It's hard to conceive a situation where the Lakers would be under the new NBA salary cap (around $58 million) in the 2012 offseason. With Kobe Bryant pulling down a cool $28 million in 2012-2013, even if GM Mitch Kupchak traded both Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, taking back the minimum amount of salary, and renouncing the rights to every possible free agent, LA would still be over the cap.
That all being said, let's focus on what the Lakers DO have to offer, in regards to free agency:
- A mini mid-level exception, which amounts to $3.1 million annually, for up to three years. The exception can be used each year (for example, just because the Lakers used this type of contract to sign Josh McRoberts last year, doesn't prohibit them from using it again this year), and split up amongst multiple players
- The veteran's minimum, which was around $1.3 million last year. It should be around the same for the 2012-2013 season.
- Bird rights on unrestricted free agents Jordan Hill and Ramon Sessions, which essentially means that the over the cap Lakers can sign them for more than the mini mid-level exception
Unfortunately, that's it. The Lakers are way over the salary cap threshold, and under the new collective bargaining agreement rules, luxury tax-paying teams are extremely restricted in regards to signing free agents (if you truly want to nerd-out, check out Larry Coon's Salary Cap FAQ. It's the bible for writing posts like these).
As Kupchak has admitted, this offseason will be one of change for the Los Angeles Lakers. It's the common public consensus that the front office will make a big trade involving either Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, or both, but even so, the team will still have the same basic needs: a back-up and/or (without a trade) starting point guard, a small forward and a back-up big man. With any of those added personnel, the preferred prerequisite would be that the new Buss employee be a knock-down shooter in order to provide the floor spacing the Lakers so sorely lacked this year.
Knowing the Lakers' limited resources, we here at SS&R HQ have come up with a list of free agents that could potentially be in purple in gold come the fall. These free agents are all well within the realm of possibility - that being said, I'm going to rule out pipe dreams like Steve Nash, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Ray Allen. Any one of them would have to take a MASSIVE pay cut to join the Lakers (I suspect that all four of those players are going to get at least $8+ million per year), not to mention that all four have at least 14 seasons of rivalry with Kobe and the Show that would probably curb them from signing in LA.
Last week, Actuarially Sound and I covered potential trade targets for the Lakers this summer. Now, let's check out the potential free agents the Lakers could move on going forward:Point Guards
- Why would the Lakers want him: Which Sessions was the real deal Holyfield? The guy who averaged 12/4/6 on 47% shooting and confidently shot 3's at a 48% clip? Or was it the guy that looked like he had just seen a screening of Prometheus, throwing down a feeble 10/3/3 line on 37% shooting and an unreal 16% from distance? Either way, Sessions might not be a starting point guard, but he certainly is more than a competent back-up. Regardless of if the Lakers make a trade for another PG, an investment in Sessions (if he opts out of his $4.3 million dollar option next year) could be wise.
- What it would take to sign him: 3 years, $14 million. Sessions' value was never lower than after his awful showing against the Thunder, so the Lakers could actually be getting a deal for a still-talented young guard. Yesterday, Ramon opted out of his $4.5 million deal for the 2012-13 season, wanting more long-term security. The team still has his bird rights, which means that they'll be able to competitively vie for his services with other teams. However, if the Lakers are to acquire another starting PG, it's more of a matter if Ramon wants to come back and vie with Steve Blake for minutes as a back-up.
- Why would the Lakers want him: Farmar left the Lakers after the 2010 title run, wanting to "expand his game" as potentially the starting point guard for the (then) rebuilding New Jersey Nets. He signed a 2-year, $7 million dollar deal, and helped them to 46 wins...in two seasons. An inconsistent shooter with the Lakers (36% from distance), Farmar has improved his 3-point acumen a good deal, throwing down a 41% touch from the arc with the Nets. He's competent with the rock, a decent passer, unafraid to take it to the rim, and as documented, a solid shooter.
- What it would take to sign him: 2 years, $6 million. Farmar's skill set screams back-up, so he should be paid accordingly.
- Why would the Lakers want him: Once a blue-chip prospect with the Portland Trailblazers, the former Arizona Wildcat's stock has fallen considerably since his 11th overall pick in the 2008 draft. He had a bit of a breakout 2012, scoring 11 points with nearly 4 assists on a 42/42/85 shooting clip for the Raptors. Bayless is (and always has been) lightning fast to the rack and is an extremely dangerous streak shooter. He's still only 23 years old, so perhaps an investment in a now back-up could bear fruit as a future starter.
- What it would take to sign him: 3 years, $9 million. The Lakers would have to go the full mid-level for Bayless, which could be worth it. His stock is relatively high right now, but perhaps playing back close to his Arizona home and the chance to be teammates with Kobe Bryant could help.
- Why would the Lakers want him: Because I'm watching the NBA Finals as we speak, and Derek Fisher still looks like a competent major league player. Fish is not a starting-caliber point guard anymore (has he been for the past two seasons?), but he's certainly got enough juice to play back-up minutes, knock down threes and of course, be on the court during crunch time. There's certainly some bitterness between Derek and the team, but perhaps the Lakers misjudged a player who came into camp out of shape and exhausted from months of lockout negotiations. L.A. missed his leadership, and with a brand-new team (potentially), the Show could use a vet like Fish.
- What it would take to sign him: 2-years, $4 million. Derek has stated a few times that he'd like to play a couple more seasons in the league, and thus the multi-year deal. My thinking is that the Lakers will have to be competitive in their pricing for Fish, as a lot of other teams will be jockeying for a clutch vet, who has no problem leading a potential title winner and galvanizing a locker room. It would be appropriate for one of the most important players in team history to finish his career in purple and gold.
Other options: CJ Miles, Jonny Flynn, Keyon Dooling
Pipe Dreams: Jason Terry, Steve Nash, Jamal Crawford, Lou Williams, Andre Miller
- Why would the Lakers want him: DeShawn Stevenson is lacking a lot of things, but he could just have the couple the Lakers need. In consistent minutes, Stevenson has shown a decent shooter's touch, with a 35% accuracy over the past 5 seasons. He's a lock-down defender who, as shown with his starting position in Dallas during their Finals run in 2011, has the swag to not only take the big shot, but guard the opposing team's best player. He's a little bit crazy and braggadocios, but to be honest, I think the sometimes lethargic Lakers could use that injection of life.
- What it would take to sign him: 1 year, $2 million. DeShawn is pretty much a year-to-year player at this point, and would be happy to be contending for another chip.
- Why would the Lakers want him: Wafer's second tour of duty with the Lakers would be for one reason, and one reason only: he bombs from downtown. He's been given consistent minutes the past three seasons, and has given Houston, Boston and Orlando 35% on threes. Wafer is deceiving explosive to the rim, so he's not simply a spot-up shooter like say, Jason Kapono.
- What it would take to sign him: 1 year, $1.3 million. Von is a minimum salaried player, so he should be happy to be offered a spot on a contending team's roster. He's definitely worth bringing to camp, and seeing if he has enough to play back-up guard minutes.
- Why would the Lakers want him: Everything positive I've said about DeShawn Stevenson, except without the crazy. Pietrus is first the lock-down wing defender that the Lakers need, and second the long-range bomber, shooting 36% for his career.
- What it would take to sign him: 2 years, $6 million. Pietrus somewhat rebuilt his value in Boston last season after being cut by Phoenix in December, so a 1-year pact doesn't seem at all out of sorts. From all accounts, he's a good, hard-working teammate, and his versatility at the 2 and 3 spot is what could make him especially appealing to the Lakers.
- Why would the Lakers want him: Foye is most comfortable driving to the rim or shooting from the arc, which he's done to a 36% clip his whole career. He's proved with the Clippers that he's at least a proficient defender and a tough, tough player. He'd serve best as a back-up shooting guard and sometimes leading the offense for the Lakers.
- What it would take to sign him: 2 years, $6 million. Foye's last deal with the Clips was 2 years, $9 million, so his management could perceive that he's out of the Lakers' price range. His skill set however, certainly indicates otherwise.
- Why would the Lakers want him: He'd give the Lakers what they thought they were going to get in Steve Blake. West is a savvy combo-guard who can handle the rock and plays well off-ball. He's a solid shooter from long (37% career), but can also drive and dish. A long-term contract has thus far eluded him because of health issues, both physical and mental.
- What it would take to sign him: 1 year, $2 million. West has been taking the minimum salary for a couple years now, but a solid season (though typically ridden with injury) has upped his value a bit, but not enough to keep him out of LA's budget.
Other options: Roger Mason, Sam Young, Bill Walker, Willie Green, Shannon Brown
Pipe Dreams: Ray Allen, Nick Young
- Why would the Lakers want him: Barnes' injury-riddled playoffs really sullied what was one of his finest seasons in his career. To the fervent observer, the Lakers' small forward was one of the team's most valuable role players. He rarely took contested shots, always seemed to make the right pass and was frequently there to clean up misses with a put-back. A very cerebral player, Barnes has (in my eyes) turned himself into a sort of Shane Battier lite, shooting a respectable 35% from three, playing fantastic perimeter defense and showing a flair for rebounding.
- What it would take to sign him: 1 year, $2 million. Unfortunately for the Lakers, Barnes' sprained ankle really hampered his production against the Nuggets and especially the Thunder. However, the silver living has to be that perhaps Barnes put himself back into the Lakers' price range. Matt isn't a starting caliber 3 anymore, but a back-up role would be a great fit once again.
- Why would the Lakers want him: His shooting, slashing and energy, plain and simple. Fernandez will never be a great wing defender, but his 3-point touch (36% career) and his ability to slash and finish at the rim will make him a welcome addition to a Lakers team that often needed better spacing and penetration.
- What it would take to sign him: 3 years, $8 million. Fernandez is still young and in his prime, but hasn't kept it a secret when he's been unhappy in his professional life. He finished the season hurt for the Nuggets, who have a logjam at the small forward spot with Wilson Chandler, Cory Brewer and Danilo Gallinari. I wouldn't be surprised if Denver didn't match any contract offered for him. He's been rumored for years to want to go back to his native Spain, so maybe a long-term deal would be enough to get him to come to L.A. Pau's future as a Laker is tenuous, but a good word from his Olympic teammate couldn't hurt as well.
- Just wanted to see if you were still paying attention
- Why would the Lakers want him: A throw-in body to the Derek Fisher trade in February, Hill came out of nowhere the last month of the season and forced himself into the Lakers rotation. He averaged 5 points and 7 rebounds in seven games against Denver, but his impact exceeded mere numbers. His hustle, energy and timely offensive rebounds helped sustain a Lakers big man corp that eventually ran out of gas in the second round. He's only 24 and along with his visible defensive and rebounding presence, Hill has shown flashes of offensive potential that made him a lottery pick in 2009.
- What it would take to sign him: 4 years, $17 million. The Houston Rockets declined their option on Hill before the trade with the Lakers, so he'll be an unrestricted free agent in a matter of weeks. In a free agent market largely devoid of big men, I expect that a 24 year-old with an insatiable appetite for rebounding and defending will be a hot commodity. Since the Lakers own his bird rights, they would be able to offer up to a 5 year, $21 million dollar deal. However, seeing as four-plus year deals haven't been kind to the Lakers haven't been kind in the past (see Walton, Luke; World Peace, Metta; Blake, Steve), I can see them staying around $17 million.
- Why would the Lakers want him: Out of all the free agent big men in the Lakers' price range, remarkably, K-Mart might be the best shooting big of the lot. He's not fantastic from 16 feet to the three-point line at 34%, but he's unafraid to take the shot and opposing teams have to respect it defensively. Martin is still a solid post defender and rebounder, and wouldn't have a problem coming off the bench for a contending team like the Lakers.
- What it would take to sign him: 2 years, $6 million. This contract offer might be a bit of a pipe dream to sign Martin, but provided the Lakers make enough changes to look like a Western Conference Finalist, the 2000 first overall pick could be convinced to take a slight pay cut for a ring.
- Why would the Lakers want him: He's young, cheap and plays hard. There's not a lot of complexity to McGuire's game, but his extended time as a starter for the injury-riddled Warriors this year gave us all some insight as to what kind of player he could be given time.
- What it would take to sign him: 2 years, $3 million. He's definitely a redundant player given that McRoberts is still a Laker, but McGuire does the same things, presumably for cheaper. Probably not an immediate fit with the team as is, but if the Lakers' big man needs change after a trade or two, McGuire could be a great fit.
Pipe Dreams: Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Antawn Jamison, JJ Hickson
- Why would the Lakers want him: Similar to McGuire, it's not really hard to understand what Aaron Gray does - he's a mammoth human being (7 feet, 270 lbs) who can rebound, guard the interior and finish plays. He's relatively cheap, always plays hard and put into the right environment, could be very useful in a limited role.
- What it would take to sign him: 1 year, $2 million. Again, similar to McGuire, Gray is a luxury-item as is for the Lakers, but preceding personnel moves could change this. Unlike the other center listed below, Gray is still young and healthy.
Other Options: Jermaine O'Neal, Nazr Mohammed, Joel Przybilla
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