The buyout market is officially set, at least for teams still aiming for the playoffs like the Los Angeles Lakers.
Friday marked the last day that a player could be waived and still be eligible to sign with a playoff team. For example, Pau Gasol was waived by the San Antonio Spurs on Friday, so he is able to sign with the Milwaukee Bucks and play for them in the playoffs. If he was waived a day later, his best chance at a championship would be with his former team in Barcelona.
The Lakers will look at the pool of players that were waived before Friday’s deadline for their last roster spot. Unfortunately for them, the market is bleak.
All of the players that would have moved the needle for the Lakers, like Wayne Ellington, Wesley Matthews, Jeremy Lin and Markieff Morris, signed with different teams last month. Of the players that were expected to become available, like Dewayne Dedmon, Robin Lopez, DeAndre Jordan and J.R. Smith, all are still with their respective teams.
With all of that being said, where do the Lakers go from here?
On Tuesday, Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times reported that Los Angeles was interested in adding another big man to their roster. As it stands, the Lakers have have four players that have spent the majority of their season playing center, according to Basketball Reference, but none of them are particularly good at it.
If only they had a promising young center on their roster.
There are a handful of centers that are still looking for NBA homes, like Brandan Wright and Greg Monroe, but their fits with this Lakers roster are questionable at best. Marcin Gortat would be a legitimately interesting option for L.A., but he reportedly has his eyes set on joining the Golden State Warriors.
Outside of Gortat, there aren’t any names that jump out as clear fits for the Lakers.
Tim Frazier would be nice, but he’d be nothing more than a stopgap until Lonzo Ball returns from injury. The same could be said of Michael Carter-Williams, Wade Baldwin IV and Milos Teodosic. In other words, the market is filled with guys worthy of a 10-day contract, but not anyone that will make a real difference for the Lakers, which is what they’re looking for. That’s a problem.
The biggest problem, though, is that they’re relying on the buyout market at all.
Last summer, the Lakers spent roughly $29 million on a veteran supporting cast for LeBron James. Of that $29 million, $21 million went to just Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Neither of them have been positive impact players for the Lakers this season.
The rest was spent on Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley and JaVale McGee. McGee and Stephenson had good starts to their Lakers career, but have since fallen back to earth. Beasley was traded to the Clippers along with Ivica Zubac for another player that hasn’t been very good in Mike Muscala.
For the same price, they could have retained Julius Randle and Brook Lopez, who both expressed interest in returning to the team this summer. They also could have also pursued actually good bench players like Nerlens Noel, Wayne Ellington, Shabazz Napier, Seth Curry or Nemanja Bjelica, to name a few.
Outside of signing LeBron James, the Lakers failed to assemble a playoff-worthy roster. A lot of that has to do with their unwillingness to sign players to multi-year contracts, but it also comes down to their sheer ability to evaluate talent.
There is plenty of blame to go around for the Lakers’ shortcomings this season, but it starts at the top.
Maybe they luck out and find an impact player with 20 games left in the season, but it’s more likely that they end up with a Carmelo Anthony. To borrow a phrase from a friend, #StayMe7o.