The projections for the upcoming campaign have not been all that positive for the Los Angeles Lakers, unless of course you’re Mike D’Antoni, living in your own dream world where this team is reasonably capable and Kobe Bryant is definitely healthy enough to come back and carry your team to an opening night victory.
After losing out on Dwight Howard, the Lakers plans for the future have all but crashed and burned into the upcoming season, the last in which they will be paying the hefty salaries of Pau Gasol and Bryant. Next season, the Lakers have a mere $12 million committed to players, down from $76 million for the 14 or so players currently inhabiting the roster.
Missing the postseason is never much of an option for the Lakers. From the high expectations of their high profile fans to an incredible history as possibly the greatest basketball organization ever to grace the NBA, the Lakers are supposed to be playing come May. But with their current squad and its ailments, that doesn’t seem likely. They have a pair of veteran guards in Bryant and Steve Nash who are plagued by health concerns and Gasol, the only big man left standing, who has plenty of injury troubles of his own.
Top that off with the fact that they have a coach who preaches a high scoring, no defense philosophy and you have to say that it doesn’t look good for Laker fans who are about to endure a period of Los Angeles Clipper success for the first time since L.A. became a two team city.
The Lakers need help and they need it now, but they’ve missed out on nearly every player that could have made a difference toward them making the postseason next year. Their biggest free agent acquisition of the summer has been Chris Kaman, a perfectly serviceable center for the season who was willing to sign a one year deal but provides no guarantees concerning his health, and Nick Young, a player signed to backup Kobe Bryant who is sure to miss some sort of time this season as he returns from Achilles surgery.
Most free agents in the NBA have been signed to a new team at this juncture in the summer, but there are still a handful of useful free agents out there who still have some sort of NBA future ahead of them. Here are five that are still available and could possibly help D’Antoni survive in basketball’s land of great expectations until their rebuilding year in 2014.
1. Corey Maggette-While Maggette is not the player he once was, he is still a player that can come in at the small forward position, an area the Lakers are currently a bit weak in, and provide some scoring and range from the field. For his career, the 33-year old has averaged 16 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists per game and when healthy, shoots closer to 35% from three point range rather than his career average of 32%. By no means does Maggette make the Lakers a contender for so much as an eight seed, but he could help ease the scoring burden on Bryant and come at a reasonable price. In recent weeks, the former Clipper has been examining his options for life after basketball, so finding himself on any roster at a veterans minimum price tag would suit him just fine.
2. Lamar Odom-It’s been a strange descent from NBA champion to where Odom is now, an unwanted 33-year old free agent with diminished skills. But Odom still possesses two facets of his game that could be of great use to the Lakers. First, he is a decent defender and at 6-foot-10 inches tall, can defend a wide range of opposing players. Second, Odom still possesses a decent mid range game, a discipline that D’Antoni demands from his big men. Odom is only two years removed from being a Laker, so fitting in should be no trouble, but whether or not he could get back to 14 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks per night averages he mustered in his final year as a Laker, is a bit unpredictable. Odom is not the same player he once was, his confidence clearly shaken during his travels to Dallas and back to L.A. with the Clippers. He could be signed on a relatively cheap deal for the Lakers and bring him home to the team he once played some of the best basketball of his career with.
3. Sebastian Telfair-By no means would this be a marquee signing for the Lakers, but banking on Steve Nash staying healthy is a risk the team can’t really take, especially when you consider their second line option is Steve Blake, followed by none other than the disaster in motion that is Chris Duhon. Telfair is a player that has never had much in the way of quality coaching and could possibly still be molded. It would cost the Lakers very little and if D’Antoni could get the 27-year old NBA journeyman to run his offense with any kind of skill, it would be in the Lakers interest to pay his minimal salary to achieve some more depth at the point guard position.
4. Ronnie Brewer-By no means does Brewer fit the ideal of D’Antoni’s style of play, but he is a guy who can get to the basket with reasonable effectiveness and guard both opposing wings and two guards. He wouldn’t cost a lot of money and probably wouldn’t see a ton of time on the floor at his traditional two guard spot once Bryant is healthy, but would give the team some depth at small forward and a player who, while not great, is serviceable on the defensive end of the floor.
5. Sam Young-Another small forward available on the cheap is Young. At different times during his four year career, Young has shown potential to make plays and rebound effectively. He wouldn’t be a starter for D’Antoni, but a reasonable bench option. His three point shooting percentages appear to be on a yo-yo string and defensively he is a far cry from the player the Lakers amnestied after last season in Metta World Peace, but they have to do something to address their lack of small forward depth and a scoring option off the wing. His per 36 minute averages are respectable, so perhaps if handed a starting role with the Lakers, Young could find some success.