Players the LA Lakers Should Let Go This Offseason

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Players the LA Lakers Should Let Go This Offseason
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images
The Lakers may be better off letting Pau Gasol and Nick Young walk this summer.

As we covered last week, the Los Angeles Lakers have a lot of decisions to make on their impending free agents this summer.

Eight Lakers will be unrestricted free agents—nine if when Nick Young opts out—and two more will be restricted.

Obviously, L.A. won't be keeping all of them. So here are the four players, in order of importance, the Lakers shouldn't hesitate to let go this offseason.

 

Pau Gasol

It has to be done.

As much as Pau Gasol has meant to the Lakers organization, it's time to move on from the former All-Star big man.

Not that Gasol is finished as a player by any means.

He was still an offensive powerhouse in 2014, averaging over 17 points and three assists to go with nearly 10 rebounds per game. 

D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images
Gasol's productivity in 2014 could make him too expensive to keep.

And in his final 29 games before being slowed and eventually sidelined by injury, he put up an All-Star caliber line of 20.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.8 blocks per contest.

His 19.3 PER for the season placed him ahead of Chris Bosh and Tony Parker, among other luminaries.

Ironically, all that production is exactly why the Lakers shouldn't re-sign Gasol.

It will simply cost too much.

After proving he can still be a nightly double-double threat, Gasol will likely command a large salary that may extend into eight figures.

While he may be worth something close to that, tying up that much money for multiple years into a 34-year-old big man on the decline is not a smart move for the Lakers.

Re-upping Gasol would limit L.A.'s financial flexibility, not just this offseason, but in 2015 as well.

And his on-court play doesn't warrant making that kind of investment.

Gasol is still a brilliant offensive player, but his defensive value has slipped precipitously.

Although he tied his highest block percentage since 2007, that was largely a product of opponents having absolutely no fear of him. 

Joe Murphy/Getty Images
Gasol did a poor job of protecting the paint for Lakers last season.

Shot-altering statistics are not publicly available, but from watching the games you can see that opposing players just take the ball right at Gasol instead of stopping short for awkward jumpers and runners or contorting in mid-air to get around him.

Only five players defended more shots at the rim per game than Gasol, per NBA.com. But out of the 61 players who defended at least five such shots every night, Gasol ranked a paltry 52nd in field-goal percentage against.

According to NBA Wowy, the Lakers allowed more than three points per 100 possessions more when Gasol was on the court than when he was on the bench.

The big Spaniard will certainly be missed, but in the end it's best if both sides just part ways.

 

Nick Young

Young has a player option for 2015 for a little over $1.2 million, but how many guys in the NBA averaging 18 points a night would willingly take that deal?

He's opting out for sure.

That doesn't preclude him from staying with the Lakers, but he is due a significant raise after showing this past year that he can be consistent as well as explosive.

Teams will be throwing at least mid-level exception money at a guy who would have challenged for the Sixth Man of the Year award had he played on a team that accrued some more wins (Enes Kanter was the only other player from a losing team who finished in the top-12 of Sixth Man voting).

Harry How/Getty Images
Swaggy P should get a substantial pay raise this offseason, just not from the Lakers.

Again, this has nothing to do with Young's production. There is no doubt the man can get buckets with the best of them.

But the Lakers can't afford to clog up their cap sheet with mid-market role players. 

If L.A. isn't signing a max-level superstar, then they should roll over as much cap room as possible to the next offseason when more options (Hi, Kevin Love) may present themselves.

Young was an incredible value this season, but when the market dictates his new salary this summer all that value will disappear.

A four-year deal worth 5 to 7 million dollars a year would not be an asset, and it likely would turn into a contract another team would not be willing to take on in a trade. The Lakers need to maintain as much flexibility as possible.

And as L.A. proved last year with Young himself, there are cheap options available out there to score off the bench.

 

Chris Kaman

Continuing with the theme here, the impending jettison of Chris Kaman is not about his ability to contribute on the court.

Mike D'Antoni didn't find much use for Kaman, seeming to play him only when the Lakers had exhausted all other alternatives, but Kaman produced when given the minutes.

Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Chris Kaman's veteran presence is unnecessary on a rebuilding squad.

On a per-36 minute basis he put up the almost the exact same numbers as Pau Gasol (20-11 with two blocks). And the Lakers were slightly less awful when he was on the court as opposed to when he rode the pine, per NBA Wowy.

But Kaman has no place on a rebuilding franchise.

At 32 years of age, Kaman is on the downslope of his career. He's a decent stopgap option at center—especially if you assume Gasol is gone—but you can find someone who can provide a similar quality of work for cheaper.

And if it's a young player, you have the chance to develop them as well.

The Lakers are much better off re-signing Jordan Hill over Kaman and giving him all the minutes he can handle to really refine his blossoming game.

 

MarShon Brooks

This one breaks the pattern, as it actually is about the value MarShon Brooks brings to the court—which is to say very little.

Evan Gole/Getty Images
The Lakers should have no qualms about letting MarShon Brooks go this summer.

Brooks was a throw-in in the Steve Blake trade who, after initially getting some burn when the Lakers were in desperate need of live bodies, only appeared in garbage time for L.A.

He's still just 25 years old, but there isn't much upside here. He's been on four teams already in three years as a pro, and has seen his playing time drastically cut each season.

The Lakers don't need to worry about hanging on to an inefficient scorer who only plays one end of the floor. 

Brooks is just roster filler, and there are dozens of players just like him on the the fringes of the league.

Truly, L.A. doesn't need to think twice about this one.

 

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