Will Any LA Lakers Free Agents-to-Be Return Next Year?
Numerous players for the Los Angeles Lakers will become free agents at season’s end, which means the front office must assess who should remain on board.
The Lake Show has positioned itself to have roughly $26 million in cap space to make a run at a superstar this offseason, but Mitch Kupchak still has a team to build. Only Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Robert Sacre have guaranteed deals for 2014-15.
Thus, there are pieces that must be re-signed in order to field a competitive team. It’s worth noting that we do not know which free agents the Lakers will lure in.
Consequently, we cannot as of yet determine whether or not the current L.A. players will fit in with the new core. Nonetheless, the Lakers will need quality rotation guys at an affordable price.
One last thing, the assumption here is that Mike D’Antoni will be the head coach of the team, which means that players who fit his system will likely warrant more attention than those that do not.
Wesley Johnson, Kendall Marshall, Ryan Kelly and Manny Harris
An argument could be made that all four of these players could be brought back at minimum salaries. However, they simply do not move the needle enough for the front office to consider giving them a spot next season.
They have all had various moments with the Lakers this season, but the truth is that they have done so mostly in losses. They are not talented enough to merit being brought back because they will not help the Lakers make a playoff run.
The one player who could potentially earn himself a deal is Kendall Marshall, but he plays a position that will probably already have guys signed for the foreseeable future. Thus, he will also likely land elsewhere.
Chris Kaman was supposed to share the court with Pau Gasol and help lead the Lakers’ attack. Instead, the former Los Angeles Clipper can barely get into games and actually spends time backing up Gasol and Jordan Hill.
Kaman’s strength is his back-to-the-basket game, but he has not been a great low-post player in L.A. What’s more, he does very little in terms of defensive contributions, which makes it difficult to put him on the court.
Therefore, the Lakers will allow Kaman to explore his options with other teams given his lack of fit in Mike D’Antoni’s system.
Jodie Meeks has enjoyed a very good season thanks in large part to a career-high amount of minutes played per game. It has helped him increase his scoring and exhibit his ability to make shots from downtown.
Meeks fits in Mike D’Antoni’s offense, but he has probably earned himself a raise after making $1.5 million in 2013-14. Under different circumstances, perhaps the Lakers would have brought him back.
The Lake Show will have Kobe Bryant at the 2-guard position, and they already have a player on the roster (Nick Young) who will likely back him up. Hence, Meeks becomes a luxury of sorts.
For the veteran’s minimum salary, the Lakers would be thrilled to bring Meeks back. However, the reserve is going to generate interest on the open market and receive more lucrative offers.
Since joining the Lakers, Steve Blake has failed to suit up for a full season. He is a capable defender and good long-range shooter, but his health will likely scare away the Purple and Gold.
Indeed, the Lakers have been derailed by injuries since the 2012-13 campaign and consequently, it stands to reason they will want a point guard with a better track record in terms of health, especially with Steve Nash in and out of the lineup because of a failing body.
Blake will likely be allowed to walk in favor of a younger and perhaps cheaper option.
Pau Gasol will not remain in the City of Angels. The Spaniard has been at his worst under Mike D’Antoni and seems to have lost his love for the franchise.
Gasol has a cap figure of $19.3 million this season and will have to take a substantial pay cut to remain with the team given that his cap hold compromises Los Angeles’ cap room.
It’s rather telling that the Lakers have not tried to negotiate an extension with Gasol, which suggests the organization is ready to let him walk.
Xavier Henry signed with the Lakers for the veteran’s minimum and outperformed his deal. He has demonstrated that he can be a functional ball-handler as well as an exciting finisher at the basket with a good head start.
Henry has a place in the league as a reserve playing around 10 to 15 minutes a night. He can provide energy off the bench and even be molded to become a terrific sixth man. He has only been in the NBA for four seasons and thus has room to grow.
His production this season coupled with his potential take him out of the Lakers’ price range. There is only so much money the franchise can spend on its own players because of the funds needed to secure the services of a would-be free agent.
Jordan Farmar is a change-of-pace point guard who operates quite well in the pick-and-roll. Moreover, he loves getting out in transition and forcing the issue for quick scores.
He signed for the veteran’s minimum in 2013-14 and, because of injuries, has not really gotten a chance to demonstrate the totality of his skills. The Lakers should be able to bring him back as backup point guard for next season under the same salary.
It stands to reason he will take a short-term contract (one year with a player option for second season) with the team that will allow him to show off his talent. Should he outperform his next contract, it will give him the option of hitting free agency a year later and requesting a larger deal.
Jordan Hill has posted the best numbers of his career under the watchful eye of Mike D’Antoni in Los Angeles. He has been a great rebounder and good finisher for the Lakers.
Per Basketball-Reference.com, the Lakers score 118 points per 100 possessions with Hill on the hardwood, a clear indication that the big man fits in perfectly within D’Antoni’s system.
His play warrants a pay increase, and Mitch Kupchak will probably be willing to meet the asking price. The former Houston Rocket will command a salary in the range of $8 million annually, and given his age, that may end up being a bargain if Hill’s game improves during the duration of the contract.
Nick Young is perhaps the toughest call on the board. He is great ball-handler and has done a good job of making his long-range shots during his career (a little down this season).
Mind you, Young takes low-percentage shots and enjoys the thrill of playing one-on-one basketball. That would be acceptable in a vacuum, but it becomes redundant on a team with Kobe Bryant.
With that said, Young comes back provided that it’s at the right price. He has a $1.2 million player option that he likely will not exercise. It’s in his best interest to go into free agency and demand a contract like that of J.R. Smith (who averages $6 million per season) given the similar skill sets.
The Lakers probably meet his demands as a small insurance in the event Bryant misses a bit of time due to injuries.