Which Los Angeles Lakers Have the Best Chance of Being Re-Signed Next Season?
As Chris Kaman ponders his overall place in the cosmos, we ponder the fates of the rest of Lakers rag-tag roster of expiring contracts and whether or not the Lakers can find use for them in 2014-15, and beyond.
Much work needs to be done this offseason and beyond for the Lakers to get back to NBA-royalty status, and they have plenty of room on the roster with their multitude of one-year and expiring contracts.
The cap space is being cleared out to attract free agents to the bright lights of Los Angeles, but the Lakers can't go through another season of signing players to audition contracts and expect to have any semblance of stability. Mitch Kupchak and company would be wise to re-sign at least a couple of the more promising players from this season before they go shopping elsewhere.
This article ranks the current Lakers who could provide the greatest value if they were re-signed next season for realistic numbers. So unless Pau Gasol wants to take a massive salary cut to stay in Los Angeles, he won't fare well on this list.
Clearly, not everyone who's contract is expiring will be re-signed, and its likely less than half will don the purple and gold again in their careers.
That being said, this list examines each player through their potential contributions to the team, but isn't necessarily a vote of confidence they will be re-signed. In the Lakers current logically ambiguous state of affairs, it is possible none of the expiring players could stay and perhaps have been auditioning for the other 29 teams this season.
Also, for the purpose of this article, only players who aren't under contract for next season in any way are included. That excludes the aforementioned Marshall and Young, who have a team-option and player-option for next season, respectively.
(All salary data courtesy of hoopshype.com)
Chris Kaman: Arguably the Lakers most consistent player when on the floor, the big man has averaged 10.2 points and 5.6 rebounds in big minutes this season. Underappreciated by some in Los Angeles, the big man is a veteran roadblock even at just $3 million per year, and considering the way he has been playing may find some very willing suitors on the open market.
Jordan Hill: The poor man's Kenneth Faried would be near the top of this list if it weren't for the recent trade rumors involving a potential move to the Brooklyn Nets, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. That article also mentions the Lakers are unlikely to retain him after this season.
Hill has been close to the top player on the Lakers, considering his limited minutes, as he currently has the second-best efficiency rating on the team. His tenacious style of play is sure to attract some attractive offers from other teams this offseason, and the Lakers may not be able to match the price tag his play has warranted.
Steve Blake: A $4 million expiring contract and the emergence of Kendall Marshall potentially spell the end for Blake in Los Angeles. Unless he wants to take a significant pay cut to stay here, the Lakers can't afford to re-sign a third point guard who is a minus defender and slowing down with each passing season.
Pau Gasol: Sorry, but the lanky Spaniard who helped usher in the Laker's second championship-era of the 2000s is highly unlikely to be re-signed next year. He's too old, too expensive (considering the Lakers' plans and what he could fetch from a desperate team this off-season) and just hasn't jived with the Lakers' plans, whether it's pairing him with Dwight Howard or fitting into coach Mike D'Antoni's run-and-gun schemes.
5. Jordan Farmar
Current Salary: $1.1 million
The potent force that is Lakers nostalgia can only carry a player so far, and Farmar may be deemed expendable if Marshall continues to play well and Steve Nash can overcome the nerve issue in his back.
The Lakers are in the strange and precarious position of having multiple options at point guard, but all who come with some form of inherent risk. Farmar is a fan favorite and a consummate professional, and even though he ranks on this list, he is still not a great bet to return to the Lakers this season.
Returning from brief stints in Israel and Turkey, he has acquitted himself well on the team, averaging 9.3 points and 4.9 assists per game, while ranking fourth in player efficiency rating. Nevertheless, Farmar has struggled with injuries all season long, appearing in just 23 games so far this season.
With the Lakers sure to pick up Marshall's contract and the looming specter of Nash in the background, Farmar is a good, but not great, bet for another contract.
4. Xavier Henry
Current Salary: $916,099
Outside of Nick Young, nobody has brought more style and swagger on the court to the Lakers this season than the slashing Xavier Henry.
The Belgium-born 22-year-old has been fantastic coming off the bench this season and has been part of a second unit, along with Young, that rivals the scoring output of the starters, albeit with a bit more panache than most bench players. Look no further than the above video for proof.
His age and potential make him a strong possibility to re-sign with the Lakers, and he can return at a solid price.
The injury concerns do put a significant damper on Henry's chances. As Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times reported earlier this week, Henry is having his knee drained and is due to be out another four weeks. Then again, it may scare teams away from signing Henry, thus improving his chances of staying with the Lake Show.
3. Ryan Kelly
Current Salary: $490,180
For a player who was probably supposed to spend more time in the D-League and in warm-ups than on the court this year, the rookie Kelly has acquitted himself well, given the surprising amount of minutes he has played.
Thrust into a major role in the middle of the season, Kelly—living on the NBA edge with his cheap, non-guaranteed contract—has averaged a respectable 7.2 points in 19 minutes per game this season.
He has a future with this Lakers squad as a deep bench player, and considering his age and thriftiness, he has a solid shot at being picked up for another contract next season. Kelly will need to improve on his 33 percent three-point shooting, but a player in his position has the luxury of youth and being a negligible hit on cap space.
2. Wesley Johnson
Current Salary: $916,099
Wesley Johnson is one of those players who has been solid, if unspectacular, but could benefit the Lakers as a role player, so long as his minutes were downsized from 28.2 per game (although downsizing his salary won't be necessary).
He is the Lakers' best on the ball defender right now, and often is paired up against the opposing team's best wing player. In the Lakers' recent stinging loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Johnson did a great job of forcing Kevin Durant into off-balance shots from long range early in the game (although Johnson's effectiveness didn't last long as Durant, who finished with 43 points, but then again nobody in the NBA is really guarding Durant with any success these days).
Johnson could come cheap to the Lakers and would be a great bench player for the Lakers for years to come if they can re-sign him. Considering what they are paying him this season, Johnson isn't likely to get a raise that would alter the Lakers' salary cap plans in a significant way.
1. Jodie Meeks
Current Salary: $1.55 million
Cheap, solid skill set, dependable and still just 26 years of age. That is the recipe for a building block player, the type the Lakers can't forget about as they chase big names in the draft and free agency over the course of the next couple of seasons.
He's averaging a very solid 14.4 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.35 steals per game for the Lakers in 32 minutes. He's also tied for third on the team in games played this season with 48 under his belt so far.
This makes him a great bet to be re-signed by the Lakers, especially since he may not grab as much attention this offseason as Nick Young has garnered the majority of the headlines when it comes to Lakers' role players.
And if Kobe succumbs to injury again, Lakers fans can at least pretend he is playing when his döppleganger (at least from television angles) is on the court.