Now that it is official LaMarcus Aldridge will sign with the Spurs (which was the presumed outcome when free agency started), the Lakers have officially missed out on every player they have (reportedly) targeted in free agency. To summarize, they met with Aldridge, Greg Monroe, and DeAndre Jordan. The latter two signed with the Bucks and Mavericks respectively while other “players of interest” like Robin Lopez (Knicks) are now also off the market.

This leaves the Lakers as the team standing up in this free agent game of musical chairs. And, with that, here are 10 thoughts on where the Lakers are now, how they got here, and what comes next:

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So far, free agency has not been going well for the Lakers. Beyond the optics problems with taking meetings and having reports label them as unimpressive, the bigger issue is having top targets decline offers from the team while the speed of the market has taken most other viable options to other teams for more reasonable deals. (Ed Davis bolting for Portland is a perfect example here — while the Lakers broke bread with LaMarcus Aldridge, Greg Monroe, DeAndre Jordan, and Aldridge again, Davis decided he could wait no longer and signed with the Blazers for a very reasonable deal.)

Again, stripping away all the optics from this, a more tangible problem has surfaced. Who is actually left on the market for the Lakers to sign? The answer is, well, not many people. Since we last discussed this on Thursday, Robin Lopez can likely be removed from any list as reports have him signing with the Knicks should Jordan choose the Clippers or Mavericks (as he is expected to). For big men, then, this leaves a list looking like this:

  • Kosta Koufos
  • Bismack Biyombo
  • Jordan Hill
  • A bunch of other middling guys like Chuck Hayes, Ryan Hollins, Andrea Bargnani, Greg Smith, Jeff Withey, etc

Of that list, the top three options are all useful in one way or another. If the Lakers signed any of them to help fill their hole in the middle, I’d give a polite clap and go on my way. There’s nothing inherently wrong with taking on any of those guys. It’s not exciting, but chasing excitement is probably what got the Lakers where they are in free agency to begin with.

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In a pretty wild turn of events, it seems LaMarcus Aldridge may not have ruled the Lakers out after all:

This, really did come out of nowhere. It seemed the Lakers truly were out of the running, as the Spurs maintained their status as the frontrunner and the Suns making moves from the outside to swoop in and sign the seemingly soon to be former Blazer. But here the Lakers are, making another pitch:

What exactly does getting it right mean? After reports the Lakers’ initial pitch was focused too much on off-court opportunities and not enough on how things would work on the floor, this second meeting will be purely basketball:

We can make jokes about this, and I’m guessing the Lakers won’t make too much headway in this meeting. But, in saying that, while the Lakers do not have a lot of proven talent to pair with Aldridge today, they can talk Byron’s offense and how Aldridge fits into it as a centerpiece players. If Byron is able to articulate how Aldridge will get the ball in his sweet spots, have ample opportunities to work in the hub of the offense from the elbows, and be a pick and pop partner with Kobe, Clarkson, and D’Angelo Russell, that is more in line with the type of information he might want to hear.

I mean, look at his shot chart:

Aldridge

If looking at the types of shots Byron’s offense produces and the types of shots Aldridge seems to build his game on, there is actually a pretty big overlap. If the Lakers could combine this type of information (in more detail, of course) with a discussion on how they might also acquire a Center to pair with Aldridge in the starting lineup, that might further aid their cause:

I am by no means getting my hopes up here. If I were a betting man, I’d say Aldridge ends up with the Spurs or the Suns. But the Lakers are going to get their chance to make a second first impression and see where that gets them.

As discussed earlier, the Lakers have dwindling options in free agency as many of the most desirable players were snatched up in a frantic first 24 hours of activity. One of the more appealing options left on the market as of Thursday morning was the Lakers’ own free agent, Ed Davis.

The market moves quickly, however, and reports now have Davis no longer available:

First things first, this is a very reasonable deal for Davis. It is slightly above the Mid-level Exception, but in a climate where many players are getting more per/year money than that and inking longer contracts, the Blazers did well for themselves getting Davis for slightly more than a $6 million annual average.

For the Lakers, however, this is pretty rough news. Unless they have another option lined up, this is the type of deal they could have easily offered Davis to stick around. Considering Davis said he would like to stay with the team and, reportedly, that interest was mutual, it is difficult to see why there could not have been a mutual agreement with the end result him being in a Laker uniform next season.

When you consider the Lakers’ depth chart at Center and the fact Davis’ deal still leaves room for, roughly, a 25% max salary slot that would have still allowed the team to chase other players, it’s harder to see why something couldn’t get done.

In other words, if you weren’t fully frustrated before, this type of deal for Davis with another team likely inches you closer to that point.

The Lakers haven’t been idle in free agency, but the results have still made them out to be spectators. When free agency opened on Tuesday night, they met with LaMarcus Aldridge in Los Angeles, on Wednesday morning they flew to the east coast to meet with Greg Monroe, then returned back to Los Angeles to meet with DeAndre Jordan. If you’re scoring at home, though, Aldridge will reportedly not sign with the Lakers, Monroe has chosen the Bucks, and DeAndre Jordan will choose between the Mavericks and the Clippers.

Looks like the team did all that zigzagging across the country for nothing. I guess John Wooden was right, do not mistake activity for achievement.

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The Lakers made LaMarcus Aldridge their top free agent target. They set up a meeting with him right at the opening of free agency, used social media as a tool to express their desire to have him sign (#LAtoLA), and brought in their full crew of basketball and off-court team to the pitch meeting to go over every possible angle of what being a Laker for the next four years would mean.

Despite this full court press, it is being reported Aldridge will not sign with the Lakers:

The fact it was, supposedly, a “50-50 choice” is somewhat encouraging on the surface and should not be totally disregarded. The Lakers were a bad team last season. Beyond Kobe Bryant, they currently only have Julius Randle, Ryan Kelly, and Nick Young under contract. Yes, they have all-rookie 1st teamer Jordan Clarkson and just drafted D’Angelo Russell (and Larry Nance Jr.), but overall he would be joining a team with a legend who doesn’t have a lot of time left in the league and several young, unproven players who are not on the same timeline as him to win now.

Choosing not to sign with the Lakers should not be a surprise, then. In saying, that, though, none of the reasons stated above are actually being reported as the reasons he is choosing a different team:

Oh. Okay.

Let’s try to unpack this a bit more since you can only glean so much from 140 characters.

I’ve no clue if what’s being reported here is a shot at the Lakers’ talent level, an implied lack of analytics driven data to maximize him as a player, a perceived lack of strong coaching, something entirely different or a combination of all the above. What I do know, however, is that it’s not a great look for the Lakers. At some point, perceptions do become reality and if the team is consistently trying to sell something besides basketball and it comes at the expense of basketball, that is not likely to make a great impression.

Further, the idea — subtle or not — that Kobe could be seen as some sort of obstacle towards bringing in a talented player is…worrisome. Again, we do not know all (any?) of the facts here. None of us were in the room and the tweet above mentions outright the vagueness of what led to that lack of connection between Kobe and Aldridge. But, on the heels of Dwight leaving (no matter your feelings about Howard as a player, teammate, or anything else, the Lakers wanted him back) and Kobe’s reported role in greasing the wheels of that exit, the above is something worth taking note of. Not worth putting all the emphasis on, just as an additional talking point.

Ultimately, maybe all of this is a bit unfair. The Lakers have been a bad team for two consecutive years. Last year they won 21 games. They have a roster of mostly unknown, unproven players and Aldridge — who is 30 — is trying to win now. The Spurs (the presumed front-runner) won the title the season before last, just signed the MVP of that Finals series for five more years, brought back Danny Green, and also still have Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili. If we’re looking at rosters and the money is even close to the same, this ins’t really a choice. The fact the Lakers were in this at all, again, is somewhat encouraging.

But that nagging feeling the Lakers don’t have it together persists. Even if that’s not true (or fair), perception is starting to shift that way. So, while I can say with a straight face that I am not really heartbroken over Aldridge not signing — especially when his fit on the roster is not ideal — the reasons why he made this choice do cause a bit of concern. Not because we should take the reports above as 100% accurate, but because they contribute to a perception which is shifting more and more towards unflattering about the Lakers.

Free Agency is now in full swing as teams have made their priority calls, have started to have meetings, and already inking players to deals. For a review, I have already covered some strategies the Lakers could take in allocating their FA dollars and taken a look at positional priorities and targets for the front office to focus on.

With that, below is what we know and how things are looking with the Lakers’ pursuit of players and what is going on around the rest of the league…

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We are on the eve of free agency and the Lakers are looking to add talent. We have laid out the different approaches the Lakers can take in free agency, but practical navigation of these paths won’t be nearly so straightforward. Fact of the matter is, when the Lakers dip their toes into the free agent waters, they’ll likely use a combination of all different strategies to try and upgrade the team, putting out feelers to players at all levels to express interest in the hopes of getting commitments from as many players as possible who can affect the bottom line of wins and losses.

The questions, of course, are who are these players and what positions should the Lakers prioritize? Before we try to answer those questions, though, a few points worth mentioning:

  • The Lakers have several players who have non-guaranteed deals who they will need to make decisions on. Some of these decisions will be impacted by free agency. For the time being, I am thinking they end up keeping Jabari Brown and Tarik Black. I also think Sacre returns (you can never have enough bigs).
  • There are several free agents who I do not believe the Lakers have any chance at signing. These are guys who are either a restricted free agent whose team will almost certainly match any offer sheet or are so entrenched in their current situation, I don’t see them leaving.
    • These players, in no specific order are: LeBron James, Marc Gasol, Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green, and Kawhi Leonard. I have a feeling Dwayne Wade and Kevin Love will join this list, but I’m keeping them off, for now. But I don’t thing there’s really a chance the latter two join the Lakers even though, their names have been linked to the team in one way or another.
  • The Lakers already have meetings lined up with LaMarcus Aldridge and DeAndre Jordan. They’ll meet with Aldridge at 9:01pm PST on Tuesday, right after free agency opens. They will meet with Jordan on Wednesday. Greg Monroe will also have a meeting with the team.
  • The approximate max salary slots for players like Jordan and Aldridge (seven to nine years of NBA service) will be 30% of the cap, which, based on current projections, should be around a $18.9 million first year salary. For players with zero to six years of service, the max will be 25% of the cap, or around a $15.8 million first year salary.

With that out of the way, let’s focus on what the Lakers should actually do when the clock strikes midnight on Tuesday (at least on the east coast).

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