My passion for the NBA and the Lakers in particular has never waned so after a lot of thought I decided to go back to my roots and start up a new NBA blog, this time focused squarely on the topic that I love more than any other: the Lakers.
I'm posting an excerpt from my first piece on the Lakers free agent targets below. I've also set up a twitter account to support the blog and will be updating it with quick thoughts about happenings in Laker-land and around the NBA.
I would appreciate you guys giving it a look and perhaps a follow on twitter.
The blog is at http://www.16rings.com, and you can find me on twitter @16ringsNBA.
Here is an excerpt from the blog:
The question on every Laker fan’s mind is what next? Randle alone isn’t going to lead the Purple and Gold back to the promised land but his selection does give us an interesting look into the Lakers strategy heading into free agency. With only Kobe Bryant, Randle, Robert Sacre, the corpse of Steve Nash and likely Kendall Marshall on the roster, GM Mitch Kupchak has a lot of work to do in free agency in order to get the good guys back to the playoffs. Most specifically, he needs to target players that are going to mesh well with Kobe and Randle, who could end up being the two most impactful players on the roster next season.
The Lakers depth chart currently looks like this:
We can assume that the Lakers are going to be looking for two kinds of players: long term options that they think will be part of the future (thus getting longer deals) and short term, cheap contract players that can be had on one or two year deals and will help preserve cap space.
One thing to consider is that this year’s free agent crop is not particularly deep, a fact Mitch Kupchak acknowledged last night after the draft. If the Lakers aren’t able to sign their long-term targets expect them to focus instead on one or two year deals with band-aid players.
Let’s take a look at which players the Lakers should target and determine whether they fall into the long term or short term category, as well as what kind of contract each player should get.
Eric Bledsoe (R)- Bledsoe is the model for what kind of point guard the Lakers should be looking for. He has tremendous athletic ability, is a lock-down defender, and isn’t afraid of the big moment. With Randle at the four the Lakers will likely be a little light on rim protection and Bledsoe would go a long ways towards helping keep opposing guards out of the paint. Unfortunately he is a restricted free agent but if he can be pried loose from the Suns he is a Long Term player all the way. 4 years/48 million
Marcin Gortat- Marcin Gortat is a solid if unspectacular center but is the exactly the type of player that would work well with Randle. He’s a solid rebounder and rim protector (9.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks) with just enough of an offensive game to keep defenses honest. He’s been a big part of Washington’s recent success so he may be require more money than the Lakers are willing to pay. He’s also already 30 years old, so while he would be a nice guy to add for the next couple of year he isn’t someone who can be counted on to grow with Julius, and as such is a Short Term prospect. 2 Years/20 million
Lance Stephenson- Stephenson is a mere 23 years old and made tremendous progress last season on both the offensive and defensive end. He can handle the ball, attack the basket, stretch the floor, and play pesky enough defense to get under just about anyone’s skin. He’s truly one of the most versatile players in the league and his skills suggest that he could be a future star. Unfortunately, all that potential is attached to the tempestuous brain of Lance Stephenson. While Lance is known as a bit of a knuckle head and has had plenty of off-court issues his talent may be worth the risk. Kobe’s iron fist would either alienate Stephenson or mold him into a versatile basketball monster. Given Kobe’s success in handling Metta World Peace I’m inclined to think it will be the latter, making Stephenson a terrific Long Term player. 4 years/44 million
Ed Davis- Davis is exactly the kind of player that the Lakers have been targeting recently: young with talent and upside but didn’t pan out in his first few stops in the NBA. While he hasn’t lived up to the hype he had after being taken #13 overall in by Toronto in the 2010 draft he still has the potential to put it all together. With the Grizzlies just committing to a contract extension with Zach Randolph one has to imagine that Ed would be excited to come LA where playing time will be a bit easier to come by. He is still unproven so he’s a Short Term add for now, but could blossom into a keeper. 2 years/6 million
LeBron James- Yeah realistically this isn’t going to happen, but the Lakers have cap space and James is a free agent so his name has to be mentioned here. The only chance of getting LeBron to Laker Land would be to have enough cap space to sign him as well as one of his buddies, which would require both him and his side kick to take a fairly massive pay cut. These days he plays the same position as Randle (PF) but it doesn’t really matter. If he wants to come to LA you sign him and work out the fit later. Definitely a Long Term add. 4 years/as much as he wants.
Carmelo Anthony- If Carmelo ends up in LA it’s likely that LeBron is there as well, because frankly there are better fits for both Melo (cough cough Bulls) and the Lakers. While Carmelo is a very talented scorer he is on the wrong side of 30 and without another big name to team up with him and Kobe the Lakers won’t be contending anytime soon. That said, if the nearly impossible happens and Melo and James decide to don the Golden Armor he is a Long Term add. 4 years/whatever LeBron doesn’t take
***Side Note- I think I speak for most Lakers fans when I say titles are titles and you can’t pass up the opportunity to contend, but man, James probably has the most ill-will amongst the Laker fan base than anyone else in the league. Sure, there are thousands of stories that involve the villain finding redemption by joining the hero but remember when Nikita Khruschev visited Disneyland? Americans were debating how to welcome him to the park: be polite and diplomatic or beat the crap out of him while singing America the Beautiful. In the end Disneyland nixed the visit because there was so much tension in the air. Everyone was afraid something bad might happen if he showed up, which made sense because the Cold War was still pretty damn cold at that point (remember this was pre-Rocky 4,so Sylvester Stallone hadn't taught us all how to get along yet). That’s LeBron in LA, it could be awesome but if it doesn’t all go according to plan it could go south very, very fast.
Khris Humphries- The former Mr. Kardashian may not be a favorite of reality TV fans but he’s a serviceable NBA big man on the court. When given minutes he is a nightly double-double threat who excels on the boards and offensively lives on the mid-range jumper. He isn’t going to move the needle much in terms of wins and losses but the Lakers certainly could do worse in shoring up their front line. He’s definitely a Short Term player though. 1 year/3 million
Isiah Thomas (R)- Thomas had a breakout season with Sacramento, and while he is a restricted free agent who the Kings appear to be intent on bringing back Isiah grew up a Lakers fan and dreams of getting a contract from them. His size (5’9’) limits his positive impact on the defensive end but on offense he is a firecracker that can get hot and nearly win games by himself. His youth and passion for the Lakers would be a welcome addition, although the Kings would likely match any offer the Lakers would be comfortable presenting. If he can break free from Sacramento though he would be a Long Term add. 3 years /28 million
PJ Tucker (R)- Tucker isn’t the most skilled NBA player but he makes a living on being a hustle superstar and playing sturdy defense. Every team needs this kind of glue guy and he would quickly endear himself to the Laker faithful. He’s restricted and likely to stay in Phoenix but if the Suns find themselves making some big moves and thus running out of cap space it’s possible that he might be available as a Short Term add. 2 years/4 million
Darren Collison- Collison recently opted out of a 1.9 million dollar payday from the Clippers and will be looking for more money and years. While he may end up returning to the other LA team he would be a steady point guard for the Lakers to add. He has shown in the past he has the ability to be a starting-caliber point guard, although he hasn’t done so consistently. With Steve Nash likely to spend more time on the injured list next season than on the court Collison could be a relatively cheap young player to take the reins for a few seasons. Given his up and down play over his career thus far though he would be a Short Term add. 2 years/8 million
While the free agent crop isn’t very plentiful this year there are still a few players that can be had to help round out the roster. The Lakers need a bit of everything and are in no position to contend next season but still seem determined to go after the big fish anyway. If nothing else it should be an exciting free agent season for LA.
I’ll be back soon to examine which free agents from last year’s squad (which was just about the entire team) should be brought back as well as which free agents the Lakers need to stay away from.