate the offense in some way would also be great. But if those latter skills come at the expense of defense and position certainty, a guy should move down the list (or off it entirely).

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It is no secret where the holes on this Lakers’ team are. While the argument could be made there are holes everywhere — this team won 17 games last year! — the presence of multiple young players who hope to improve mean there are really only a few positions (and roles) of true need.

One of those positions — and probably the highest priority one — is Center. Roy Hibbert is an unrestricted free agent and, in all likelihood, will not be brought back. Brandon Bass, who played backup C for most of the year, declined his player option and is now a free agent. Tarik Black and Robert Sacre are restricted free agents and it is not yet clear if the Lakers will tender them qualifying offers, giving the team the ability to match FA offers.

The Lakers did draft Ivica Zubac in the 2nd round of the draft and there are reports he will come over from Europe this season to play in the NBA. But even if Zubac makes the team, he’s only 19 years old and could not be relied upon to be the team’s starter in the pivot. He would would also be the only Center the Lakers currently project to have under contract for next year. So, yeah, finding a rotation level big man (and ideally a high functioning starter) is important.

The good news for the Lakrs is that the list of big men options in free agency is relatively deep. The bad news is that teams always — ALWAYS — have to overpay for size in free agency. As much as we glorify the shift towards small ball in the modern NBA, being taller than nearly everyone else is still seen as an advantage when the goal is to score and stop your opponent from putting a ball into a fixed rim 10 feet high off the ground.

Below, then, is my list of five free agent big men I would recommend the Lakers target. This list is not definitive and I will offer a few other names after it, but these guys would be my priority. I would call them all at 9:01pm Pacific time on June 30th (aka 12:01am July 1st) to express my interest if I could:

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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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