Lakers Rumors: No Remaining Free Agents Worth L.A.'s Mini Mid-Level Exception

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistAugust 9, 2012

NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 10:  Jodie Meeks #20 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on against the New Jersey Nets at Prudential Center on April 10, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey.  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 Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
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As the Los Angeles Lakers' roster overhaul continues throughout this 2012 NBA offseason, the team has seemingly entered the gathering-bench-assets phase of free agency.

And considering the splashes made already this offseason, it's not hard to see why.

The Lakers were (and still may be) a part of the Dwight Howard chase and made one of the year's more shocking moves by adding point guard Steve Nash via a sign-and-trade with the Phoenix Suns.

Recently the team brought in 16-year-veteran forward Antawn Jamison and re-signed forward/center Jordan Hill to solidify the team's interior defense and bench-scoring needs.

Up next for the Lakers is likely finding a cheap part on the exterior to back up starting guards Nash and Kobe Bryant.

As it now stands, the Lakers have just Steve Blake and Andrew Goudelock as reserves in the backcourt. For a team that has NBA Finals aspirations, neither player is going to cut it.

So the next move for general manager Mitch Kupchak will likely be finding the Lakers a shooting guard. But considering the dearth of talent remaining on the free-agent market and the team's salary commitments, the key will be finding a good price.

The deals for Hill and Jamison cost the Lakers just a combined $4.9 million for the 2012-13 season.

And after those deals, L.A. has $95.74 million in guaranteed salary commitments for next season. That puts the Lakers $37.7 million over the league's $58.04 million salary cap and (more importantly) $25.43 million over the NBA's luxury tax of $70.31 million.

Even with the league still at a dollar-for-dollar pay rate, Lakers owner Jim Buss will be writing a check for no less than $121.17 million.

Buss undoubtedly sent that memo to Kupchak, who told the Los Angeles Times on July 25 that it was unlikely that the team would add players for anything except the veteran's minimum salary of $1.5 million.

Kupchak didn't completely close the door on using the Lakers' mini mid-level exception worth $3 million, however. There would just have to be "credible value."

But considering the talent level left in the free-agent pool, Kupchak won't be finding that credible value anytime soon.

The Lakers have been linked to free-agent shooting guards Leandro Barbosa (via Hoopsworld's Eric Pincus) and Jodie Meeks (via Hoopsworld's Alex Kennedy), but neither player is worth $3 million for what the team needs.

Barbosa's explosive scoring is worth $3 million per season in a vacuum, but the Lakers need a seventh man who can play both ends of the floor. Not a microwave scorer who might as well not even run down the court on defense.

On the other hand, Meeks and the Lakers fit together like tomato soup and crackers. The 24-year-old former Kentucky star was out of place last season starting for the Philadelphia 76ers and should thrive in a bench role.

One problem: Meeks thinks he's worth more than the veteran's minimum.

"We're happy to talk, but we're not talking minimum for a guy like Jodie," Meeks' agent, David Bauman, told the L.A. Times in a phone interview on Monday. "He'll get more than the minimum wherever he signs."

That's awful blusterous talk for someone representing Meeks, a player whose 11.50 PER last season tied for 252nd in the league.

But this is the NBA, and if Kwame Brown can get $6 million guaranteed, then some team will give Meeks more than $1.5 million per season.

It just shouldn't be the Lakers.

If L.A. gives Meeks its mini mid-level, the team is actually paying $6 million when you include luxury-tax dollars. And if Meeks isn't worth $3 million, he sure as hell isn't worth double that.

Instead of spending their mini mid-level, the Lakers should simply give a player like Michael Redd a call.

Redd played with Nash last year in Phoenix and can offer Meeks' dead-eye shooting at a veteran's-minimum salary.

Regardless, if the Lakers choose to sign a player at the mini mid-level, they'll be massively overpaying. And considering none of these remaining free agents will swing the title come June, it's nonsensical to burn $6 million.