Archives For Laker Analysis

I’m going to be completely honest here. I’ve little clue what to think about the Lakers as they head into this free agency period.

Teams can start to come to agreements with players in just four days and, really, that should be an something to get excited about — especially for a team like the Lakers that is looking to improve. But with so many moving parts surrounding this roster’s construction, it’s difficult to really formulate a clean course of action when there are some key open questions about the direction of the roster.

Are the Lakers going to trade for Paul George? Are they going to do anything about their glut of PF’s and C’s? How are they going to manage Tarik Black and his non-guaranteed contract for next season? Are there any players from the end of last year’s rotation who deserve a longer look (Tyler Ennis, Thomas Robinson, etc)? Is this front office willing to commit any money this off-season that will be on next year’s books?

Answering any of those questions one way or the other re-routes the Lakers down a different path, like one of those choose your own adventure books I read when I was a kid. Do the Lakers trade for Paul George? Yes => Advance to Page 327. Do the Lakers pick up Tarik Black’s option? No => Advance to Page 285.

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Trading D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Nets for Brook Lopez confirms that Magic and Pelinka see maximizing and using cap space as their priority for building out the long term roster. I believe the Russell trade was a serious mistake for several reasons, but won’t litigate the issue here, and will instead focus on analyzing how the deal fundamentally reworks the team’s salary cap picture as we head into free agency and the future.

Magic and Pelinka’s comments in connection with the trade made clear that the team’s plan is to hoard 2018 cap space to add two max level stars, with one presumably being Paul George (whether by trade this summer or free agency next). I will lay out below the team’s current and future cap situation, and how various contingencies could impact their ability to sign free agents in subsequent offseasons.

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All-star caliber big man.

One can argue how accurate that is — Lopez has made one All-Star game in his 9 year career — but that was how Rob Pelinka described Brook Lopez when explaining some of the reasons the Lakers decided to part with D’Angelo Russell as a means to unload Timofey Mozgov’s bloated salary in order to acquire the Brooklyn big man.

It’s hard to know if the Lakers still would have done this trade if a player of Lopez’s quality wasn’t coming back in return (my guess: it would have), but the fact the Lakers are getting such a good player back is meaningful, even if it doesn’t fully erase the sting of losing a young player of Russell’s caliber. Regardless of how much a sect of fans don’t like this deal, it’s done. Lopez is the Lakers’ starting center next year. So, what do they have in him?

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In the latest episode of the Laker Film Room Podcast, me and Pete are joined by Anthony Irwin, Harrison Faigen, and Ben Rosales for a crossover pod with Locked on Lakers.

We talk all things NBA Draft and give analysis on the Lakers’ picks, discuss the D’Angelo Russell trade a bit more, and get into general team building questions to further breakdown what roles we expect from some of the guys as the roster starts to change.

This was a good conversation with some diverse opinions that I really enjoyed. Click through to listen to the entire episode.

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After Thursday’s NBA draft, Lakers’ General Manager Rob Pelinka spoke to the press about the selections the team made and what his plans for the future would be. At one point, when speaking about the D’Angelo Russell trade, Pelinka pivoted to wanting to maintain cap flexibility in order to sign two max level free agents in the future.

This prompted ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne to ask the following question:

The ability to add two max salaried guys, that’s thinking big; that’s swinging big. And they did that here once, what makes you think you can actually get those guys?

Rather than transcribe Pelinka’s answer, which was quite long, I think I can summarize it thusly: with Magic now at the head of basketball ops, there’s a new energy in the building that inspires a sense of confidence. Pelinka noted that this feeling isn’t just limited to the team, its staff, etc, but could be felt during the pre-draft workout process via prospects giving off a vibe of wanting to play for the Lakers; to wanting to be a part of where this organization is going. Pelinka also gets the sense this is true of players around the league and, via conversations and anecdotally, he believes the new energy and believing positively in what they’re doing is going to work out for them.

If this sounds somewhat familiar, it should.

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With an officially unofficial trade of D’Angelo Russell hanging in the wind, the Lakers entered Thursday’s NBA draft with three draft picks — their own at #2, the Nets (via Boston) at #27, and the Rockets’ at #28. By the end of the night, they’d end up with four picks, swapping #28 for the Jazz’s selections at #30 and #42. (They’d also finalize the Russell deal, which, for the life of me I still don’t understand the delay in announcement. Oh well.)

With those four picks the Lakers made some smart selections, focusing on players who not only possess good character and work ethic, but who project to be able to fill specific roster needs via emerging (or already established) skills. A brief recap:

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The Lakers traded D’Angelo Russell. And while I’ve tried to make sense of it, both in long form and with our buddy Pete Zayas in our latest podcast, the fact is that there’s actually little to try to actually analyze here.

The Lakers traded a highly talented young player who, for reasons that will likely leak over the next several weeks and months, the team no longer believed in to be a long term piece for the franchise. We can debate those reasons all we want or, more precisely, debate how much those reasons should matter considering the return value netted, but I’ll save you that for now. My cliff-notes opinion is pretty straight forward: I think the Lakers sold low and if this was the best you could do in a trade right now the Lakers would have been better off not dealing him even if the ultimate goal was to actually deal him.

What’s done is done, though. Oh, I’ll surely wring my hands over how the team managed this situation and Russell as a player — not to mention his own faults which impacted the approach they took — but to worry about that now is somewhat secondary.

The more pressing question is what do the Lakers actually do now?

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In our final podcast before the NBA Draft, Pete and I take one last look at some of the prospects, answer a bunch of listener questions, touch on the most recent LeBron/Lakers rumor, and have a spirited discussion about Jerry West’s leaving the Warriors for…the Los Angeles Clippers? Yep, that actually happened.

Click through to listen to the entire episode.

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