Jordan Farmar has been a Laker since the team selected him with the 26th pick of the 2006 draft. He's been a key bench performer on two championship teams but has started only two games in his career. This offseason, he's a restricted free agent. That means if Lakers tender a qualifying offer of $2.9 million for one year, they'll hold the right to match any other offer he receives from another team.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the team is ready to part ways with Farmar. Bring us up to speed, Broderick Turner:
[T]he Lakers probably will let him walk, according to an NBA executive who was not authorized to speak publicly. And it sounds as if Farmar is ready to depart after winning two titles. "I want to take a step forward in my career," said Farmar, who wants to be a starting point guard. "We'll see how it works out."
What's not clear from the article is whether "letting him walk" means not even tendering the qualifying offer, or alternatively, whether it means putting the QO on the table and then waiting to see what the market is for Farmar's services.
Farmar isn't the long-term answer at point guard. He had a nice little bounce-back season this year after a lost 2008-09 campaign, but he's never going to be a starting PG on a championship squad, and right now the Lakers are in the business of winning championships. If there's a franchise out there willing to pay starter's money to Jordan, he should take it with all our blessings. It doesn't follow, however, that the Lakers shouldn't tender the QO.
Let's quickly review the point-guard situation. Derek Fisher, one presumes, is coming back in some capacity. I imagine he'll take a one-year deal for a few million bucks and will remain a nominal starter while his minutes, especially in the regular season, continue to be scaled back. That leaves 20 or so minutes a game to be filled at the one. The Lakers have three basic options here.
First, they could spend real money (i.e., the mid-level exception) on a veteran free agent. Think Raymond Felton. This is the option that maximizes the talent on the floor and the odds of a successful three-peat. It's also the most expensive route. If the Lakers are serious about signing someone like Felton with the MLE, letting Farmar walk without even a qualifying offer makes some sense, since Fish plus Felton (or a Felton Equivalent) plus Farmar is a logjam at the position.
Second, they could just tender the QO to Farmar and see what offers he picks up. I'm just guessing here, but I'd be surprised if there's another team out there willing to give Jordan MLE money. Let's say I'm right, and that the best third-party offer for Jordan is something in the neighborhood of $10 million over three years. If that's the case, I doubt Jordan signs the offer sheet. Instead, he comes back to the Lakers on a one-year deal and becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2011.
Third, the Lakers could simply withhold the QO, turning Farmar into an unrestricted free agent right away. That would mean the remaining backcourt minutes are split among Sasha Vujacic, Shannon Brown (assuming he exercises his one-year player option) and whatever flotsam the Lakers can scrape up for the veteran's minimum. (Think Earl Watson or Jamaal Tinsley.) This option gives you the least on-court talent but saves you the most money.
Personally, I'd like to see an upgrade on the Fish-Farmar point guard tandem. Since Fish isn't going anywhere, that means upgrading the "Farmar" side of the equation, which means a willingness on the part of the team to drop MLE-level cashishe. Whether that's in the offseason budget, I've no idea. If not, though, the franchise should at least be ready to hit Jordan with the QO, so that they keep him as the fallback plan if the outside market for his services isn't too expensive.
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