Role Players LA Lakers Must Consider During 2013 Free Agency
After losing Dwight Howard to the Houston Rockets in free agency, the Los Angeles Lakers must target role players in order to fill out the roster. Considering the Lakers' current financial state, the list of possibilities won’t be extensive.
Now that veteran center Chris Kaman has taken $3.2 million of the team’s “mini” mid-level exception, as reported by Adi Joseph of USA Today, the Lakers will only be able to sign players to the veteran’s minimum (approximately $1.4 million), according to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times via Twitter.
With that lack of financial flexibility, the Lakers’ options are limited. They will have to target players who are either familiar enough with the franchise to take a discount or guys attracted to the prospect of playing in Los Angeles for that $1.4 million number.
Building a contender around Kobe Bryant and Co. this year needs to be done via addition by subtraction. In other words, the team will have to play with a vengeance to prove that it didn’t need D12 on the squad.
The role players the Lakers can sign likely won’t make a huge difference. But they can still find players who actually want to play in L.A.
5. Ronny Turiaf
Ronny Turiaf started his career with the Los Angeles Lakers from 2005 to 2008. Now that he’s an unrestricted free agent, perhaps the Lakers will look to fill out the roster by bringing him back.
The 30-year-old out of Gonzaga played 65 games for the Los Angeles Clippers last season. He played a minimal role in a second unit nicknamed “A Tribe Called Bench.” If the Lakers try for a reunion, he'll switch sides in the Battle of L.A. once again.
The 6’10” shot-blocker wouldn’t get much playing time behind Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill, but he could sign for the $1.4 million the Lakers can offer.
Considering the injury troubles Gasol and Hill suffered last season, adding depth in the frontcourt after the departure of Dwight Howard would be a solid plan for the Lakers.
4. Austin Daye
Austin Daye, another player out of Gonzaga, has experienced four uneventful seasons at the NBA level. He spent the majority of his career as a seldom-used role player for the Detroit Pistons before the Memphis Grizzlies acquired him in the Tayshaun Prince trade.
The lanky 6’11” swingman could step in with the Lakers and immediately fill the void left by the departed Earl Clark (who signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers). The careers of Clark and Daye have mirrored one another. They were taken 14th and 15th in the 2009 NBA draft.
With news that the Lakers are planning to cut ties with Metta World Peace via the amnesty provision (according to Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register via Twitter), the need for small forwards will be at a new high.
Daye is a cheap option who can fill the roster holes left by the departed Clark.
3. Raja Bell
Because the Utah Jazz waived Raja Bell last season after the playoff eligibility deadline, it was pointless for teams to add him for a short stint at the end of the regular season without the promise that he'd be around in postseason play.
The veteran shooting guard clashed with Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin over the years and lost considerable playing time as a result.
But given the right situation, I’d wager that Bell still has plenty left in the tank.
The Lakers were reportedly interested in adding Bell last season, according to Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld via Twitter. Perhaps his relationships with head coach Mike D’Antoni and two-time MVP Steve Nash will guide Bell to Los Angeles.
2. Sasha Vujacic
According to Arash Markazi of ESPN via Twitter, former Laker guard Sasha Vujacic is interested in returning to the NBA, and the Lakers are his first choice.
The Slovenian guard hasn’t played in the NBA since the 2010-11 season, when he split time between the Lakers and New Jersey Nets. Despite that, he’s still just 29 years old.
Vujacic certainly isn’t a youngster anymore, but he is compared to the Lakers' aging backcourt. Steve Nash is 39 years old, while backup Steve Blake is 33. Both of those guys suffered injuries last season, which left the Lakers reeling.
Given that Kobe Bryant will also be sidelined as he recuperates from an Achilles tear, adding depth in the backcourt needs to be a priority for the Lakers during the offseason. Adding Vujacic makes a ton of sense; he's a familiar face who has played with Bryant and Co. in the past.
1. Lamar Odom
Lamar Odom joins Sasha Vujacic on the short list of players who won championships in the past with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN via Twitter, the Lakers have reached out to L.O. in an attempt to bring him back.
Odom would be a low-risk, low-cost option for the Lakers moving forward. He has suffered a noticeable statistical decline in recent years, but he has an evident desire to play basketball in Los Angeles.
Additionally, Odom is a very versatile player. His ability to play multiple positions and styles makes him a perfect fit in Mike D’Antoni’s coaching system. D'Antoni loves to utilize big guys who can get up and down the court quickly while spreading the floor with outside shooting.
Dwight Howard was supposed to be the future in Los Angeles, but the Lakers could do far worse than embracing the past by bringing back Vujacic and Odom.