Potential Free-Agent Bargains LA Lakers Must Pursue During 2013 Offseason
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The Los Angeles Lakers are in that gray area, otherwise known as "between here and there." Their offseason is filled with more unresolved questions than a Tom Clancy murder mystery.
The only sure thing the Lakers know is they desperately need roster talent to support the core superstars who do return to the team in the fall. And they need to accomplish this with an extremely limited budget, being the victims of the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement, which punishes the big spenders.
Dwight Howard's decision on whether to sign a long-term deal or leave Los Angeles for supposed greener pastures will determine what direction the Lakers should take in terms of additional personnel. Still, management can ill afford to sit around and wait, as the Lakers' competitors will also be in the hunt for potential free-agent bargains.
The "here and there" for Los Angeles refers to the team's current, bloated payroll for 2013 and its eventual (2014) restructuring, with most players being off the financial books a year from now. Regardless of what Howard decides to do, the Lakers will still enter the season with few resources with which to make big acquisitions.
The team was more than $55 million over the salary cap last season. If Howard signs an extension and the Lakers keep Pau Gasol, the luxury tax will be even higher this year.
In other words, the Lakers are shopping the bargain bin, hoping to find one or two steals who will make a noticeable difference and give life to the team's anemic bench. They've done it before, so there's no reason the Lakers can't do it again.
Anthony Morrow: Dallas Mavericks Shooting Guard
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Anthony Morrow would bring a stellar outside-shooting resume to the Los Angeles Lakers. He also has a good friend in Dwight Howard.
Morrow came to the Mavericks last season at the trade deadline (the Mavs sent Dahntay Jones to Atlanta in return). As Dallas Coach Rick Carlisle said of Morrow when they traded for him (via the Dallas News):
"He’s one of the best shooters in the game. And you can never have too many shooters."
Despite an exceptional shooting percentage and great range from beyond the arc, Morrow never did fit into the Mavericks scheme. In 17 games with the Mavs, Morrow barely got on the court, averaging 4.8 minutes, two shot attempts and 2.3 points per game.
The former Georgia Tech shooting guard is a free agent this summer, hoping to get a shot with a team that will maximize his three-point shooting ability. The Lakers, desperately needing perimeter shooters, would be a perfect landing spot for the 6'5" Morrow.
Undrafted out of college, Morrow was originally signed by Golden State and led the NBA in three-point shooting, the first rookie and first Warrior ever to do so. His first NBA start, against the Los Angeles Clippers, saw Morrow score 37 points on 15-for-20 shooting.
But Morrow was the forgotten man in 2012-13, averaging just 12.4 minutes and 5.2 points with Atlanta before being dealt to the Mavericks.
If he likes the prospect of playing in Los Angeles alongside his friend, D12, and is willing to take less money, Morrow will find a welcome home at Staples Center.
DeJuan Blair: Offensive-Minded Center, San Antonio Spurs
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DeJuan Blair lost significant court minutes in 2012-13, as the San Antonio Spurs relied more and more on Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw. His 14 minutes per game were, by far, the lowest of his four-year career.
The undersized (6'7", 260-pound) center is capable of 20-25 minutes and 10-12 points per game and would provide spark off the bench for the Lakers. Blair is just 24 and made $1.054 million last season before becoming a free agent this offseason.
As characterized by writer Jesse Blanchard on ProjectSpurs.com late last season, Blair "retained enough offensive value in the proper context to help offset his (size) deficiencies and remain a viable rotation player.
"His low base and wide stature allow him to set some brutal picks, and his agility, soft hands, long arms, and understanding of space and timing made him a favorite pick-and-roll weapon of Manu Ginobili."
Blair is a career 53 percent shooter, with the ability to snare half a dozen rebounds a game. He averaged 9.5 points in 21 minutes for the Spurs during the 2011-12 season before his minutes were greatly reduced in 2012-13.
The Lakers need youth, energy and athleticism. A second-round pick in 2009 by the Spurs (University of Pittsburgh), Blair would provide all three.
Lamar Odom: Former Sixth Man Still Valuable as a Lakers PF
Lamar Odom averaged 19.7 minutes and 4 points per game last season for the Los Angeles Clippers. At a salary of $8.2 million, the former NBA Sixth Man of the Year might have been the most overpriced reserve in the game.
Some may think it crazy to pursue the 33-year-old former Lakers power forward this offseason, but what do the Lakers have to lose? After all, Odom is just a couple of seasons removed from 32 minutes, 14 points and 9 rebounds a game while playing for the Lakers.
After leaving the Lakers in 2011 to play for Dallas, Odom seemed to lose any motivation and focus that made him so valuable to the purple and gold during his seven years at Staples Center. A very emotional player, Odom just couldn't seem to get over the Lakers' attempt to trade him for Chris Paul back in December of 2010.
A lot has changed since then. What hasn't changed is Odom's passing, scoring and rebounding abilities. Even at 33 and a step or two slower, Odom remains one of the most skilled big men in the game.
This may be a situation where the Lakers and Odom need each other. The team has not had a true clubhouse leader since both Odom and Derek Fisher left. Even if for just one year, Lamar Odom back on the Lakers should provide that clubhouse camaraderie the team has sorely lacked.
Odom must rededicate himself and take a huge pay cut to come back with the Lakers. It may be a long shot, but it is worth the risk.
A fit and happy L.O. in a Lakers uniform could provide tremendous benefits to teammates and the entire organization.
Corey Brewer: Denver Nuggets Small Forward
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Corey Brewer, all 6'9" and 188 pounds of him, had a career year in 2012-13 playing for the high-flying Denver Nuggets. His 12 points per game were the second most of his six-year career, and he earned great praise from head coach George Karl.
Karl had this to say in an interview with Chris Tomasson of Fox Sports Florida: “Every team needs guys like Corey from the standpoint of not only statistical production, but the way he just plays the game with energy. He just plays the right way. He plays with pride and he plays with intensity.’
The former first-round pick of the Minnesota Timberwolves (from the University of Florida) hasn't really known job security in his six seasons and is once again a free agent hoping to sign a long-term deal with his current team, the Nuggets. Brewer's problem in Denver has been competing in a crowded group of wings, and he is well aware he may need to go elsewhere to achieve a bigger role.
Kobe Bryant has said on a number of occasions that the Lakers need to get younger and more athletic. Brewer fits the bill as someone who gets up and down the court extremely fast. And he could provide a much-needed spark at the small forward position should the Lakers decide to amnesty Metta World Peace.
“You never have no stability until you have a deal,’’ Brewer said last January (Fox Sports Florida). “So right now I’m just living in the moment.’’
Brewer made $3.2 million in the last year of his three-year contract. If Lakers mystique has allure for him and he is willing to take a one-year deal at the $3 million level, the 27-year old Brewer could find his fourth team to be the keeper he's been looking for.
Mike Dunleavy: Milwaukee Bucks Forward with Smooth Stroke
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Mike Dunleavy to the Lakers is as logical a move as any they could make this offseason. He brings length (6'9") and an outstanding shooting touch to a team that needs both.
The former number three pick in the 2002 NBA draft, Dunleavy has not lived up to all the hype lauded on him when he first entered the league with the Golden State Warriors.
Not much of a rebounder and not really strong enough to give a team more than 25-28 minutes a night, Dunleavy nonetheless has made a living off a very efficient outside shooting touch. A career 37 percent shooter from three-point range, Dunleavy hit on 43 percent from beyond the arc last season in Milwaukee.
Having a player like Dunleavy would force defenses to cover the perimeter more closely, allowing big men such as Gasol, Howard and Jordan Hill more room to maneuver in the post for easier buckets.
What's also intriguing about the 32-year old Dunleavy is his salary: He earned $3.75 million in the final year of his contract, and so the cash-poor Lakers would have a fighting chance to land him this summer.
Why not Los Angeles and the Lakers?