LA Lakers: 8 Struggling Young Players Who the Lakers Can Sign on the Cheap
The lack of depth on the Los Angeles Lakers team was beaten to death during the 2012 NBA Playoffs. Ultimately it did prove to aid their demise in the second round. The Lakers bench and role players did not have enough to help the stars overcome Oklahoma City's complete team.
Luckily for Los Angeles, the 2012 free agent class is littered with inexpensive youngsters who are still fighting to make a name for themselves in the NBA. With a large chuck of cash tied up in their star players, the Lakers will need to search among the low-cost free agents to find players they can bring in to help solidify their team.
The inherent risk here is overpaying for the wrong player. NBA free agency is an inexact science, however since the Lakers are already limited money-wise, their risk is lowered as well.
Thanks in part to Kobe Bryant's age defiance and the emergence of a consistent Andrew Bynum, the Lakers window has been propped back open. No matter where Pau Gasol winds up on opening day, the Lakers should take a long look at these eight bargain-bin players who can help Los Angeles advance to another championship and won't break the bank.
Lavoy Allen certainly upped his value with his performance in the playoffs this season. He improved his production from the regular season and seemed to be the only 76er with a prayer of stopping Kevin Garnett in the second round.
All in all, Allen shot an impressive 59-percent from the field in the playoffs and grabbed five rebounds while blocking a shot per game.
While Allen is a restricted free agent this offseason, Philadelphia is dealing with nine total free agents. They will not be able to keep all of them, so it is up to teams like Los Angeles to come in with the right number to swipe up the 23-year-old power forward.
The Lakers could stand to spend a little bit on Allen and see how he matures in his second year in the league. He has the size that will help battle the elite bigs in the Western Conference like the Oklahoma City and Memphis duos, Andrew Bogut, Kevin Love and Al Jefferson.
Allen made just $473,000 as a rookie and stands to see a minor increase, but he represents real value for whoever can pry him out of Philadelphia.
J.J. Hickson is an intriguing option for Los Angeles. The Portland Trailblazers have the option of extending a $3.3 million qualifying offer to him which would effectively take him off the market. However, if they opt not to, that opens the doors for teams like the Lakers to make a push.
Hickson does have his fair share of question marks as he was waived by Sacramento earlier in the season before resurrecting his game in the Pacific Northwest. All told, Hickson finished the season averaging eight points and six rebounds per game. Still, those numbers were inflated during his 19 games as a Blazer.
Hickson is just 23 years old and only three years removed from a first round selection in the 2008 Draft. There is still considerable potential to be released from his solid 6'9" frame and a new start on a playoff team could let it out.
You might remember Edwin Ubiles from the NCAA Tournament upsets he was a part of with Siena College. However, unless you are a D-League aficionado, you probably haven't been following the 25-year-old guard recently.
Ubiles starred for the Dakota Wizards of the NBA's Developmental League last year, earning the league's Rookie of the Year award. He averaged 20 points and five rebounds per game before being called up to the NBA with the Washington Wizards where he saw action in just four games. Ubiles was also named to the first team All D-League.
He has NBA size at 6'6" and 205 pounds and great scoring ability. The Lakers would be taking a chance on Ubiles that he could come in and make some noise off the bench. He has proven an ability to score in quick bursts from anywhere on the floor. He posted a 50-percent clip from the field and 34-percent from deep.
Ubiles is an unrestricted free agent and would come incredibly cheap to Los Angeles. He has the skill set to replace Devin Ebanks, should he leave in free agency.
After struggling out in Portland since being drafted in the second round, Patrick Mills had a strong finish to the season playing with the San Antonio Spurs. He averaged ten points per game for the season.
Mills provides added youth and depth at the point guard spot, which was once again shaky for the Lakers. Despite adding Ramon Sessions, Los Angeles was still left with a lack of production from the spot in the playoffs. Steve Blake can't get it done when Sessions is not playing well. It might be time to make the move to a younger player and give him a chance to prove himself.
Mills is an unrestricted free agent and made only $220 thousand last season. The 23-year-old has just been waiting for his shot and has improved dramatically with each season in which he received more playing time. He can shoot the deep ball as well, something that is very important for the Lakers. Mills hit 28-of-63 three pointers with the Spurs.
Jodie Meeks is another one of the nine Philadelphia 76ers free agents to hit the market this offseason. Like Allen, he will be restricted, however his one-dimensional play may make him expendable in Philly.
Meeks is an athletic scorer who averaged eight points per game, playing in 25 minutes a night last season. The 24-year-old second rounder was signed for under $900 thousand last season, making him very affordable to the Lakers.
He can put it in from downtown as well, shooting at a 37-percent clip last season. Meeks is a streaky shooter who has the potential to become an important role player on an elite team. Los Angeles can spare the short change it would take to bring in the athletic Meeks and then see what happens.
Admittedly, I am stretching the youth qualification for the 26-year-old Gerald Green. This former first round pick and veteran of a few 10-day contracts may have finally figured the NBA game out.
Sure, you will always get an outrageous highlight dunk every couple games, but towards the end of last season in New Jersey, Green started to showcase improvements in other areas.
He was shooting the ball with a consistency no one knew he had. Green started hitting those ever-important long balls to the tune of a 39-percent clip, and he showed dramatic improvements on the defensive side of the ball.
Green earned south of $300 thousand last season and should come to the Lakers for very little cash. He gives Los Angeles a fan-favorite highflyer and they already are aware of the small forward from his time with the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the D-League where he lit up the scoreboard in 2011.
Plus look how impressed Kobe Bryant is with this move.
Has Hasheem Thabeet reached Kwame Brown/Michael Olowokandi level yet? After just three years, I am not yet ready to give up on the former University of Connecticut star.
The Lakers still need some center depth, as behind Andrew Bynum currently sits Troy Murphy and Jordan Hill. Thabeet has been tossed around for the entirety of his two-year NBA career and an offer from and elite team like the Lakers would go a long way in steadying the big man's nerves.
His potential to be a shot-blocking and lane-clogging center is still there, it has just yet to be utilized. If defensive minded Mike Brown can sink his claws into an athletic 7'3" player, we may start to see something. Maybe we can finally witness some of the potential that led to Thabeet being selected second overall in 2009.
Thabeet has had his club option and qualifying offer stripped from the books and will be looking to sign for short money somewhere. The Lakers could take a chance on him and see if he develops into a suitable backup to Bynum.
Landry Fields may be the toughest player on this list for Los Angeles to sign. He is a restricted free agent with the New York Knicks and they are certainly interested in bringing him back.
The Knicks are preoccupied right now with decisions on Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak, as well as a variety of pipe-dream trade scenarios. They are not spending much time looking into Fields and that could be the Lakers opportunity to swoop in and snatch him up. It will take more than most would like to pay for the Knicks not to match it, but it could pay dividends in the long haul.
Fields is coming off a minor sophomore slump this season which saw his production drop slightly from his stellar rookie season. This has certainly hampered the former second-round pick's value.
Fields brings size on defense, along with intangibles and the ability to knock down open threes. Matt Barnes has not lived up to expectations in Los Angeles, and Fields can step into that slot with relative ease.
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