Archives For rumor mill

One of the major, ongoing storylines of the summer has been what is going to happen with Carmelo Antony and the Knicks. Well, rest easy. The Carmelo Antony Trade is done. He’s going from New York to Oklahoma City per Adrian Wojnarowski:

The draft pick is only a 2nd rounder, so this isn’t such a great return for the Knicks. Kanter can score, but is not good on defense. McDermott has offensive potential and will try defensively, but has not yet lived up to his status as a lottery pick (not to mention, this will already by his 3rd team). And the pick will be a 2nd round pick (though, it’s a Bulls pick, which means it should be pretty good since Chicago projects to be awful). In other words, this is a great deal for the Thunder.

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In a wonderful behind the scenes look at what Andre Iguodala’s free agency process was like this summer, Chris Haynes of ESPN reports that the Lakers offered the Warriors wing big money to leave Golden State for Los Angeles. Here’s Haynes with the details:

Set up in the presidential suite at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills, Iguodala kicked off his free-agent meetings with a conference call with the Los Angeles Lakers, multiple sources said…

…Los Angeles had significant cap space and a desperate need for veteran leadership to help guide its young core, including Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram. The call lasted about 20 minutes, sources said, but the Lakers were optimistic and offered a one-year deal in the $20 million-plus range.

First, one might question “who cares?” regarding this report as it relates specifically to the Lakers. Teams try to sign FA’s every summer, and besides some high profile failures in this area under the final years of the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak partnership and the optics of missing out again this summer, this report falls in line with that. We only have access to this specific information because of Haynes’ great reporting, so what does that matter now?

While I can see this line of thinking, this interests me more on the levels of who the Lakers have targeted, why they target them, the means they use to try to get them to sign, and how all those things tie together into their larger free agent strategy. This is especially true now, in the wake of the Andrew Bogut signing.

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Is Dwyane Wade the Lakers’ penultimate step?

You can’t always go for the juggernaut right away. To make the critical strike in a game of chess, you have to be thinking ahead and make some set up moves before unleashing that power punch. When high jumping, the approach is essential, but it’s that penultimate step, the last step before the one you jump from, that’s more important than any of the others. A similar approach is needed when teambuilding in the NBA.

When the Lakers are recruiting big name players, like LeBron James, they now have some of these set up moves ready to leverage. Not only is there the allure of a storied franchise and the big market of Los Angeles ever a component of their pitch. Now the Lakers will be able to point to some young studs in Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, both of which have legitimate shots of being great players. Lonzo in particular looks to be a transcendent playmaker who very well may be THE most fun player to play alongside when it’s all said and done after the 2017-18 season. Continue Reading…

One of the last vestiges of Lakers free agency rumor season was regarding their 15th roster spot and whether they would use that vacancy to fill a hole on the wing. The name that was most recently associated with that opening was Shabazz Muhammad, the Timberwolf turned restricted free agent turned unrestricted free agent.

The former UCLA Bruin and Rob Pelinka client played SF for the Wolves and, in theory, would have filled in on the wing behind Brandon Ingram. Turns out, though, he won’t now. Since he’s going to return to Minnesota:

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It’s July 4th and while Lakers fans are waiting for their free agency fireworks, they might just settle for some sparklers at this point. The team has been fairly quiet since the market opened, making contact with Andre Iguodala (stayed in Golden State) and Ben McLemore (signed in Memphis), had multiple conversations with Rajon Rondo (still unsigned), and have met with Dion Waiters and George Hill — who are both still on the market.

Hill is the best name among this group for what the Lakers need. He’s a point guard in name, but more of a combo guard in skill set. He’s a fine lead ball handler who can initiate the offense, run P&R’s, and create shots for himself and teammates (though this is not his best strength, to be sure). He’s also a very good off-ball worker, someone who can make spot up jumpers, understands spacing, and knows how to attack a compromised defense when the ball rotates to him and the opposition is in scramble mode.

Defensively he’s also an excellent player. He offers good size and length, has a keen understanding of opposing team’s tactics and habits, tracks his man and gets to his help responsibilities fluidly, and competes hard on that end. Due to his size and smarts, he can guard either backcourt position and not be overwhelmed. He’s not an all-NBA level performer on that end, but everywhere he’s been he’s helped make his team’s defense a top third of the league unit and while that’s a team stat, I don’t think you can dismiss Hill’s role in making that happen.

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The Lakers have been quiet in free agency through two days, having discussions with several players and waiving Tarik Black, but that’s about it. No signings, not even any face to face meetings with potential additions. That last part, at least, is going to change on Sunday night, however:

Waiters is a former client of Lakers GM Rob Pelinka, so the meeting makes sense if only looking at it from that angle. Of course, it makes sense on other levels too.

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As we outlined in our free agency primer and our podcast on potential plans once July 1st hits, the Lakers’ plan to chase stars in the summer of 2018 impacts what they can do in free agency this summer. When you need every spare penny to sign two max salary players a year from now, whatever you spend now needs to be carefully counted for then.

Even if this wasn’t simple math, the front office came out and told us as much on Thursday. Mark Medina has the intel at the OC Register:

“We’ll be very strategic to keep the cap space in 2018,” Pelinka said after the draft. “We’ll be very sacred about that. We worked very hard to get into that position. So we’ll be smart in free agency.”

To be smart in free agency, the Lakers also have set their eyes on two realities. The Lakers are not expecting to acquire George from the Indiana Pacers amid their insistence on keeping Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram. With their hopes set on George becoming available next summer, the Lakers want to pursue players who fit specific criteria that would accelerate the young roster’s development…

…But at what cost? The Lakers want to minimize multi-year contracts, but they are open to spending a bit more as a way to compensate for a one-year deal. As much as they want to attract elite stars again in 2018, the Lakers are also intent on acquiring veterans who will have a positive influence on their young roster.

First, let’s talk Medina’s last point about limiting 1-year contracts. As we’ve discussed plenty, this is to be expected.

The Lakers simply do not have the financial flexibility on their roster to add salary which runs through the summer of 2018 without having to cut that same money (and more) to open up the space needed to chase the stars they covet. Taking this approach will impact their negotiations and reduce the number of viable targets they can sign, which many in the local media are taking to mean the team simply will not be very active when the bidding opens at midnight eastern July 1st.

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There’s a large contingent of Lakers fans who have viewed Paul George finding his way to Los Angeles to play for their favorite team as an inevitability. The headlines of “George wants to be a Laker” captivate and then are taken as gospel. But, situations are never really that simple, especially when we’re talking about what can happen a year from now.

This is especially clear (and relevant) today after some ace reporting by USA Today’s Sam Amick reveals that even though George’s interest in the Lakers is real, his mind is far from made up about his future:

George, meanwhile, finds himself at an interesting crossroads here.

Hell-bent as he is on signing with the Lakers, George – according to a person with knowledge of his situation – is also the kind of prudent professional who won’t close a window of opportunity prematurely. So if the Cavs can convince Pritchard to either take on four-time All-Star forward Kevin Love or send him to a third team in exchange for more suitable assets, then George will play his heart out alongside LeBron James and remain open to the idea of re-signing next summer if James were also to return (or, perhaps, George could leave for Los Angeles with James at his side).

Ditto for the Celtics or the San Antonio Spurs, teams that could fulfill George’s desire for title contention and thus put themselves in the running. And should the Lakers come along and trade for him early to ensure he doesn’t fall in love with another team, then so be it. The person spoke with USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the situation.

That’s the thing about free agency: It’s all about the freedom. And George is making good use of his lately.

Well, then.

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