As the wheels continue to turn on what has been an offseason chock filled with trade rumors, much to the consternation of Hornets and Magic fans, I think we can all say that we're simply happy to be able to talk about basketball instead of the latest on a soul-crushing and mind-numbing lockout. On that note, we have new information regarding Shannon Brown, whom we reported yesterday had been contacted by the Lakers to gauge Brown's interest in returning. Courtesy of the plugged in and always astute Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register, who discussed the issue with Mitch Kupchak, we can put a damper on that talk:
Kupchak expects Shannon Brown to get a better FA deal away from Lakers. Neither Theo Ratliff nor Joe Smith will return.
The market might determine how this goes, but as we noted yesterday, the Lakers should likely be looking elsewhere to fill the backup two guard spot behind Kobe, partly out of a lack of confidence that Brown is going to recreate his borderline Sixth Man of the Year performance at the start of last season and the fact that there are better options available in free agency. On the subject of free agency, Ding also gave us Kupchak's assessment of what is looking for on the market:
Kupchak is hoping to add a player on back end of career who has already made money, can still offer minutes and wants a title.
For anyone who has watched the progression of contending squads, this is par for the course. Bereft of significant financial flexibility, you open your doors for the ring-chasing vets who will take a discount to chase a title and are still solid rotation players. After the jump, we will go over some of the players the rumor mill has been connecting the Lakers with.
Most of this comes from Hoopsworld's Alex Kennedy, who has also noted that the Lakers have been burning the phone lines for the last 48 hours, so it's nice to see that Kupchak is doing his due diligence. In any case, Kennedy, along with Newsday's Alan Hahn, claims that the Lakers are looking at Phoenix free agent Grant Hill
Grant Hill has drawn interest from a number of contenders. The Phoenix Suns want to re-sign Hill, but teams like the New York Knicks, Los Angeles and Miami Heat would all love to have him as well, according to sources close to the situation. They see him as a reliable veteran and excellent leader who can help them compete for a championship.
Hill fits the mold that Kupchak mentions pretty well -- a 39 year old veteran who is still productive and looking for a chip before ending his career. The problem is that Hill is a three and occasional smallball four, so he doesn't necessarily fill a position of need unless the Lakers are actively looking into using the amnesty clause on Metta World Peace. While one could see Hill as possibly an upgrade on MWP, as while he's not quite as masterful as MWP is on defense, he's much better offensively, this wouldn't be an especially good allocation of resources, as Hill would almost certainly command a good chunk of the Lakers' mini MLE. Moreover, most indications say that he wants to end his career in Phoenix, which is admirable, but not likely to give him a ring before he hangs up his jersey for good.
Continuing down the rumor mill, Kennedy lists the Lakers as one of the teams interested in Atlanta free agent and former Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford:
A number of teams made calls to Crawford’s camp on Wednesday including the New Jersey Nets, New Orleans Hornets, Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers, according to sources close to the situation.
As with Arron Afflalo, whom we discussed yesterday, Crawford represents the upper tier of the two guard market, and even with his decline last season, he remains a relatively explosive offensive player and could provide some spark for the Lakers' otherwise moribund second unit. Whether Crawford is interested in taking the pay cut that would be required to come to L.A. is another question altogether, but despite his faults -- his comically bad rebounding, lackadaisical defense, and proclivity for long twos over threes -- he would be a bargain for the mini MLE and be a significant pickup.
After Hill and Crawford, however, the quality of the names the Lakers have been linked to declines precipitously. One such personage is Crawford's teammate in Atlanta and former Laker Maurice Evans:
Maurice Evans, who displayed his leadership throughout the NBA’s labor negotiations, has received interest from a number of teams as well. The Washington Wizards acquired Evans prior to last year’s trade deadline and would love to re-sign him. He was a contributor and mentor during his brief stint in Washington and they would love to have him back. However, several contenders such as the San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers have reached out to Evans’ camp as well. Don’t be surprised if teams look to sign Evans with the new mini mid-level exception.
I'm not sure where Kennedy gets the notion that Evans is worth the mini MLE because he was a pretty terrible player last year, his declining athleticism and middling shooting combining to make what had been a half-decent backup two-way swingman an end of rotation player. Evans more or less represents rock bottom in the free agent market for wings -- taking a flyer on Tracy McGrady or Michael Redd would be a better move and both are already something the Lakers should only do after all other options are exhausted.
This same sentiment applies to the final player on our list, as Kennedy asserts that the Lakers have talked about Minnesota free agent Sebastian Telfair:
Sebastian Telfair has received interest from the New York Knicks, Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers, according to sources. Telfair is excited for free agency because he’ll be able to choose his next destination, which hasn’t been the case early in his career. Since entering the league, Telfair has been traded multiple times, usually midseason. In fact, he hasn’t played with the same team for more than two seasons at a time and he’s had nine different head coaches. If Telfair lands in the right situation, with some structure, he could still be a significant contributor.
Again, I find it difficult to believe that a small guard who has put up four consecutive 10 PER seasons and never shot better than 50.0 TS% can do squat for a contending team, even one with point guards as terrible as the Lakers'. Telfair doesn't shoot well from outside, can't consistently run an offense, and gets bullied on defense due to his diminutive size. Given recent reports that Darius Morris looks like he's in great shape and has added 10 pounds of muscle onto his frame as well as worked on his shooting, we can probably safely say that Telfair will never be wearing the purple and gold, and he's representative of how terrible this free agent class is at the point guard position.
Altogether, all of these players are long shot candidates to join the Lakers, whether because they're out of the Lakers' price range or so terrible that the Lakers shouldn't give them any consideration. One way or another, the Lakers will have to fill the holes in their rotation behind Kobe at the two and Bynum at the five, and while Laker Land is fixated on the Dwight Howard saga, this should be Kupchak's primary focus until Otis Smith indicates that he's ready to listen to offers.
UPDATE (3:54 AM): Courtesy of ESPNLA's Dave McMenamin (h/t E-ROC), we have some more juicy tidbits on the Lakers' free agent search:
The Lakers have interest in Delonte West, who played for coach Mike Brown in Cleveland and last played for Boston, as a potential fill-in at guard and also are keen on Indiana free agent Josh McRoberts, according to a source with knowledge of their thinking. ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported that Denver free-agent guard Arron Afflalo is also on the Lakers' radar.
West is a quality combo guard, and previously played for Mike Brown in Cleveland for two and a half seasons, so that familiarity should be a plus. He can defend and play either guard position -- although he seems better at checking wings nowadays -- and showed last season in Boston that he can distribute the rock fairly well; the fact that he can fulfill the role of Kobe's backup in addition to providing a minor salve for the Lakers' point guard problems is a major plus for picking him up. West is a middling shooter with a fairly solid career 37.3 3P%, so he offers a fairly complete package for the Lakers' needs. He took the minimum last season to play in Boston, and while he likely is deserving of a slightly larger deal, it would be a bargain if the Lakers could pick him up at that price.
As for McRoberts ("McBobs"), he's an explosive backup frontcourt player, shooting well from outside (38.3 3P%) and at the rim (68.8%); last season he posted a 60.8 TS%, impressive for a player with a rather diverse offensive game. Moreover, he can put the ball on the floor and had quality distributing numbers for a big man (22.0 assist rate, fourth among power forwards), which should go along nicely with his potential new teammates in L.A. The reason why he's currently a free agent and not a fixture in the Pacers' lineup, especially given how moribund Indiana is at the four, is his poor defense, as he was frequently overpowered in strength matchups and has so-so lateral quickness. Nevertheless, he would be a solid pickup for the Lakers' second unit, although as with the report on the Lakers' interest in Rashard Lewis -- who is apparently not getting the amnesty axe -- one can question why the Lakers are looking at a player who is almost certainly a four considering a certain Lamar Odom is a fixture at the position. You can say that quality depth is quality depth, especially with backups for whom hard positional matchups mean less, but it's telling that the Lakers appear as if they're preparing for a possible future without Odom (*cough* Howard trade *cough*).
Follow this author on Twitter @brosales12.