Archives For rumor mill

After missing out on every free agent they targeted this summer, the Lakers are looking to add talent a different way. In sore need of a big man to man the pivot, Marc Stein is reporting the Lakers are in talks with the Pacers:

This was a topic we discussed yesterday, so I won’t rehash a lot of that now.

For more background on Hibbert’s availability, though, he had a player option on his contract that he exercised shortly after draft night. That option will pay him a shade over $15 million this season, the final of his contract. Hibbert is available mostly because the Pacers drafted his successor (Myles Turner) with their lottery pick and would like to play faster than they have with Hibbert manning the middle.

For the Lakers, the fit would likely be a mixed bag. They too would like to play faster with their young athletes, and Hibbert doesn’t really fit that mold. However, Hibbert fills a major positional need, is a fine compliment to Randle defensively, and could even serve as a bit of a defensive mentor for Robert Upshaw should he end up sticking with the team beyond summer league.

For all these reasons, I’d support the Lakers making this type of move. Especially if they could nab another asset from the Pacers in the process of absorbing such a large contract and allowing the Pacers to dump a lot of money with, essentially, nothing likely going back in return. For a team like Indy who does not want to pay the tax and would like a manageable payroll, that is a not a minor point.

We’ll see if it is enough to get a deal done, however.

For the past week, there have been strong rumors linking the Lakers to Goran Dragic. The current Sun will be a free agent this summer and, up until now, the rumors (originally reported by ESPN’s Marc Stein) said the Lakers would strongly pursue him in free agency by offering him a max contract. The thought of trading for Dragic was not really an option because the Suns were reportedly not interested in dealing the Slovenian PG, preferring to try and re-up him this July.

It seems, however, that those plans are about to change:

Wait, there’s more:

And then, there’s this:

So, to recap: Goran Dragic will not re-sign with the Suns this summer and the Suns will try to trade him by this Thursday’s trade deadline. The Lakers are among the teams on Dragic’s short list of preferred trade destinations. If Dragic is not traded, the Lakers will still try to pursue him in free agency where they will likely offer him a boatload of money ($80 million over 4 years).

After digesting all that, there are two ways to look at this:

  1. The Lakers should try to trade for Goran Dragic
  2. The Lakers should wait until free agency and try to acquire him in July.

Both of these sides have solid arguments, so let’s quickly tackle both, starting with the latter.

Pursuing Dragic in free agency only requires two things: for Dragic to be a free agent and the Lakers to have the money to pay him. Luckily for the Lakers, both of those things will be true come July. The benefits to taking this approach are two fold. First, the Lakers do not have to surrender any assets in their pursuit of the point guard. This is important since the Lakers do not have many assets to offer. The second is  that the Lakers really do not need to do anything that would improve their team right now. Being that the Lakers draft pick is only protected if it falls in the top five of the draft, it’s to their benefit to not acquire players who help them win more games right now. Whether or not you like watching a losing team (I do not) or if you are pro “tank” (I am not; though I’m more ambivalent on this now than 3 months ago), there is no argument in which not having a top 5 pick is better than having it. If you find that argument, please tell me as I am happy to listen.

It’s difficult to stress how meaningful those two points above really are. The Lakers are a team who really cannot afford to give up anything of value for a player they can chase in free agency. You want to give up the Houston pick? Fine, but just remember you can have that pick and Dragic if you are good enough in selling your franchise and convincing him your money and vision are worth it. Further, that top 5 pick may not yet be an asset, but if it becomes real it will instantly become as valuable an asset as the Lakers have possessed since they turned Andrew Bynum into Dwight Howard.

In saying all that, trading for Dragic now does have its benefits.

At the top of that list is the fact that trading for Dragic nets you his Bird Rights. While the Lakers were burned with that line of thinking when they acquired Dwight Howard, Dragic is a bit different for a key reason: Dragic’s cap hold this summer is only $11.25 million. This low-ish cap number allows the Lakers a certain amount of flexibility in how they negotiate with Dragic while still chasing other free agents. For example, let’s say the following things occur:

  • The Lakers trade for Dragic
  • The Lakers decline Jordan Hill’s team option (or trade him before Thursday)
  • The Lakers are left with roughly $20 million in cap “space” this July after all relevant cap holds for players not named Dragic are accounted for (NOTE: This is not a real number and is for example purposes only)

Of that $20 million in cap space, $11.25 million of it will be tied up in Dragic, but the Lakers would still have $8.75 million to pursue another free agent (or more). Maybe that means the Lakers ink Ed Davis. Maybe they chase another big man. Maybe they go after a wing who can defend (like DeMarre Carroll). Or maybe they just roll that space over into the season, giving them flexibility in other trades that allows them to take on salary in a move. The key is, though, that they have the ability to do something besides just sign Dragic in free agency due to controlling his Bird Rights. And, yes, while those rights also mean the Lakers could pay him more than any other team (and would likely be pressured to do so by his agent), that flexibility has value.

On the flip side, if pursuing Dragic in free agency all of the Lakers’ cap space is likely devoted to making him an offer. And this would be after renouncing rights to all their current free agents and not picking up Jordan Hill’s option. So, presented in this context, would you rather only have the ability to pay Dragic or would you like to have the ability to pay him and pursue one or more other options in free agency?

Of course, your answer may well be that you don’t want Dragic at all. Not in free agency, not in a trade, not ever. That’s a perfectly valid opinion. I mean, if the choice is paying Dragic $20 million to have him on your roster or not paying him at all, it’s perfectly reasonable to say “thanks, but no thanks” and move on to other options. And, despite typing all those words in the paragraphs above, it’s not like it’s some sort of given the Lakers just snap their fingers and end up with him via a trade or in free agency. Any deal for him requires the Suns to say yes or for him and his agent to agree to terms. As we’ve seen in years past, this isn’t a gimme.

But, this is the rumor season, the trade deadline is on Thursday, and the Lakers are prominently mentioned as a viable option for a very good player. Plus, there are good arguments on both sides of the argument on how to best pursue him. So, what say you?

*I should add that ESPN’s Beto Duran explains that Goran Dragic speaks fluid Spanish and that he could become the face of TWC Deportes. This may or may not be something that should be considered and left me only responding with !!!!! to Beto’s tweet at me. But, considering the Lakers’ broadcast partnerships was a variable in the Dwight and Carmelo free agency pitches, it’s probably a variable worth considering.

UPDATE: Well, so much for a potential chase of Kyle Lowry. The free agent guard has decided that Toronto is the “right place” for him and has re-signed with the Raptors to the tune of 4 years/$48 million. He will have an early termination option after the 3rd year of his deal, giving him the chance to opt out and test the free agency waters again when he’s 31 years old. As noted below, it was always a long shot that Lowry would be a Laker, but the idea of pursuing him still intrigued. The Lakers, though, never really got that chance. Instead, they will meet with Carmelo Anthony tomorrow as planned, hoping to land the superstar forward.

While I am admittedly a bit skeptical of how the Lakers’ free agency plans will play out, it doesn’t mean they should not be putting their best foot forward by exploring all their options and pursuing a path to improve the team. After all, even after the draft, the Lakers still have as many as seven roster spots to fill just to get to the minimum of 13 to carry for the season. There is work to do.

That work seems to involve exploring the tier below the superstar gets and targeting two perimeter players:

Before we get too ahead of ourselves, I’m not incredibly encouraged that either player will be a Laker next season. There are hurdles to clear in the form of contract terms likely to be offered (the Lakers are rumored to only do a 2 or 3 year deal for free agents not named LeBron or Carmelo) and the competition the Lakers face from other suitors who offer more complete rosters to join. Not to mention the Lakers are merely listed as “interested” or “bidders” which only amounts to so much.

In saying all that, I would be on board with the Lakers signing either or, if possible, both free agents.

For those who have followed this site for some time, you likely remember Reed, a fantastically astute basketball fan who posted thoughts here both on the main board and in the comments. Over the summer we have discussed all things Lakers’ and early this summer he had thoughts on these exact two players:

I see two really interesting unrestricted free agents this summer that are young, have room to grow, and reasonably likely to be all star level producers — Kyle Lowry and Lance Stephenson. They are rare unrestricted free agents in that they are very young and have room to grow. There is some likelihood they both produce at 15M a year levels. If we could lock up both for beginning at 9-10, stretch Nash to free up another 6, and bring back Gasol, I’d be pretty happy.

More on Lowry:

Point Guard is a critical position given the breadth of PG talent in the league, and he can match up physically with other elite players at the position. He would provide playmaking and take pressure off of Kobe going into hero mode. Plus, he is pretty low risk to bust, and would be a valuable trade chip in the future when going after even bigger fish (Westbrook, Durant, etc.)

And on Lance:

I think we see if we can land Stephenson on a favorable deal. I was actually happy to see his erratic behavior during the playoffs as I believe it drove down his price and probably limited the number of interested suitors. But I believe that Kobe + the right coach could maximize his talent, which is prodigious.  He’s the one FA out there that could probably be had for $8-9M a year, but who could provide max level returns. Maybe you give him an opt out after a year or two in case he breaks out, but try to get him in the door this year at a favorable price.

You can quibble with what it might cost to get either player (Lance just turned down $8-9 million a year from the Pacers), but this analysis is sound. Both Lowry and Stephenson offer prodigious talent are relatively young (28 and 23 respectively), and are physically gifted for their positions. (Yes, Lowry is only listed as 6 feet, but he is sturdy and strong and offers very good quickness as well.)

Of course there are questions about both players too. Lowry has bounced around the league in large part because he can be a pain in the butt to his coaches. He has reportedly matured in last couple of years, but there’s a reason that he’s 28 and just now seen as a player who will command $10+ million on the open market. And Lance is, well, Lance. He’s been seen as a head case since he came into the league and his antics in the second half of this season and in the playoffs (especially against the Heat) drew heavy critique and countless eye-rolls around the league.

There is a reason both players are on the market as unrestricted free agents as they hit or will soon hit their primes.

But, the Lakers are devoid of talent. Especially high end talent. Sure they have Kobe. And the hope is that Julius Randle becomes a steal of this draft and produces like a top 3 pick he was touted to be when enrolled at Kentucky. Beyond them, however, the cupboard is basically bare. It’s time to stock up and these two players have what the team can use.

Getting them to sign is another story. Will short term, high dollar salaries work? As I mentioned on twitter, would Lance decline a 5 year/$44 million deal from the Pacers and sign with the Lakers for 2 years/$23 million? Would Lowry sign for something similar? Again, this seems doubtful, but that is where the allure of the LA market, the franchise’s history, and the current front office brass making a solid pitch on building towards the future would need to close the gap.

As I said at the top, I am skeptical. But this is a plan, if executed, that I could get behind.

The draft is less than a week away. Remember that timing when the rumor mill starts to ramp up with trade scenarios that involve any team, including the Lakers. This is the time of the year where everything leaks — front offices, agents, family members — and there is always motive from some party to getting information out into the public.

With all that said, the LA Times is reporting that the Lakers may be more keen on a certain Pacific Division wing player than their number 7 pick in next Thursday’s draft and would be willing to make a clean swap of the two:

The Lakers have been in discussions to acquire Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson for the seventh pick in next week’s draft, The Times has learned.

The deal would be part of a larger three-way trade that sends Minnesota All-Star power forward Kevin Love to the Warriors. The Lakers are interested but the deal has been put on hold because of a difference in opinion within the Warriors’ organization whether or not to keep Thompson while trying to obtain Love.

First, let’s understand why the Lakers would want to make this deal. They want to win as quickly as possible and acquiring an established player, with experience and success in the league is a way to do that. Thompson fits the bill here. He averaged 18 points a game last season, shot over 40% from behind the arc, and is a versatile defender who Mark Jackson felt comfortable deploying on players ranging from point guard to small forward. In a vacuum, Thompson is the type of asset any team would want to have and is proven enough to be worth a pick in the range the Lakers are drafting.

Saying all that, I would not support this trade in the least bit should it happen.

One of the allures of Thompson, as it is with any young player, is that his production comes at a fixed, inexpensive cost. Thompson is still on his rookie deal and will make $3 million next season after making $2.3 million last season. His production at that salary is what helped allow the Warriors to be such a good team because they could pay him so little while splurging on players like David Lee, Andrew Bogut, and Andgre Iguodala. (As an aside, the same can be said about Steph Curry’s under market contract. After dealing with all those ankle injuries, Curry signed what is now a very team friendly deal well below his max level production.)

Thompson, though, won’t make so little for very long. Going into his 3rd season he’s eligible for an extension this summer. If he doesn’t get it, he’ll be a restricted free agent next summer. The reality is Thompson is about to go from one of the best values in the league to one of the most average ones (or even a bad one) in the span of a season. With the strong possibility Thompson seeks a max or near max on his next contract, he could be making upwards of $12 million a season on his next contract.

In other words, the Lakers would be trading the 7th pick for the right to pay Klay Thompson and do so right at the time that Kobe’s contract would be coming off the books where they would, theoretically, want to make a major splash in free agency.

And this isn’t even getting into whether Thompson is even worth that money. I, personally, don’t think he is. As much as I love his shooting and think his size gives him defensive versatility, he actually reminds me a lot of the Blazers’ Wesley Matthews. I mean, look for yourself. Would you want to pay Matthews $10-12 million a season? I would not. Of course, Matthews is four years older and there’s an a development arc that, at Klay’s age, implies he will improve and continue to get better.

But Thompson’s weak areas — passing, rebounding — are areas that players typically have or they don’t. Can he make a more concerted effort to go the glass or try to see the floor better? Sure, but I don’t expect him to suddenly become a player who is grabbing five to six rebounds a game or a guy handing out four to five assists — numbers in both categories that would basically double his output from last season. This isn’t to knock Thompson. Right now he’s a shooter/scorer and a burgeoning defender — these traits have tremendous value. But he doesn’t do much else; he doesn’t initiate the offense, isn’t particularly adept at handling the ball, and doesn’t stuff the stat-sheet in a variety of ways.

Trading the 7th pick for the right to make the free agency decision on that player? Not something I’d be into at all.

If you have followed me, or this site, for any period of time you know that I am not the biggest fan of the rumor mill. It’s not that potential deals aren’t exciting, but more about the fact that once pandora’s box is opened with the thought of the Lakers making a major deal, fans start to ignore some basic truths about how deals are made and let their imaginations run wild about making the best deal for the Lakers while ignoring that the other team actually has to accept this fictional proposition.

I bring all this up to set the stage for the latest rumor making the rounds. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, quoting another NBA executive, the Minnesota Timberwolves will consider trading all-star big man Kevin Love:

The Wolves are under pressure to start considering trade scenarios for Love, who’s anxious to exercise his early termination option (ETO) in the summer of 2015 and leave as a free agent, league sources said.

“For the first time, [Saunders] sounds like looking at deals for [Love] is an option,” one rival executive told Yahoo Sports.

But that’s not all. With Love potentially available via trade, teams will be lining up the acquire the veteran. Including the Lakers:

The Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns are among many teams determined to make hard runs at trades for Love, league sources said. Boston and Los Angeles plan to make high-lottery picks in the 2014 NBA draft available in offers for Love, sources said.

No team is likely to trade for Love without an assurance that he’ll commit to a five-year, $100 million maximum contract extension. Despite a belief that Love prefers Los Angeles or New York as a potential destination, he’s open to deals in other markets where he can be part of an immediate contender, sources said.

It would be no surprise that the Lakers would want Love. Not only is he one of the top 10 to 15 players in the league, but he’s a local kid who attended UCLA and, as reported above, has expressed some interest in being a Laker. Put it all together and you have the ingredients for a deal, right? Well, not so fast…

The report above mentions that the Lakers would be willing to part with their lottery pick in the upcoming draft as a key piece to facilitating the trade. Only problem is, it’s really not that simple. On twitter I posed this question to the great Larry Coon:

Coon’s answer, spanning several tweets, in summary:

They can’t. (The Lakers) won’t have cap space until July 1st, and can’t absorb Love’s salary without similar salary going out. Also, Stepien Rule is in play. Best they could do would be to agree to terms of a deal at the draft, Lakers select a player of the Wolves’ choosing, and they complete a deal in July.

Let’s tackle this piece by piece:

  • As it stands today, and what will also be true on draft day, the Lakers do not have any cap space to simply trade their draft pick for Kevin Love. Instead, what they would need to do is trade a player (or players) who are under contract (and, presumably the lottery pick they are reportedly willing to include) for Kevin Love. This is necessary due to the salary cap rules that govern trades. When the Lakers make their pick at next month’s draft, they will only have 3 players under contract — Kobe, Nash, and Robert Sacre — and none of those players are a match in salary to do a simple trade with the Wolves.
  • Because of the Stepien Rule — named after former Cavs owner Ted Stepien — the Lakers cannot simply trade the “pick” to the Wolves in any trade. Because the Lakers traded last year’s pick, they must actually make a selection in this year’s draft. They would be able to trade the player they drafted, however. This is why Coon mentions that the Lakers would essentially be making a selection for the Wolves (in this scenario).
  • Any deal with the Wolves would need to be consummated in July because that is when the Lakers will either A). have the cap space available to make a trade due to the renouncing of enough of their free agents to get far enough under the cap to absorb Love’s salary without sending similar contracts back or B). be able to use the Bird Rights of one (or more) of their free agents to do a sign and trade with the Wolves where they send enough salary to Minnesota to make a legal trade under the CBA. Of course, it should be noted, that any sign and trade the Lakers do will rely on the player they are trying to trade agreeing to go to a Minnesota team that just traded away their best player.

If all of this sounds difficult, it’s because it is. And this doesn’t even take into account that, as Wojnarowski reports, other teams will be lining up to make offers to the Wolves which is sure to drive the price up. Considering that those other teams mentioned have some very good assets to offer (Phoenix and Boston have multiple first round picks this year and in the years to come while the Warriors have a combination of young talent and enough salary ballast to accept some of the Wolves’ bad contracts) and it is clear that the Lakers will face an uphill battle in trying to put the together the most attractive offer.

Long story short, if you were getting your hopes up that the Lakers would somehow find a way to trade for Kevin Love this summer, you shouldn’t be. The odds are stacked against them. Severely. And you were wondering why the rumor mill doesn’t really excite me.

Pau Gasol may have a strained groin, but his recent play (the Spaniard averaged nearly 21 and 12 in January) has him square in the middle of more trade rumors. This time, Pau isn’t headed East — well at least not too far — and will, potentially, land in Phoenix to play with the upstart Suns, per ESPN’s Marc Stein:

Sources told ESPN.com that the Suns, among the options being weighed as part of their well-chronicled desire to acquire an established player as they make an unexpected playoff push this season, have been exploring the feasibility of trading for the Lakers’ four-time All-Star.

One option for the Suns, by virtue of their $5.6 million in available salary-cap space, is swapping the expiring contract of injured big man Emeka Okafor for Gasol, even though Okafor’s $14.5 million salary this season falls well shy of Gasol’s $19.3 million.

More from Stein:

The Lakers, though, have been adamant that they won’t part with Gasol merely for financial relief, even in a season in which they’ve slipped into the West’s bottom three at 16-31. Lakers officials refused to relent in their talks with Cleveland, convinced that they had other means to get below the luxury-tax threshold before the trade deadline and that Gasol still holds trade value.

Gasol responded by averaging 20.8 points and 11.9 rebounds in January. He’s expected to miss the next week because of strained right groin that’s not believed to be serious.

How much the Suns would be willing to add beyond Okafor to a potential trade for Gasol, in terms of young talent or draft compensation, remains to be seen. But Suns officials have made no secret of the fact that the team’s wholly unexpected 29-18 start — despite playing without the injured Eric Bledsoe for the last 17 games — has led to some revisions in their long-term planning.

Whether or not this deal happens, of note is that the Lakers continue to do their due diligence in seeking out value for their assets. Injuries have derailed any chance of a competitive campaign and even though Gasol has been playing fantastic ball (especially offensively), it has not affected the win-loss column at all.

Said another way, if the Lakers had actually been winning some games, they might find it better to hold onto Pau and see if a late push to try and grab a playoff spot was possible once the rest of the roster were healthy. But the team has slipped so far in the standings, even if they did make a push to close the year it is unlikely to net them anything more than a “good job, good effort” and a lesser quality lottery selection.

This leaves the Lakers in a position where they may, finally, be willing to cash out on Gasol’s value when it’s at its relative peak and try to get something back in return while they can. Any combination of salary cap relief and a draft pick would likely be considered a good haul by this front office when looking at their outlook for the remainder of the year and ahead towards the future.

Of course, like all things, the devil is in the details. And while this deal isn’t done and we would only be able to judge the final version once we have confirmed terms, there are two key parts of this rumored deal that deserve mentioning:

  • The Suns only theoretically own four 1st round draft picks in this upcoming draft. They certainly own their own and they own the Pacers. However, the pick they are owed from Minnesota is top 14 protected and, currently, the Wolves sit outside the playoffs and would not need to give up that pick. The pick they are owed from the Wizards is also top 14 protected, but as it stands now Washington is slated to make the playoffs and will give that pick this year.
  • This trade would save the Lakers money in two ways. First is that because Okafor makes less money than Pau, the team would pay out less salary this year and save the difference between the two players’ salaries in luxury tax payments. Second, because Okafor is injured, insurance has already started to pick up 80% of what he is owed this season so the Lakers wouldn’t actually be paying his full paycheck.
  • What this deal would not do is get the Lakers under the luxury tax threshold for this season. Another trade where the Lakers would have to “dump” about $3 million more in salary would need to be consummated to get under the tax line. This is doable, but, is not a given. The expectation would be, however, that the team would work to try and accomplish this.

I’d have more thoughts on Pau if this deal (or a version of it with the Suns or another team) were to come to fruition, but needless to say I’d have mixed emotions about seeing the Spaniard leave. He has long been one of my favorite players, not just on the Lakers, but in the league. Add to the fact that he genuinely seems like an even better person than he is a basketball player (which, considering his talent and production is saying something), and I’d miss him even more.

In any event, it looks like we are in full on “Pau trade watch” again. This isn’t new — it has been this way for years approaching the trade deadline — but I’d be lying if I said this time it didn’t feel a bit different. The Lakers have, essentially, zero hope of a post-season run and that changes the calculus on whether or not they should hold onto a player of Pau’s ability. Whether that finally tilts things in the favor of a deal getting done remains to be seen, but it sure does seem like this time something will happen.

It’s been a while since a juicy Dwight Howard trade rumor was floated in the press. So, if you were starving for one, here’s your fix via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

There are other players involved in these fluid talks, but a framework of the possible deal includes Howard and Denver forward Al Harrington going to the Lakers, Philadelphia guard Andre Iguodala going to the Nuggets, Los Angeles center Andrew Bynum moving to the 76ers, and Los Angeles forward Pau Gasol and Denver guard Arron Affalo going to the Magic, sources told Yahoo! Sports.

The report also states that “a deal is not considered imminent” and it’s that part of the report that we should probably be focussing on most.

First of all, four team trades are difficult to execute. There are a lot of parties to appease and all it takes is one GM not getting exactly what he wants to kill the entire deal. We saw this with the proposed three team deal the Brooklyn Nets were trying to manufacture earlier this summer in trying to acquire Howard. And that was only 3 teams, not the rumored 4 team deal presented above.

Second, while there are exceptions to the rule, Mitch Kupchak has rarely executed a deal that was leaked. Mitch typically works in silence and seeing reports of talks have normally equated to a deal withering on the vine. For every deal like Sessions or Steve Nash where there was rumored interest or leaks of the Lakers jumping into the fray, there are countless deals like ones for Michael Beasley or Chris Paul (sorry to bring it up) that never came to fruition for whatever reason.

Third, the details of this deal seem a bit off. The Lakers have consistently positioned themselves as not wanting to give up both Gasol and Bynum in a trade for Howard. Of course, you can look at this trade as two separate deals: Bynum for Howard and Pau for Al Harrington. However, the Lakers have also been very hesitant to give up Pau for lesser talent with reports for more than a year stating that the Lakers are asking for too much in any deal in which they surrender the Spaniard.

Of course there are financial concerns as well. Al Harrington makes much less money than Gasol and the combined salaries of Howard and Harrington would be less than what Pau and Bynum make. However, the other side of that equation is that Harrington’s contract runs into the year that the repeater tax would kick in and any deal that lasts that long limits the Lakers’ financial flexibility in a year they’ll need to be under the tax. I’m not yet convinced the Lakers want any money on the books that year beyond Nash’s salary and what either Bynum or Howard (should he be acquired and re-signed) make that year. Harrington would muck that up.

Ultimately, there’s a chance that this deal could happen (or a version of it). But history – both in terms of how the Lakers operate and the stance they have taken in regards to a Gasol trade – have me beyond skeptical.

With Summer League in full swing and the Lakers still looking to fill out their roster, there’s lots to discuss in Laker-land. So, lets jump right in…

  • The Lakers’ summer league team is winless so far and has had some truly horrible performances in their first few contests. They got blasted by the Warriors in their opening game and were trounced by 50 a few nights later against the Heat. While this is somewhat discouraging, don’t invest too heavily in the results. The Lakers don’t have a lottery level talent on their team. Their roster is full of players who are trying to fight for spots ten through fifteen on a roster, not for a starting gig. What we learn about this “team” is not important; we’re really looking at the growth of the individual players and evaluating their individual skill level.
  • Even evaluating the players as individuals is somewhat tricky, however. The summer team doesn’t have a single player that will ever be a featured guy within an offense. This roster is filled with role players whose talents will be maximized playing off of their more talented teammates (should they make the regular season roster). When you put 5 role players on the floor together, the results (offensively) will be what the Lakers have seen so far – tight defense, little spacing, and no one able to create the types of plays that generate sustained worthwhile basketball.
  • In yesterday’s game against the Spurs, the Lakers made adjustments with their schemes and that led to better spacing and ball movement. These tweaks compensated for the limited individual talent on their roster. But those adjustments only got them so far. It allowed for more space on the wing to operate off the dribble and more space for the post players to work in isolation. It opened up better passing angles for cutters. And, their improved effort put them in better positions to take advantage. But, in the end, this group was out talented again and lost by double figures.
  • All that said, we are starting to get a better picture of what types of talents these guys are. Darius Morris is showing that he can be a threat in the open court and in attacking the rim off the dribble in the half court. His size allows him to bully smaller defenders to get to the spots on the floor where he can be successful. His finishing is still up and down, however, and his jumper needs a lot of work. But, he’s showing more confidence in each game and his attack mentality has served him well so far. He certainly likes to pound the ball when probing the D, but that’s the case for most attack guards that create off the dribble as often as he does.
  • Andrew Goudelock looks like the same guy he was last year. His lack of size is giving him some issues on both sides of the floor and his lack of burst is making it hard for him to shake free from bigger defenders. His jumper has been off but we know he’s a better shooter than he’s shown so I’m not as concerned there. However, he’s still not shown much of an ability to create for others. He’s worked a lot in the pick and roll but rarely hits the roll man (who’s been open several times) and typically only gives the ball up when he’s exhausted his opportunity to score for himself. I’ve long believed that for Goudelock to stick in this league he’ll have to show adequate ability to initiate an offense and be a lead guard. So far, we’re not seeing it. Some of that may be what the coaches are asking him to do, but his instinct is to score first (and second) and his playmaking is suffering because of it.
  • Darius Johnson-Odom has shown some good qualities – he’s an active defender, possesses good court vision, and knows how to create his own shot. He’s also shown that he can initiate an offense and has no issues taking an outlet pass and running a delayed fast break. He shows good footwork in setting up his own shot and has a very nice shot fake that’s earned him trips to the foul line. However, his jumper hasn’t been falling even when he’s been getting open looks. This could simply be a small sample and nothing to worry about. But, he’ll need to hit shots eventually if he wants to stick.
  • Christian Eyenga looks like the most pro-ready player the Lakers have but that shouldn’t surprise considering he’s their most seasoned player. His athleticism is as advertised – he’s had several above the rim finishes – and he’s mostly been under control when displaying it. He’s shown a nice little post game too, working over defenders from 10 feet and it with good strength and solid footwork. His jumper is not good, however and that limits what he can do on that end of the floor. Defensively, he’s been above average. His quickness, instincts, and desire to get into his man have all been plusses.
  • The surprise of this team, at least for me, has been Robert Sacre. He’s a bit stiff in his movement but he knows how to use his big body to his advantage. He aggressively fights for position on both ends of the floor, has shown nice touch on his mid-range jumper and his jump hook, and he plays hard. His biggest asset, though, looks to be his smarts. He knows where to be on both ends of the floor and seems to have a strong spatial awareness. He knows where to move to in the P&R game to get open and has made a few smart cuts to position himself under the rim where he’s been active on the offensive glass. In one of the games an announcer compared Sacre to Michael Doleac and that seems apt. Sacre has shown a bit more aggressiveness around the rim than Doleac used to, but all and all they have similar games. Doleac stuck in the league for a while as a back up big man and Sacre may be able to do the same.
  • Moving beyond the Summer League team, the Lakers are still in the middle of a lot of rumors. There’s been reports that Antawn Jamison will “choose” the Lakers soon. Yesterday the Lakers were present at a workout for Jermaine O’Neal who, after having the orthokine treatment that Kobe’s become the poster boy for, is looking to continue his playing career. Reports of how he looked in that workout have been mixed (I’ve read one tweet say he didn’t look mobile while others stated he looked as good as he has in the last 4-5 years), but he remains on the Lakers’ radar. Brandon Rush was also at that workout so the Lakers also got a look at the Warriors restricted free agent.
  • And then, of course, there’s still the pursuit of Dwight Howard. Reports had the Lakers meeting with reps from the Magic yesterday in what was described as a “hard push” to acquire the Magic big man. During the Lakers/Spurs game, Jim Buss commented (per team policy) that he had “no comment” about reports that there were negotiations going on. At ProBasketball Talk, Kurt Helin had a logical take, basically saying that there should be no expectation a deal gets done when neither Howard nor Bynum have (seemingly) changed their stances about re-signing with LA/Orlando should a trade happen. I tend to agree with this. It’s worth having the talks because you always try to make a move that improves your team, but expecting something to happen at this point is optimistic.
  • One thing I also wonder here is if there’s a point of no return with the Lakers and these Andrew Bynum trade talks. This is the longest he’s ever had his name floated in what seem to be legitimate trade rumors. For years his name was out there, but those reports were quickly shot down from the Lakers side (be it Jason Kidd, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, or anyone else you can think of). However, this time, these reports seem to have legs and Bynum certainly seems available in a deal for Howard. Whether this is really something to worry about isn’t something I have any inside information on. However, I wonder if there’s a stop point where the Lakers simply call off their discussions with the Magic and make nice with the all-star Center they have in house. You can only window shop so often before you either have to make a purchase or go home and keep with your same wardrobe. I wonder when the Lakers are going to make that call. Remember, Bynum is a FA after next season as well and if nothing happens with Howard, the Lakers will surely want Bynum back for the long haul. If these talks go on for too much longer, does a long term commitment from Bynum get put in jeopardy? These are questions that need to be asked.