Jodie Meeks jeering at the Celtics. I like him already. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
So, all those caveats about how there were still holes in the rotation that needed to be filled despite the official announcement of the Dwight Howard deal? Yeah, that lasted about a day. After going through a year with no backup, Kobe Bryant will finally be able to rest for fifteen or so minutes a game without fear of his replacement getting annihilated on the floor. Per the Los Angeles Times' Mark Medina:
Meeks is a career 37.1 3P% shooter who will be asked to do exactly that on the Lakers: spot up from behind the arc and shoot off kick outs from the rest of their ridiculously talented roster. Past possibly Miami, there is no place in the league more attractive right now to shooting specialists, as Meeks very well could find himself in a lineup that has Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard as his compatriots. This is the type of player that the Lakers thought they were getting last year in Jason Kapono, and Meeks is a serviceable enough defender that he likely won't fall prey to the same problems that pushed Kapono out of the rotation.
The Lakers also have a good deal of flexibility with Meeks as far as his contract is concerned; per ESPNLA's Dave McMenamin, the second year on Meeks' deal is a team option, which all but assures that the Lakers will have a cheap backup for Kobe through 2014 if he can fulfill his role adequately. It has not been officially confirmed that Meeks received the minimum or part of the Lakers mini midlevel exception, but given the size of the deal, it is likely that it is the latter. Meeks' signing does bring up some issues on how the Lakers will fix the glut of players in the backcourt, however, and we will cover this after the jump.
To illustrate this, let us look at the current depth chart on the team:
|Starters||Bench||Third String||Fourth String|
|PG||Steve Nash||Steve Blake||Chris Duhon||Darius Morris|
|SG||Kobe Bryant||Jodie Meeks||Andrew Goudelock||Darius Johnson-Odom|
|SF||Metta World Peace||Devin Ebanks||Earl Clark|
|PF||Pau Gasol||Antawn Jamison|
|C||Dwight Howard||Jordan Hill||Robert Sacre|
As such, the Lakers' roster currently stands at thirteen, not counting Devin Ebanks, Darius Johnson-Odom, and Robert Sacre. Ebanks is expected to sign his qualifying offer and become the primary backup at the three, but DJO's and Sacre's situations as unsigned second round picks are much more fluid. Between the $500,000 the Lakers burned to get DJO in the draft and the praise lavished upon Sacre in summer league by Jim Buss and Mike Brown, one would expect that the Lakers will try to retain them, but that is an implausibility unless the Lakers make a subsequent move to clear space on the roster.
Now, there are numerous ways to go about this, the easiest of which is dealing someone like Andrew Goudelock, who had a horrid summer league, to a team under the cap while getting back a heavily protected second round pick, the closest you can come in the NBA to receiving nothing back in a deal. Alternatively, the Lakers could try to buy out the contract of Duhon, who is due $3.5 million this year, but only has $1.5 million of his '13-'14 salary guaranteed. The question is whether Duhon would leave any money on the table after two horrid years in Orlando, all of which would make it unlikely that he could get a roster spot somewhere else in the league without having to settle for a make good contract in a training camp somewhere.
Earl Clark, the other return in the Dwight deal, has a profile that screams "under the radar reclamation project," which is something that the Lakers have definitely capitalized upon in recent years, but his first three years all point strongly point to him being a bust. His skill set coming out of Louisville echoed that of Lamar Odom, but he never was able to realize any of that potential and become a real rotation player. This all makes him another candidate to be shipped out, although he is not directly part of the backcourt glut. Trading Clark is also slightly complicated since he can't be paired with another player for two months, and his most likely fate is riding the bench as the new victory cigar in blowout games, something that hopefully will be a much more common occurrence next year.
Altogether, this is essentially it as far as the Lakers' offseason is concerned. Once again, the Lakers are a favorite for the title, and you have to imagine that any buyout candidate from this point forward has the Lakers circled at the top of his list. We could quibble over whether the Lakers still need a better backup for Nash at point guard and if Steve Blake or Darius Morris will be adequate for that spot, but in the grand scheme of things, it is pretty immaterial compared to the sheer magnitude of what Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss have accomplished thus far. Given the problems the Lakers had at the opening of free agency, these issues are pretty meek -- no pun intended -- in comparison.
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