Smart Moves for the Lakers? (maybe so, maybe not)

Well it’s over and done with.  No more games, no more dark horse hopes to challenge for the banner.  The obvious pick won and the player who had the most to lose lost.  Now we turn our eyes to the NBA off season.  Like the closing minutes of floor trading except it lasts months.

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At any rate, with a just a couple of weeks before players have to opt in to their deals (what oh WHAT will Enes Kanter do?!) there are a few players out there not named LeBron James, DeMarcus Cousins or Paul George that the Lakers might be looking at acquiring.  Sure, sure the Lakers have been parading all over the basketball world trumpeting their plans to pitch max deals to the best players available but, for argument’s sake, let us assume that none of them bite or that they don’t choose to make themselves available.  Here are some intriguing notions for us to upgrade the roster with. 

Bear in mind this assumes the following: The Lakers retain Julius Randle for something in the neighborhood of $20-25 million.  The Lakers choose not to go over the tax apron to retain any players.  That Isaiah Thomas can find more money and a role that suits him better than we can offer, Brook Lopez the same.  If we throw those conventions out than we can entertain the notion of keeping IT, and/or even Brook.  Keeping Randle, and assuming we don’t trade any players currently on the roster, would put our cap at $59.1-64.1 million with the assumed salary cap placed at $128 million (TBD).  So we’d have roughly half our cap space left.  I’m not going to get into potential offers for the players below, but I assume that most of them can be had for $10-12 mil on 2-4 year deals, if I’m the Lakers I maybe negotiate a bit of an overpay so as to include a team option after the 1st year so as to allow cap flexibility going forward but with the potential to retain the player should the fit work better than expected..

Upgrading at the 2 in lieu of simply bringing back KCP and assuming they don’t promote/trade Josh Hart

Wayne Ellington: ‘The Man with the Golden Arm’ might be the longest NBA nickname ever, but I like it (I am also a fan of Bond films, especially the old school ones although Daniel Craig might be the best since Connery…different debate)If raw shooting potential is what you’re looking for at the 2 guard position than Wayne is probably the best available option.  Wayne does pretty much one thing, but he does it pretty dang well.  He shoots the rock.  Doesn’t really pass it much for dimes and, maybe more importantly, he doesn’t cough it up.  He was once a Laker but moved on after one season…might it be time for a reunion?

Tyreke Evans: ‘Reke Havoc’ has been a pretty consistent NBA player in his lifetime.  While nobody will ever accuse him of moving the needle too far he certainly doesn’t drag a roster down, either.  He can guard multiple positions with his size and quickness (6’6″), he can hit the three and he can dish (averages 5 dimes/game for his career).  Evans’ biggest knock may be that he’s suffered from a variety of ailments over the years and has missed a lot of games.  That’s also why he can likely be had for a decent deal.  Evans is a solid player starting or coming off the bench.  It gives coach Walton some size at the 2 and allows the team to bring Josh Hart along as a potential future starting 2.

Avery Bradley: ‘Spiderman’ is a streaky shooter who defends well.  Like KCP but with a cooler nickname (whose nickname is actually KCP).  My biggest thing with ‘Poison’ (his other nickname) is he has been bitten by the injury bug.  A lot.  Like KCP he isn’t much of a distributor averaging about as many turnovers as assists except that Pope hasn’t been nearly as injury prone and is younger.  Avery Bradley is in the realm of ‘settling’ when one discusses upgrading at shooting guard but is probably going to be available for cheap this summer.  Best he can really expect is an RE or MLE from a team desperate enough for shooting and the Lakers are one of many teams that fit that description.

Will Barton: ‘The People’s Champ’.  Honestly, who dubbed him that?  Might be the worst NBA nickname, ever.  At any rate, Will Barton would be the last of my choices to upgrade the 2 guard position, I’d honestly rather bring back KCP than go this route simply because I believe that KCP is the better defender and player, overall.  But Will is still young and could turn some sort of corner, he certainly took a step in that direction last season so it’s worth postulating how he would fare in the purple and gold.  Besides, someone else could offer KCP more clams than we want to.

Honorable mention goes to Zach LaVine and J.J. Reddick but I think that Zach will get matched by the Bulls for anything reasonable and Reddick is destined to return to the 76ers.  However, if either does hit the market and can be had for cheap then I would hope that they vault to the top of the Lakers’ list.  Personally, if I had to choose, I’d go for Zach as he has the most upside and would be a decent secondary ball handling guard in the backcourt with Lonzo.

Backup PG/SF, assuming Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball remain Lakers

Isaiah Thomas: ‘King in the Fourth’ is also known to Laker fans.  This may be trickier than it seems on face value.  ‘Pizza Guy’ (the favored nickname of yours truly) could find a more lucrative deal or a more expanded role elsewhere.  His hip injury forced him to shut it down early last season after spending most of the year recovering from said injury.  He’s reported recently as being pain-free after surgery.  The Lakers and he are a pretty good fit so it could end up he returns to the purple and gold for the 2018-19 campaign.

Rajon Rondo: Laker fans ought to be fairly hip to Rajon ‘Johnny’ or ‘Swag’ Rondo.  ‘The Yoga Instructor’ was an instrumental figure in denying Kobe ring #4 back in 2008.  Then they went to breakfast together one time and the internet exploded.  Then he bounced around the league to teams people thought he’d suck on and every year he does the same thing really well: compete.  Sometimes that’s the best skill to bring to the court, a feeling that I can outwork you, I can out hustle you, defense doesn’t take talent, it takes a desire to shove the ball back in your face at every opportunity.  That’s where Rondo excels.  He also has three nicknames so there’s that.

Elfrid Payton: If you’re like me you just don’t trust an NBA player that hasn’t earned a nickname.  According to basketball reference dot com that’s the case with one Elfrid Payton who should at least have garnered a name like ‘Hair Guy’ or ‘Wavy Payvy’.  Regardless Mr. Payton is known around the NBA as a defensive-minded PG that has improved his three point accuracy every season (except after he got injured in Phoenix).  Would the Suns match a lowball offer?  Probably, and the Lakers aren’t in much of a position to sit around and wait so this feels unlikely.

Trevor Ariza: ‘Switchblade’ honestly hadn’t heard that one, before.  If he’s into it this is far and away the best available backup SF this offseason.  Jabari Parker hasn’t looked the same since tearing his ACL and Milwaukee has matching rights.  Not that they would, but honestly is JP worth getting into a bidding war and having money tied up for a couple of days?  We all know what Trevor is capable of and we know he’s a quality dude who’s been a part of a championship team in addition to being a key figure on a regular playoff team.

Rodney Hood: No nickname…hmmmmm, already a red flag.  Fresh off a 4 game sweep at the hands of the Warriors and with LBJ rumored to be leaving town it’s hard to imagine the Cavs not re-signing (or matching) Rodney Hood.  They simply don’t have many other options available.  Be that as it may, he could be a solid addition to the Lakers should they want to slide BI over to the PG slot for extended minutes as the primary backup to Lonzo Ball.  For a player only 3 years into his NBA career he has also suffered a series of eyebrow raising injuries.  Probably not really on the Lakers radar, but it’s the NBA so one never really knows until the hammer falls.

Rudy Gay: I am of the opinion that the Spurs will look to retain Rudy as both Kawhi Leonard insurance and/or as a scoring threat off the bench/floor spacer (although his 3 point shooting took a bit of a dive last season likely a result of his Achilles injury the season prior).  While Rudy may not have lived up to all his hype, he’s certainly proved himself a capable NBA player.  Probably take too much dough to lure him away from the player-friendly confines of San Antonio, he’s worth a phone call from Rob and Magic if the big plans fall through.  The other issue with Rudy is he’s been injury prone for most of his career.

Frontcourt options a-plenty

Dewayne Dedmon: A poor man’s Brook Lopez, Dewayne could choose to opt out and test free agency his first season after deciding to shoot some three pointers.  If he does the Lakers could be an interesting landing spot for the 28 year old.

Ersan Ilyasova: An able bodied big who can score from all over the court.  While not the defensive stalwart some Laker fans yearn for, he can hit the three and would provide an nice option at the 4 that would contrast Randle’s bully ball style of play.  Besides, with a nickname like ‘Turkish Thunder’ what could go wrong?

Michael Beasley: Could it finally happen?  Could ‘Walking Bucket’, ‘B-Easy’, ‘Supercool Beas’ finally end up in a state with legalized marijuan-uh-in a Laker uniform?  It could happen this summer as the Lakers look to add shooters for Lonzo to hit off a pass.  MB has a knack for getting buckets but last season as a Knick he also flashed some leadership skills and veteran savvy.  The NBA, and professional sports in general, has a funny way of humbling those who rely on talent and hype.  It would seem Michael has turned a corner and embraced his inner professional.

Brook Lopez: ‘Bropez’…really?  (sigh)  Anyhow, if there’s a more controversial current Laker than Brook Lopez his name is either Lonzo Ball or Isaiah Thomas.  Brook can shoot from anywhere, defends OK, and is a team-first kinda guy (for the most part).  I also think he’ll move quick if there’s a reasonable deal on the table and I don’t think he’ll much care what city it’s in.  If there’s a playoff spot in the mix all the more likely he signs elsewhere.  having said that he’s spoken openly about admiring what the Lakers a re doing and being back in SoCal.  So who knows.

…Nerlens Noel…: For all his foibles Mr. Noel does have a cool nickname in ‘The Nerlen Wall’.  S’funny and historical so, kudos on that one.  It’s likely that Nerlens has to take a very low offer and will kick himself for the rest of his life for not taking the $70 million Mark Cuban and the Mavs offered him but there it is.  Hindsight is 20/20.  Nerlens can defend very well and finish at the rim.  He doesn’t open up the floor but he could be the kind of player that triggers more fast breaks with his defense which could help to mitigate his special issues.  here’s hoping ‘The Eraser’ finds a role that agrees with him and follows in Michael Beasley’s footsteps in terms of discovering his inner professional.

Honorable mention goes to Clint Capella (who I think Houston will absolutely need to hold on to) and Jusuf Nurkic (same goes for Portland) but if either ended up in the purple and gold I’d be stoked.  Especially Nurkic.

Now you could say: “Jamie, did you just scour a list of available players and pull a few out of the hat?” and my reply would be, “Fssshhhhhh, no…” but it also wouldn’t be far from the truth.  Let’s be honest, any free agent signed not named LeBron James, Paul George or Boogie Cousins will feel like a settle.  but the above are players (some who were Lakers just last season) that fit well with what we’re trying to do.  They’re better than G-Leaguers and they have real NBA experience.  A few have even won rings.  Those are valuable commodities not to be overlooked or passed over without at least a cursory look for a young team, which the Lakers assuredly still are.

Go Lakers.