NBA Free Agency 2012: Realistic Targets L.A. Lakers Must Pursue

Ethan NorofCorrespondent IMay 23, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 05: Injured guard Chauncey Billups #1 of the Los Angeles Clippers helps out with some coaching from the bench during the game with the Memphis Grizzlies in Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 5, 2011 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. The Clippers won 87-86 to take a two games to one lead in the series.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

As the Los Angeles Lakers' roster is currently constructed, this is not a team that will be active in free agency during the 2012 offseason.

A lot of fans would like to have delusions of luring Deron Williams to town or bringing in another highly-decorated name, but the Lakers just don't have the financial flexibility to make that avenue a realistic one.

Although this Kobe Bryant-led club hasn't even sniffed the salary cap in recent seasons, there aren't going to be many options available via free agency when it comes to upgrading the talent around No. 24.

While we'll certainly be subjected to hearing Pau Gasol trade rumors once again (he's the logical piece to move), it's not going to be easy to find a palatable deal for the big man. With more than $38 million owed to Gasol over the next two seasons and his turning 32 years old in July, there isn't going to be a long list of teams willing to take a gamble on him going forward.

Beat writer Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times does a great job breaking down the situation.

The Lakers are so far over the luxury tax threshold that their main free-agent tool is the "mini" mid-level exception, which tops out at about $3 million in the first season.

The Lakers have already committed $78.4 million to only seven players next season, including a $16.1-million team option for Andrew Bynum that will be exercised before the June 30 deadline, General Manager Mitch Kupchak said.

Will No. 17 be complemented by No. 16 next season?
Will No. 17 be complemented by No. 16 next season?Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The Lakers can hope that some talented veteran will sign on for the "mini" mid-level exception (a la Shane Battier in Miami before this season), but the team isn't likely to find an impact player going that route. Beyond the mini mid-level, the Lakers have just veteran's minimum contracts at their disposal with the hope of vastly improving the second unit.

Needless to say, general manager Mitch Kupchak should have a very busy summer ahead. With definitive needs in a multitude of areas, it's not going to be easy. Los Angeles needs a backup shooting guard, more players who can effectively space the floor and still has problems at the point guard position.

Here are some free agents who could actually consider joining the Lakers for a discounted price, but each will have to buy into the notion of Los Angeles being capable of contending for a title next season.


Andre Miller, Point Guard

Miller would be the perfect point guard to throw lobs to Andrew Bynum for days on end, but he's not going to solve anything for the Lakers from the perimeter. A career 20.5 percent shooter from behind the three-point line, Miller's game is predicated on facilitating the offense and finding the open man.

It wouldn't be surprising to see him sign a cheap deal at this stage of his career having never won a championship, and he recently told the Denver Post that he wants to sign with a team that will compete for a title.

Tracy McGrady, Guard/Forward

McGrady didn't exactly "wow" anyone during his tenure in Atlanta this season, but that doesn't mean that he can't be an effective role player for a Lakers team that sorely needs help in the second unit. 

Able to pack up both the shooting guard and small forward positions, the biggest question mark that comes with McGrady is his health—can he hold up for a full season?

After signing a veteran's minimum deal with the Hawks prior to last season, it's hard to see why McGrady would command anything more this time around. McGrady had tweeted out a photo of himself wearing the purple and gold prior to this season beginning.

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 30:  Delonte West #13 of the Dallas Mavericks guards Jameer Nelson #14 of the Orlando Magic during the game at Amway Center on March 30, 2012 in Orlando, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloadi
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Delonte West, Guard

It was rather surprising that West didn't get a few more nibbles in the offseason and had to settle for a veteran's minimum deal with the Dallas Mavericks, but his history off the court likely had something to do with that.

Regardless of West's past transgressions, the combo guard remains extremely effective when utilized in the proper fashion, and there is no reason to think that he couldn't help the Lakers score from the outside.

He'd be more dynamic than anyone the Lakers had in the backcourt this season not named Kobe Bryant, and signing West is exactly the type of gamble Los Angeles needs to make.


Chauncey Billups, Point Guard

Billups saw his first (and only?) season with the Clippers come to a close early in the year due to a torn Achilles tendon, but he's vowed to come back and has no interest in retiring on a sour note.

With the desire to win another championship and a crazy-competitive drive that would mesh well with Bryant in the same starting backcourt, could Mr. Big Shot consider joining the Lakers?

In a move that could be extremely beneficial for both parties, Billups would allow the team to have someone capable of controlling the offensive flow and succeeding from the perimeter on a consistent basis.


Reggie Evans, Power Forward

Evans took some time to find a new home before the season, but he was a huge part of the Clippers' second unit and further asserted himself as a high-energy, hard-worker in the second unit.

For the Lakers, a team that signed Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy before the season began to "shore up" the frontcourt, adding a player like Evans addresses an area of need.

Evans will be an absolute banger beneath the basket on the defensive end, but nobody should be expecting him to contribute on offense.

There will be a lot of names associated with the Lakers throughout the offseason as Los Angeles looks to change the roster, but it's very obvious that the most major alteration is only going to come in one way—exploring the trade market.