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Six Free Agents For The Lakers
Posted By Jabari Davis On June 18, 2013 @ 2:59 pm In NBA | No Comments
So much of what the Los Angeles Lakers do in free agency is dependent upon what unrestricted free agent center Dwight Howard ultimately wants to do. The reality is everything is on hold until Howard makes his decision. For the record, while nothing can be verbally agreed upon until after the 12:01 EST, July 1, if Howard has any inclination as to whether he wants to stay or go, it would certainly help the Lakers from a planning and/or positioning standpoint. At this point, the only clarity that has been provided is that of the organization’s intentions. Even with the report of the Los Angeles Clippers’ interest in potentially working out a package of Blake Griffin and Eric Bledsoe for the return of Howard, the Lakers have remained steadfast in their determination to re-sign their starting center when he officially becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Even with the possibility of acquiring Howard on the table, it’s questionable whether the Clippers would actually make Griffin available. From the Lakers’ perspective, unless Howard comes to them and emphatically declares his desire and intention to play elsewhere, don’t anticipate them deviating from the plan of signing him to a long-term deal.
Several difficult decisions will have to be made in the interest of returning the franchise to at least the level of a perennial contender. This likely involves invoking the amnesty provision. For a reminder of all the stipulations regarding the provision, be sure to check out Hoopsworld’s Larry Coon’s CapFaq. According to Hoopsworld’s Alex Kennedy, the Lakers currently have four players eligible for the provision: Kobe Bryant (probably not going to happen), Pau Gasol (not likely, as his expiring deal and resurgence is an asset), Metta World Peace (most likely candidate), and Steve Blake ($4 million left on deal, return is significantly less).
Now, if Howard were to privately mention his intentions of leaving to the Lakers then all bets would be off, and we’d have to completely reassess the options and potential scenarios. If Howard does decide to walk, then the Houston situation sounds more likely, with the Lakers deciding to hold on to the salary cap room for flexibility next summer.
We know the Lakers, regardless of what transpires with Howard, need to add youth and athleticism around the perimeter. With the capability of only offering the mini mid-level exception (about $3 million) and/or veteran’s minimum contracts (amount varies depending upon the total years of NBA experience), the front office will have to maneuver through some murky waters. One thing is certain, you cannot go out shopping for filet mignon with “hamburger money” at your disposal. While these names may not be the blockbuster signings, the following is a list of six realistic free agents the Lakers might be able to approach and sign.
Martell Webster (Small Forward)
Webster is a 6’7″ SG/SF that shot 42 percent from beyond the arc last season for the Washington Wizards. Although he’ll be heading into his ninth season, the 2005 McDonald’s All American was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers directly from high school. He’s entering his relative prime, and could be a very positive addition at an inexpensive price.
Darren Collison (Point Guard)
Collison is a Los Angeles-area native, ex-UCLA player that no longer seems to be in the Dallas Mavericks’ plans, moving forward. Collison can push the ball in transition, can shoot the ball from range, and is an excellent free throw shooter at .860 percent for his career. He’s been both a starter and a reserve over the course of his career, and has been able to produce in either role.
Will Bynum (Point Guard)
Bynum’s name has repeatedly surfaced when analysts discuss the Lakers’ options. Including the postseason, Steve Nash and Steve Blake missed 34 and 39 games (respectively). Bynum is three years younger than Blake, and possesses the type of change-of-pace speed the Lakers’ backcourt has been severely lacking. He may not be quite a starter, but would be an excellent addition to this athleticism-starved roster.
Dorrell Wright (Small Forward)
Wright may have nine years in the league, but he is still just 27 years old. At 6’9″, he has the size to guard some of the bigger small forwards in the league. Wright is also a .367 percent career 3pt shooter, which is an obvious asset in D’Antoni’s offensive system. It would take a bit of a pay-cut, but it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility for the front office to convince this LA-native to take a one-year at either the veteran’s minimum or for slightly more if a portion of the mini mid-level were added.
Lamar Odom (Power Forward)
Before you completely laugh this idea, file this under the “if Howard were to walk” tab. In the event that Howard makes the determination that he isn’t interested in leading the Lakers into the future, D’Antoni may slide Pau Gasol into his preferred center position. If that were to happen, then Jordan Hill would likely be called upon to play minutes at the power forward position. It may sound crazy, but the organization may not be against the idea of bringing Odom back on a one-year deal at the veteran’s minimum. At 6’10″, Odom possesses the versatility to stretch the floor at either post position.
Anthony Morrow (Shooting Guard)
Morrow is a 6’5″ shooter with a career .424 percentage from behind the three-point line. Morrow had a bit of a slow season in 2012-13 as he was in and out of the lineup with both the Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks (traded), but still maintained an above-average percentage from beyond the arc (.372). With the potential for more playing time than he averaged last season (9.3 MPG), Morrow could be a player willing to take a portion of the mini mid-level for the opportunity to play on the grand stage in Los Angeles.
Honorable Mention: Randy Foye could also be a potential free agent target of the Lakers in this offseason. In the interest of surrounding Howard with additional outside threats, Foye is one of the few shooters in the league that shot over 40 percent (.410) on more than five three-point attempts (5.3) per game. The Lakers desperately need players that can stretch the court, and provide relief when teams decide to simply pack the paint against Howard and/or Gasol.
Again, these names may not be players you’re hearing on sports talk radio or around the barber shop, but they are the types of players the Lakers can afford to sign within the rules of the current CBA. Meaning, expecting a player like Monta Ellis to opt-out of his $11 million contract to accept the mini mid-level exception probably isn’t something any of us should hold our breaths over. Don’t count this organization out of making the types of moves to provide more flexibility, but without a series of cost-cutting transactions, these are the types of names that are currently available.
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