Best Potential Free-Agent Fits for LA Lakers to Round out Roster Before 2013-14
The Los Angeles Lakers still have some work to do.
Signing Shawne Williams and Xavier Henry has put Los Angeles' roster at 14 players, one short of the 15-player limit. Though the Lakers may leave that 15th and final slot open to address any sudden needs during the regular season, there's still a chance they add one more player to the docket.
Two-plus months into the offseason, there isn't much available in terms of impact players. What the Lakers are looking at now is the bottom of the barrel, remaining slag from the NBA's free-agent festivities.
No player they sign now, or relatively soon, will transform them from a fringe playoff contender into a championship outfit. Chances are whoever they land will have a marginal effect on their plans at best.
But that doesn't make rounding out the personnel any less important. If the Lakers elect to sign one more player, they must find the right fit, someone who can contribute if called upon.
Someone who satisfies one or more of the needs their roster still has.
Honorable Mention: Lamar Odom
If Lamar Odom's off-court decisions hadn't become such a spectacle, he'd have jumped to the top of Los Angeles' list.
Jennifer Garcia of People reports that Odom has checked himself into a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center following his reported arrest for driving under the influence. One anonymous general manager told Sporting News' Sean Deveney that the forward's career is over, but if he can get clean and stay clean, the Lakers could use him.
Any baggage he brings with him presents a risk in and out of the locker room, but there isn't anyone left on the open market who is as versatile as Odom. He can defend all five positions and is a juggernaut on the glass.
Because of his present struggles, however, it's not known if he'll be ready to start the season or even be fit to play at all. Los Angeles may have to move on. Until it does, one eye should remain fixated on the former Sixth Man of the Year.
5. Drew Gooden
Drew Gooden's continued availability has me miffed.
He appeared in just 16 games for the Milwaukee Bucks last season but is only a year removed from averaging 13.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Poor facial hair decisions aside, Gooden is still a fierce rebounder who can bruise his way toward some points in the paint. Before last season, he had gone 10 consecutive years notching at least 10 points a night.
Traditional power forwards aren't normally a staple in Mike D'Antoni's perimeter-oriented system, but the Lakers don't project as a strong rebounding team. Dwight Howard's 12.4 rebounds a night are with the Houston Rockets, and Chris Kaman grabbed less than half that (5.6) last season in Dallas.
Minutes shouldn't be hard to come by either if the Lakers actually plan on using Jordan Hill as a stretch 4, which may just be the worst idea ever. When he fails to emerge as an effective shooter—and he will fail—Magic Mike will be better off fielding someone who can rebound just as well, but also, you know, score.
Gooden won't space the floor like Williams, but he's got more range than Hill. Per hoopdata.com, he hit on 41.1 percent of his shots outside of nine feet in 2011-12. Hill, meanwhile, shot 25 percent in 2011-12 and 30 percent last year.
And if that doesn't pique your interest, knowing that Kaman and Gooden could form an eccentric grooming club should.
4. Tyrus Thomas
Projects abound during the dog days of free agency, but Tyrus Thomas is a work-in-progress worth gambling on.
The 27-year-old fizzled out with the Charlotte Bobcats after three-plus years of disappointment that mercifully ended with the team amnestying him. Still, he's young and athletic enough to catch Los Angeles' attention.
Like Gooden, he won't space the floor or have an overwhelming impact on offense in general, but he's more serviceable than the extremely limited Hill. His rebounding is just as strong, if not better, and, most importantly, his ceiling is significantly higher.
Back in 2009, Thomas was the only player in the NBA, who saw a minimum of 25 minutes a night and posted at least 14 points, eight rebounds, 1.5 steals and two blocks per 36 minutes. The only player. Not Howard or Andrew Bynum. Him. You can't ignore that kind of potency, even if it was four years ago.
Successfully reaching his potential has been Thomas' biggest problem for the last seven years, and it's unlikely the Lakers can swoop in and make him a star. But he has the build to run the floor and defend opposing bigs for the times Los Angeles doesn't run small.
Experimenting with him at the 4 would give the Lakers frontcourt depth they don't currently have.
3. Michael Beasley
Full disclosure: I don't want this to happen.
Michael Beasley couldn't stay out of trouble in Minnesota and Phoenix. I cringe at the prospect of him calling Los Angeles home.
With the Lakers looking to assemble a dominant offensive contingent, though, Beasley's potential value can't be ignored. He was drafted second overall five years ago for a reason.
At 6'9", he can act as a stretch 4 so long as the Lakers aren't intent on playing defense. They also have to hope his efficiency doesn't plummet the way it did last year.
After receiving a three-year deal from the Suns, Beasley shot a career low from behind the arc (31.3 percent) and field in general (40.5). Los Angeles already has Nick Young; the last thing it needs is another errant shooter prone to long stretches of inefficiency.
Previously, The Beas had knocked down at least 36.6 percent of his treys through three of his first four years. And he never shot below 44.5 percent from floor before last season. Those numbers are enough to make D'Antoni jump out of his mustache.
Assuming Beasley isn't opposed to a curfew (I'm serious) or wearing a GPS tracker of some kind (only half-kidding) and Kobe doesn't mind spending the next year adding glorified babysitter to his resume, the Lakers can and should take a look.
2. Dahntay Jones
Dahntay Jones already apologized to Kobe for sliding under his ankle while he was shooting, so it's time to move on. And there's no better way to move on than by offering Jones a contract.
Jones is like the tweener of tweeners. Standing at 6'6" he can play the 2 or 3, but with his aggressive (sometimes dirty) defensive sets, I wouldn't hesitate to play him as an incredibly undersized 4.
Defense isn't a virtue the Lakers are currently teeming with, making Jones' aptitude on that end of the floor an intriguing fit. Shooting guards and small forwards combined to post a 13.5 PER against him last season, according to 82games.com, markedly below the league average of 15.
Although he's not revered for his floor spacing, Jones is shooting 33.4 percent from the outside for his career. D'Antoni has worked with less before. During seasons in which he's attempted at least one deep ball per game, though, Jones has buried 38 percent or more of his treys.
There are already plenty of guards on the Lakers' roster, but if the mood strikes and they're searching for a strong defender with some range, the 32-year-old Jones is worth a look.
1. Stephen Jackson
Do your best Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston impression and Just Go With It.
Stephen Jackson can be a head case and, when you indulge in his conspiracy theories, a bit paranoid. But Gregg Popovich's headache is the perfect fit for the Lakers.
Nothing Los Angeles has done this summer suggests it won't try for a playoff berth. Had tanking been the plan, Kobe would've requested a trade by now. We have to believe the Lakers are going for it, even if the roster doesn't suggest they are.
Jackson is the gritty kind of veteran who makes for a nice complementary piece on a playoff hopeful. That last stint of his with the San Antonio Spurs didn't end so well, but at 35, he's still a strong perimeter defender and functioning offensive threat.
Opposing small forwards and power forwards combined to post a 12.7 PER against him last season, according to 82games.com. As currently constructed, the Lakers need that type of defensive impact. Wesley Johnson currently projects as their strongest perimeter defender.
While Jackson isn't the ideal stretch forward from an offensive standpoint—33.4 percent from deep for his career—he's found ways to score, tallying double-digit point totals in nine of his 13 seasons.
Certain levels of risk are involved, but among available wings, no one stands to have the two-way impact Jackson could.
He's old, cranky and mildly neurotic. To some degree, he's also just the finishing touch Los Angeles needs.