Grading Los Angeles Lakers' Early Free-Agency Moves

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Grading Los Angeles Lakers' Early Free-Agency Moves
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Chris Kaman is your newest Los Angeles Laker

For the first time I can remember, the Los Angeles Lakers brand failed to be sufficient bait for a top-tier free agent. Dwight Howard's decision, or more comically dubbed "indecision," was a splash of ice-cold water on the storied organization.

The free-agency period opened on July 1, at which time the Lakers invested their full effort into a pitch to Howard.

News flash: This story is already history, and if the Lakers are to be back in title contention anytime soon (right now, they're not even close), management has to turn the page quickly.

NBA free agency surely won't slow down to wait for L.A.'s most storied franchise. The biggest names of the season are flying off the list, joining new homes with high aspirations and fresh new contracts.

The biggest snag for the Lakers is a financial one: Los Angeles is consistently over the salary cap, and even without Dwight, the books won't clear up for another calendar year.

Kobe Bryant has been in the news recently talking about his $30.5 million he'll earn during the upcoming campaign, as reported by Serena Winters of Lakers Nation.

Kobe's contract, along with those of Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, have severely limited what GM Mitch Kupchak can do with a constantly shrinking list of NBA free agents during the 2013 summer. Here's a move-by-move analysis of how the first chapter of the offseason has panned out so far for L.A.

 

Losing Dwight

Technically, this isn't a "move." Howard selected another destination over his home in L.A. However, the buzz surrounding his decision has dominated the NBA scene so far this summer.

Dwight ditched $30 million and the California sun for a chance at it all with James Harden

The Lakers could certainly have had a better start to what they thought would be a remodel rather than a complete rebuild. Dwight, in several drawn-out days, ended such ideas.

After Dwight's deal finalizes, fans and players alike will have all sorts of questions.

Personally, I'm most interested in how the franchise will rebound from an atypical slap in the face. I mean, come on! They're supposed to be the Lakers!

Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson and the other Laker greats whose jerseys hang in the rafters are no longer attraction enough to lure championship talent. Dwight proves this, and I'd consider it generous to call him championship-caliber talent at this stage in his career. 

In my opinion, the most disappointing part of this whole episode from an L.A. perspective is how far the team went to bring back a player who didn't buy into the system. Winning titles is the norm in Los Angeles. Those (ahem, Dwight) who aren't ready to rise to the occasion shouldn't be given the opportunity. 

From billboards in Los Angeles to an offer worth $30 million more than their competitors', the Lakers pulled out all the stops in pursuit of Dwight. His decline of a more-than-generous offer was a big blow to the Lakers' ego as well as the short-term competitive goals. 

Move Grade: C-

 

Metta World Peace Amnestied

I never thought that Ron Artest would be able to redeem his career (and his character) after his horrific showing in the "Malice at the Palace" brawl with the Pistons back in 2004. 

Maybe that stain on the usually mutually rewarding relationship between players and fans will never be forgotten, but Artest's work as Metta World Peace has certainly aided the resurrection of his reputation. And the Lakers really did milk the most out of World Peace's seemingly endless drive and were rewarded by a Game 7-notching three from Metta against the Boston Celtics in 2010. 

He all but worships Kobe, a major factor in helping him curb his angry outbursts and channeling his talent. 

Yet the Lakers waived him, as they announced on their website Thursday afternoon.

So why was it time to end World Peace's stint with the Lakers? Quite simply, his contract quickly became unaffordable. 

You see, dumping expensive veterans and clearing cap space for the 2014 NBA Revolution seems to be the proper strategy these days. Following in the footsteps of longtime rival Boston, the Lakers have caught the idea that succeeding next offseason may be the key to the next 20 years of Laker basketball. 

With that in mind, Metta was simply no longer worth the $7.27 million that the Lakers would have to pay for his services, not counting the luxury taxes. Despite his value as a teammate and entertainer, Metta became a victim of the new collective bargaining agreement. 

As unfortunate as the story seems on an individual level, I like the move for the Lakers franchise, and I'm curious to see where World Peace will go next. 

Move Grade: A-

 

Signing Chris Kaman

Alright, so #STAYD12 was a failure. Where does that leave the team on the hardwood?

In need of interior defense and rebounding, a quiet personality willing to buy into a team mentality and a contract so small it won't get in the way of next year. 

That leaves us with Chris Kaman, who came to an agreement with the Lakers for a one-year, $3.2 offer (per Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gYG0cCUyU8

Chris Kaman's return to L.A. (he was formerly an L.A. Clipper), will probably offer the big man a similar chance to start at the center position. Pau Gasol, also playing in a contract year, will benefit from this signing and move back to his more natural power forward position. 

I feel myself starting to get a bit carried away. The Kaman signing is not about to propel the Lakers into contention; it'll only pass the time. Whether the Lakers are willing to admit it or not, not every season can be a run at the championship. 

But in order to maintain a longstanding position atop the competition for a prolonged period, sacrificial long-term strategy sometimes comes into play. 

For Kaman, this is a good deal. He has a good chance to prove his capabilities as a center for a team that sorely needs him on the interior. He's getting $3.2 million to shoot hoops with his new buddy Kobe, and when it's all said and done, both organization and individual will feel justified in the agreement. 

I approve of the move for the Lakers and fully adopt the frenzy for '14. Kaman is a quality fill-in candidate. 

Move Grade: B+

 

Sign Nick "SwaggyP" Young

So the Lakers amnesitied World Peace and promptly replaced him with Nick Young. He'll compete with Kobe for the "worst shots taken" award, but probably won't make as many.

Lakers fans have minimal to be excited about regarding this signing, as Young stunk it up with a bad Philadelphia 76ers team last season and will not factor into a team's title dreams.

But hey, he's got some athleticism and some serious swag. Hence the nickname "Swaggy P". Is he the sharpshooter D'Antoni and the Lakers are looking for?

No.

Move Grade: C

In Other News

Former Lakers center Andrew Bynum has reached terms with the Cleveland Cavaliers according to the Associated Press, via the L.A. Times. Oddly enough, Bynum will be reunited with the short-tenured Lakers coach Mike Brown. 

The Lakers signed Robert Sacre to a deal after his heroic sideline efforts during his rookie campaign. Additionally, Jordan Farmar will rejoin the Lakers once more. Both transactions were reported by Elliot Teaford of the Daily News.

 

P.S. Really, Kobe? 

 

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