If you remember last summer, after the Lakers missed out on Carmelo Anthony (and the rest of the big name free agents) they quickly moved on to signing other free agents, inking deals with Nick Young and Jordan Hill (and eventually Ed Davis). Well, this summer seems to be playing out quite similarly.
After it was announced yesterday LaMarcus Aldridge would sign with the Spurs, the Lakers have moved with accelerated pace in the market, agreeing to acquire Roy Hibbert in a trade and sign Lou Williams away from the Raptors as a free agent. They are not done, however, as it is now being reported they will ink another veteran free agent forward:
Celtics free agent forward Brandon Bass to sign with the Lakers, a source told Yahoo Sports
— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) July 5, 2015
The Lakers have also released a statement on the ongoing negotiations with Brandon Bass (and Williams):
Los Angeles Lakers have engaged in negotiations with free agent guard Lou Williams and free agent forward Brandon Bass and intend to enter into player contracts with them at the conclusion of the NBA Moratorium Period, it was announced today by General Manger Mitch Kupchak.
A key part of the statement, of course, is “in negotiations with” as the exact terms of these deals are not yet determined — at least with Bass. For more on how the money might work for Bass, let’s turn to Eric Pincus of the LA Times:
Lakers either have $2.8 million for Brandon Bass – room exception – or they are clearing cap via other moves
— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) July 5, 2015
The “room exception” makes sense for Bass as that is the cleanest way to sign him without having to make any additional roster adjustments. However, if it were as simple as Bass signing for the $2.8 million that exception would offer, we would likely have that information right now. Instead, then, might we see more roster moves to help clear space to sign Bass (as well as create more space to take on Hibbert’s large deal)?
If that is the case, Ramona Shelburne hints at what that might look like:
Before july1, the Lakers called 29 other teams to gauge interest in Ryan Kelly and Swaggy to create some extra cap room. Doing same now
— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) July 6, 2015
Okay, let’s unpack all of this because we’re now at a place where all of these moves need to be put into bigger context:
- Bass is a veteran PF, and a PF only. He has little positional versatility and will need to be slotted accordingly. If he’s coming on and the Lakers did not make any moves, there would be quite the logjam at that spot with Bass, Randle, Kelly, rookie Larry Nance Jr. and (potentially) even Tarik Black in certain lineups. There is no viable way the Lakers enter the season with four PF’s on their roster — even if only three (sorry Nance) would likely require playing time. That might make Kelly the odd man out. Kelly is a player the Lakers liked a fair amount just as recently as last season (and a player I still like a fair amount), but with the drafting of Nance, Kelly could be seen as expendable.
- Kelly makes $1.7 million this season and would have a $2.1 million qualifying offer next summer. This isn’t a lot of money, but if the Lakers are trying to clear cap space and do not see Kelly as part of the future, his deal would be helpful to get off the books.
- I mentioned the prospect of trading Young when discussing Lou Williams, but it bares repeating here: with Williams on the roster, Young’s skill set becomes increasingly redundant. And with a salary at $5.2 million this season, $5.4 million next season, and a $5.6 million player option for the season after that, Young is a prime candidate to be shown the door.
Add up those factors and I could see the Lakers trying to explore all options available to them (including looking at S&T options involving players like Jeremy Lin and/or Jordan Hill) and tack on Young and Kelly as additional pieces to offload.
As for the Bass signing, it doesn’t move the needle a tremendous amount, but I like him as a player. He’s a hard working, pro’s-pro who competes every minute he’s on the floor. He’s a good mid-range shooter (45% from 16-24 feet) and finishes well inside (65% in the restricted area). And while he’s undersized, he will battle on the glass. He’s not a great defensive player — which is a theme of too many players the Lakers have been signing not named Hibbert — but he can help the team’s offense as a release valve mid-range option and as a weak side clean up man who can sneak inside for easy baskets.
Beyond the on court aspects of his game, I also think Bass will help in the locker room as another veteran presence to help guide the Lakers’ young players. Having him battle every day with Julius Randle in practice on the court to help aid in his development while also serving as a good example of how to be a professional, veteran in this league off the floor will be a nice addition.
I’m also firmly of the mind that the Lakers, while needing to rely heavily on their young players for production this season, cannot build a roster solely of young players without some veterans to help shape their growth. If you remember the 90’s “Lakeshow” teams, they too filled their roster by surrounding some of their young talent with veteran players who could help be leaders and be positive examples on and off the floor. Mitch Kupchak, much like Jerry West before him, seems to believe in this approach and Bass would fit into that philosophy well.