Los Angeles Lakers: Best Free Agent Options This Offseason
The Los Angeles Lakers are desperate to drastically upgrade the team this offseason, and because they seemingly always do, look for the Lakers to bring in some top-tier talent via free agency. Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak's targets should include Steve Nash, Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams and others.
Since the majority of the Lakers' cash is tied up in lucrative contracts, the team will not be able to simply go out and sign top free agents. Instead, the Laker brass will need to get creative and pull off a sign-and-trade in order land some elite players this summer.
As it stands, the largest contract the Lakers can offer a free agent is a "mini" mid-level exception worth $3 million. Obviously, a sign-and-trade is absolutely necessary.
Here are the best free agent options for the Lakers this 2012 offseason.
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Just kidding, Laker fans.
Let's move on.
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Despite the Lakers' unfortunate financial situation, Delonte West may be one of the few players that the Lakers could sign without having to execute a sign-and-trade. The seven-year-veteran made just under $1 million this past season with Dallas, so signing a $3 million "mini" mid-level exception to come to L.A. would be quite the upgrade.
West would provide the Lakers with an extremely solid sixth man. He has the ability to play the point and has the size and athleticism to play the 2. The combo guard is a feisty defender, makes three-pointers consistently (37 percent on his career) and has proven to be a dynamic scorer in stretches.
Signing West would give the Lakers some much-needed versatility and provide Kobe Bryant with a legitimate backup shooting guard. This is a move the team should absolutely make, whether or not they land one of the superstars they're targeting.
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Miles has been one of the most underrated scorers in the league in recent years and would bring with him the ability to play multiple positions, decent athleticism and a legitimate scoring threat off the bench. The six-year veteran would be able to replace Matt Barnes off the bench and would also be able to spot Kobe when need be.
Athleticism at the small forward position and bench scoring are two of the biggest issues that plagued the Lakers last season. Bringing in Miles would tremendously help solve both of those problems.
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Not to mention Billups made just $2 million in 2011-2012, suggesting he would likely accept the $3 million "mini" MLE that the Lakers would offer.
Billups also brings something that the aforementioned West and Miles do not—championship pedigree. The five-time all-star won an NBA championship and the NBA Finals MVP Trophy in 2004 with the Detroit Pistons. That sort of experience and leadership in the locker room would prove to be extremely valuable especially considering the Lakers traded away one of their long-time leaders in Derek Fisher this past season.
Some have speculated about the 35-year-old's retirement after suffering a torn achilles earlier this season. But Billups isn't planning on walking away this summer (via LATimes.com).
No, sir. There is no way I'm going to crawl out of the league, Billups said Tuesday. I'm going to be back. Trust me.
Whether he were to start at point guard or come off the bench as a sixth man combo guard, Mr. Big Shot would provide the Lakers with a legitimate scorer and savvy distributor—career averages of 15.5 points per game and 5.5 assists per game.
Laker fans should pray that management uses that "mini" MLE on Billups, as he seems to be the best player available at such a low price.
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Steve Nash would fit nicely with the Lakers, giving them their best point guard since Magic. His ability to create would mesh nicely with Bryant, Andrew Bynum and the rest of the squad.
The presence of a floor general like Nash—who is a master at creating shots for others—would help hide Mike Brown's atrocious offense. He is the sort of player that immediately makes everyone on the team better due to his playmaking ability.
This past season Nash helped Marcin Gortat—who has never been known to light up the scoreboard—average 15.4 points per game to lead the Suns. If he can elevate Gortat's scoring to that level, imagine how much Nash's presence would help all-star Andrew Bynum.
It is highly unlikely Nash would accept a $3 million MLE after making $11,689,062 million this past season in Pheonix. Therefore, the Lakers would need to execute a sign-and-trade in order to obtain the two-time MVP. A package would likely be built around Pau Gasol—as the Lakers desperately want to wipe his remaining $38 million off their books.
Obviously, it takes two teams to execute a trade. The likelihood the Suns would take Gasol—a soft 32-year-old (on July 7) on the decline—and his massive contract and send their most beloved player in franchise history to a division rival is meager.
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After a postseason in which Kevin Garnett averaged 19.2 points and 10.4 rebounds, the 36-year-old has found himself near the top of available free agents this summer. His 2012 playoff campaign proved that Garnett is still a very efficient offensive player and perhaps the best defensive power forward in the NBA.
The Big Ticket would fit tremendously well in Los Angeles. His ability to knock down the 18-to-20 foot jump shot consistently means he and Bynum would not clash on the low block, as Bynum and Gasol often did this past season.
Even more importantly, Garnett's work ethic and intensity on defense would resonate with his teammates and turn the Lakers into one of the best defensive teams in the league.
In order to land the former MVP, the Lakers and Celtics would need to agree to a sign-and-trade. Once again, the package would likely be created around Gasol. Earlier in the year the Celtics reportedly showed interest in Gasol, and it was the Lakers who weren't willing to part with the big Spaniard—ironic.
Nevertheless, those reports create a slight glimmer of hope for Laker fans who want to see KG come to L.A. Shaun Powell of NBA.com also considers the Lakers a slight possibility.
However, this trade is unlikely, as Garnett and Gasol's value shot in polar opposite directions in the 2012 playoffs.
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At this point in the Deron Williams sweepstakes, SI.com's Sam Amick (via CBSSports.com) reports that the Nets are the leader, with the Mavericks and Lakers also in contention to land the most coveted free agent in 2012.
The Lakers should be doing everything in their power to coerce the three-time all-star to put on purple and gold next season. Of course, the team does not have the financial flexibility to sign Williams, so a sign-and-trade would be needed to bring the Texan to L.A.
Williams is well aware of the Lakers' tight financial situation (via LATimes.com).
I know they don't have any money to just go out and sign me, said Williams, who has a player option for $17.8 million next season with New Jersey. It'll have to be some kind of deal.
That deal would ideally involve Gasol, but according to New York Daily News reporter Stefan Bondy (via CBSSports.com), the Nets are not interested in absorbing Gasol's contract—which has $38.3 million remaining over the next two seasons.
It seems that the only possible way the Lakers are going to land D-Will is to involve Bynum in the trade. If the Nets were to agree to a swap involving Bynum, the Lakers should jump at that opportunity. Pairing Williams with Bryant in the backcourt would elevate this team to new heights, despite Bynum's absence.
Williams is a bona fide baller and is arguably the best point guard in the NBA. Not to mention his extraordinary ability to step up during crunch time. In his last postseason campaign in 2010 with the Utah Jazz, Williams averaged 24.3 points and 10.2 assists in 10 games.
He would immediately make everyone else on the team better, as he is a pass-first point guard but certainly has the ability to take over a game at any point—evidenced by his 57-point performance this year.
While this trade seems unlikely at this point, thousands of Laker fans are hoping it comes to fruition. We are still weeks away from the beginning of free agency, when all the dominoes begin to fall into place. And the Lakers are hoping D-Will falls right into their laps.