NBA PM: Can Lakers Get Beasley Another Way?
As of March 1st, the majority of the free agents signed over the summer are now eligible to be dealt. While that may not mean much as far as the headliners in a deal, it’s often the “ballast” that makes the numbers work and where a minimum player might come into play.
One league source predicts there won’t be a lot of movement in general given that “bad teams only have to suffer another seven weeks before they sell [their fans on the] lottery.”
One of the teams looking to improve is the Los Angeles Lakers, who may not quite be good enough to win a title but still feels tremendous pressure to perform (especially with the team’s massive payroll).
Technically the Lakers are still in the mix for Dwight Howard but there’s no indication yet what path the Orlando Magic will walk.
On Wednesday, ESPN’s Chris Broussard wrote Source: Lakers decline Wolves’ offer for Michael Beasley.
HOOPSWORLD has previously reported the Lakers interest in the Minnesota Wolves’ forward. Had the original Chris Paul trade gone through, LA would have had the same $8.9 million Lamar Odom trade exception to acquire the tweener three/four and had some preliminary discussions to that end.
Broussard mentioned Los Angeles had rejected Beasley for a first-round draft pick (via the Odom exception), citing the Lakers “do not want to add to their luxury tax bill.”
He also wrote “it is possible they could change their minds before the March 15 deadline.”
The takeaway from the article should be that second quote. Given age and production (Derek Fisher is 37-years old and averaging 5.5 points a game on 37.7% shooting), the Lakers have made acquiring a point guard their primary focus.
They’re willing to deal Pau Gasol for pieces for a high-level point guard but unless they get a tremendous offer (Rajon Rondo, Steph Curry, Kyle Lowry, etc.), they’ll keep Gasol and look at their options over the summer.
That would leave the trade exception as their primary means to address their biggest issue.
While there’s no question the Lakers could use Beasley’s scoring punch and outside shot in the front court, last check he can’t play point guard.
A league source tells HOOPSWORLD the Lakers may have an alternate package that might work for Beasley while preserving their exception.
If LA would surrender two first-round picks, the Wolves could swap Beasley for seldom-used forward Luke Walton.
The Lakers have two selections in the upcoming draft (their own and a protected first from the Dallas Mavericks). LA would be able to send both from 2012 or just one and a future pick in 2014.
Naturally Minnesota has no interest in Walton but would they be willing to surrender some of their cap space next year for draft considerations? Luke is set to make $5.8 million in 2012/13 but he has a 7.5% trade kicker so that would climb to $6.2 million.
Conversely, should the Lakers actively look to dump picks given how quickly the roster is aging?
Dropping Walton would take $11.6 million off LA’s books next year including luxury taxes. Economically that might make it worthwhile for the Lakers to look for talent in the second round or free agency instead of in the 20-30 range of the draft.
Beasley spoke to HOOPSWORLD on Wednesday about the Laker rumors.
“It’s hard not to be aware of it with the social media and everybody talking about it,” said Beasley. “I’m playing for the Timberwolves. I’m going to play my heart out for them. This is the team I’m on now. I love my guys. I love the teams. I love the coaches. I love the city. If I get traded then I have no control over that but as of now I’m a Timberwolf and I’m going to play when I get the opportunity.”
Beasley’s qualifying offer to become a restricted free agent after this season is $8.2 million. According to the league source, it’s unlikely that any team will pay Michael that kind of salary next year.
Would it be worthwhile for the Lakers to give up two firsts and let Beasley walk just to save money? Can he be re-signed long term at a more reasonable rate?
If Beasley was acquired for Walton, the Lakers could then turn their attention to acquiring a point guard with their remaining exception but would they in turn have to send out yet another first (to get someone like Ramon Sessions of the Cleveland Cavaliers)?
Then again, Sessions may opt-out of his $4.6 million after this season and become a free agent. Would a team like the Lakers even give up a first with that in mind, given he may leave the Cavaliers as a free agent in July?
These are the issues facing General Manager Mitch Kupchak and Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Jim Buss.
Equally Wolves General Manager David Kahn may find other teams willing to give up a single first along with an expiring contract for Beasley.
Any trade is fully reliant on another team’s willingness to deal. It remains to be seen what the Wolves will do with Michael, what the Celtics will do with Rondo, what the Magic will do with Howard.
By the end of March 15th, those answers will be clear, at least until the summer.
Wolves in Playoff Mix
The Minnesota Timberwolves have struggled for the last few years. They had no coach, a point guard struggling overseas with no clear timeframe on when he’d join the franchise and a general manager who seemed in over his head.
The Wolves illustrate the importance of patience.
David Kahn made a great hire in Coach Rick Adelman. Rubio not only signed, he proved to be an immediate impact player. Kevin Love has emerged as not only as a dominant rebounder (13.8 a game) but as a top-four scorer (24.5 nightly). Big-man Nikola Pekovic, after a forgettable rookie campaign, has become a significant presence inside.
Now Minnesota is 18-18, 10th in the Western Conference and just a single game behind the eighth-seeded Denver Nuggets.
“I think we have some good young players, who’ve stepped up and played very well. We probably have played better then maybe we thought we were going to play, but we’re trying to be consistent night in and night out,” said Adelman. “This year, with this type of season, you have to bring it every night. I don’t know what the last half is going to bring, but pretty much our team has played every night. We’ve been in on most of the games and if we stay with that, if we give ourselves a chance in the fourth quarter, especially on the road, well then we’re in good shape.”
If the Wolves have been better, a big part of that is Rubio coming in able to play 34.4 minutes a game while averaging 10.8 points and 8.4 assists nightly. He still needs to improve his jump shot (36.3% from the field) but Ricky played himself into the starting lineup and the Wolves have benefited.
“I didn’t know what to expect from [Ricky] when we got him. He’s been very consistent, he’s been real solid for us, all the way through,” said Adelman. “Kevin has obviously really stepped up. You don’t know what to expect but that’s what we’re trying to tell these guys, ‘You put yourself in a position. We’re .500, we’re kind of right there in the middle of the pack and are we going to take advantage of that or are we going to slip backwards or are we going to move forwards?’ That’s what we’re going to find out.”
The Wolves are coming of a split in Los Angeles after an impressive win over the Clippers but a letdown against the Lakers as Love sat with flu-like symptoms. March will not be easy with just six home games and 11 on the road – including seven straight in the middle of the month.
Even Rubio is somewhat surprised by the success the team has had to date.
“Yeah, I mean we’re a young team and we didn’t have along preseason we just practiced for 10 days,” said Ricky. “You know it’s hard we are all together with a new coach, new players, and we’re young so it was hard but after that after a soft beginning we we’re doing a very good job.”
He thinks the Wolves have a real crack at the postseason.
“I mean it’s going to be hard but we’re fighting for it,” said Rubio. “We’re doing a pretty good job and we’re looking forward to the playoffs.”
Adelman has put a lot of faith in his rookie guard.
“He just has that gift. He’s been a point guard his whole life,” said the Wolves coach. “He’s been around it his whole life and some people have that special gift where you just see the floor, when guys are running and things are moving he sees the opportunities, he just sees it and he can deliver”
With Rubio playing well and Love arguably a candidate for league MVP, the Wolves may continue to surprise this season.
“Obviously he’s one of the best rebounders in the league and now he’s proven he’s a fourth or fifth scorer in the league. That’s a pretty good combination to have,” said Adelman. “He just finds a way to do it. I think can get much better at passing the ball, he can get much better at making big shots creating his own shot at the right time. That’s going to take him some time but I think he’s been so consistent, game in and game out for us. When he’s out on the court for 35 minutes, he’s going to get you 20 points and 10-15 rebounds.”
Trade rumors have surrounded the Wolves, as noted specifically with Michael Beasley. It appears unlikely the team will deal rookie forward Derrick Williams. Others names who could be on the move, given their talent, potential or even just contract status might be Luke Ridnour, Anthony Randolph, Martell Webster, Wesley Johnson, Dark Milicic, Wayne Ellington, J.J. Barea or Brad Miller.
That said, there Wolves don’t have a ton of pressure to make a deal. Ridnour has been a nice complement to Rubio and though undersized, J.J. Barea is getting healthier after a slow start.
Given the recent results, perhaps David Kahn deserves a bit more credit that he’s gotten throughout his tenure. Long-term the team needs an impact two-guard but that may have to wait beyond the current campaign.
Simmons Back in Los Angeles
Forward Bobby Simmons spent two years on Los Angeles with the Clippers from 2003 to 2005. In his second season with the team he averaged 16.4 points a game while shooting 43.5% from three-point range.
Simmons would leave the following summer to Milwaukee on a $47 million, five-year deal with the Bucks. The Clippers wanted to keep Bobby but couldn’t find the rationale off of just a single year of production.
While he would go on to have a solid first year in Milwaukee (although his scoring output dipped to 13.4 points a game), Simmons struggled in the following seasons – eventually getting traded to the New Jersey Nets. Injuries were a factor and after his big contract expired, Bobby had a brief run with the San Antonio Spurs last year for just two appearances.
This past week Simmons and the Clippers were reunited via a 10-day contract. The Clippers are in search of depth after losing guard Chauncey Billups to an Achilles’ injury.
In his first performance on Tuesday, Bobby played a scoreless 17 minutes as LA was defeated 109-97 by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Before the game, Bobby talked about his comeback.
“It’s been a lot of changes since I’ve been here,” said Simmons on what attracted him back to LA. “A new practice facility, as you know, new teammates and basically being a part of a good ball club.”
How did he reconnect with the Clippers?
“I think it’s a matter of hard work and [General Manager] Neil [Olshey] and Coach [Vinny Del] Negro having a spot for me and giving me the opportunity to come back and play the game I love to play,” said Simmons.
Bobby is hoping he’ll bring some additional experience to the squad. Ryan Gomes has struggled and Simmons may have an opportunity to showcase over the course of his short contract.
“Well I think experience as a whole, when I was here, I was only 23-24 years old so being up in age a little bit now you learn from experience and as you know basketball doesn’t really change,” said Simmons.
“I think it’s just a matter of as you get older getting a little wiser, understanding the game a lot more and basically putting in certain situations to where you know you can succeed and actually help ball clubs,” continued the small forward. “Just give myself a chance to make the team the rest of the year and play basketball.”
While the idea of getting a Ray Allen, C.J. Miles or even O.J. Mayo may have their appeal, the Clippers don’t have much they’re willing to offer to attract such a return. Expect Mo Williams, Eric Bledsoe and the like to remain Clippers throughout the season, barring something expected coming LA’s way.
Allen would be ideal but very difficult to attain.
The Clippers instead hope to improve from within as the season progresses. That’s going to take more from both Del Negro and the players. In recent games, LA has been far too dependent on stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
LA starts a six-game road trip on Thursday with stops in Sacramento, Phoenix, Houston, Minnesota, New Jersey and San Antonio.
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