Los Angeles Lakers: 5 players L.A. needs to keep in 2014-15

LOS ANGELES – As the Los Angeles Lakers finish the final stretch of this disappointing season, big decisions in terms of the roster lie ahead of them.

This offseason, the Lakers will have plenty of cap space to play with as they have onlyKobe BryantSteve Nash, and Robert Sacreunder contract for the 2014-15 season. This leaves Los Angeles with 11 players set to become free agents with nine as unrestricted, and two other holding either a player (Nick Young) and team (Kendall Marshall) option.

With that said, here are five players that Los Angeles must keep next season.

1. Nick Young

In his first season with the Lakers, Young has quickly become a fan favorite and has been a consistent scoring punch  as evident by his career-high 17.5 points per game. This includes an 18.4 points per game average as a reserve that ranks him 1st in the NBA for points per game among players who have come off the bench 20 or more times.

The 28-year-old has shown to be a prolific scorer and go-to option offensively for the team as he was in his 40-point outburst against the Trail Blazers on April 1, which also ranks as the highest points scored by a reserve player this season and he is the first Laker to score 40-plus points off the bench since the 1985-86.

With that said, there is no doubt that Young’s offensive abilities which it is that makes him a must keep player for the Lakers. Los Angeles needs players like the six-year veteran to pick up the slack offensively. Although he does a desire a return to the team, it will come at a certain cost as the Lakers do not want to spend too much of their cap space on him.

Ultimately it will all depend on how much money Young is looking to make next season and beyond.

2. Jordan Farmar

The 2013-14 season for Jordan Farmar has been a frustrating one as he has missed 42 games due to issues with his hamstring and a right groin strain.

But with that said, when Farmar has been healthy he has played exceptionally well as evident by his career-high 30 points with a career-best eight 3-pointers on Feb. 28 against the Sacramento Kings. He was also ranked fifth in the NBA in assist percentage (38.8) at the time of his initial hamstring at beginning of last December.

The 27-year-old has battle through the injuries to average 10.5 points and 4.8 assists in 37 games played. This year he has proved to be a reliable ball handler an an experienced veteran, who has the ability to be a consistent contributor off the bench. The Lakers must keep Farmar for those reasons and because  of Nash’s health situation as there is no true gauge on what will transpire next season for the 40-year-old.

3. Jodie Meeks

The 26-year-old has arguably been the Lakers’ most consistent player this season and has improved his all-around game in the process

Meeks in his fifth year in the league is having his best season as he is averaging career best in points (15.6), assists (1.8), steals (1.4), rebounds (2.6), and field goal percentage (.461). He, like Young, also has a 40-point game this year as he scored acareer-high 42 points against the Oklahoma City Thunder on March 9.

Meeks has shown that he can be an impact player on a team with his level of play, which make him another player that Los Angeles must make an effort to keep as he also desires a return to the team next season. But just like the other teammates, it will come at a certain price as the Lakers must set a cap on how much they are willing to spend to keep him.

4. Kent Bazemore

Since being acquired from the Golden State Warrior at last February’s trade deadline, Kent Bazemore has provided the Lakers with a consistent scorer with athleticism and a lot of upside to his game.

Prior to suffering a season-ending injury to his right foot, the 24-year-old was averaging 13.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.3 steals and 28 minutes in 23 games played. This included setting career-highs in points (23), made field goals (nine), rebounds (seven), steals (six), assists (eight), and also making his first career start.

 What makes Bazemore someone to keep for the Lakers is his potential to become an impact player on both ends of the court. If he remains healthy, the second-year forward has a chance to be fulfill that upside he has. What also increases the likelihood that Los Angeles will retain him is that only a $1.1 million qualifying offer will make him a restricted free agent and allow the Lakers to match any offer another team makes on him.

5. Ryan Kelly

The 48th overall pick in last year’s draft has made the most of his opportunity to play this season and has shown enough on the court for the Lakers to take another shot on next year.

This year, Ryan Kelly has started 18 out of the 50 games that he has appeared in and has had some standout performances. This includes scoring a career-high 26 points with six rebound in 42 minutes played in the Feb. 5 119-108 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers where the Lakers were down to just four active players in the final portion of the fourth quarter.

He also notched his first career double-double with 24 points and 11 rebounds in the Lakers’ 134-126 loss to Denver Nuggets on March 7, and he also tallied eight assists in two games this season against the New York Knicks on March 25 and the Oklahoma City Thunder on March 9.

With all that said, Kelly has demonstrated this season that he is worth taking a flyer on an expensive contract because of the progress he has made in his game throughout the year.

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