The Los Angeles Lakers, fresh off winning their second straight NBA title, head into next season seeking to complete the rare three-peat. The 2000-2002 Lakers were the last team to complete the feat, but now the very veteran Kobe Bryant will lead his team as it seeks to notch the fourth three-peat of Phil Jackson's career and put an iron-clad stamp on their recent run of success. But even championship teams undergo changes in the off-season, and the Lakers are no different. The Lakers have made moves in the off-season to improve parts of their roster. They allowed previous players to leave and/or simply released ineffective parts of their roster. That is because if the Lakers aren't doing anything, then they aren't improving. But do these moves make the grade? That's why we're here to grade each move of the Lakers off-season.
The Lakers used their mid-level exception very wisely with addition of Steve Blake. The veteran point guard not only fills a need on the depth chart, but he is a smart ball handler, strong defender, and quality perimeter shooter. All three are logical and ideal fits for the Lakers bench.
The Lakers resigned what they consider to be the heart and soul of their team by inking Derek Fisher to a three-year, $10.5 million contract.Fisher will be 36 at the start of the season and has a limited role in the Lakers offense, but he took less money to remain in Los Angeles and keep a measure of continuity in the locker room. Age very well could become a factor before his new contract expires which drops the grade a bit, but it is a win in the short term for a team looking no further than 2010-2011.
Lakers fans may be bummed they can no longer watch Adam Morrison's facial hair grow on the bench, but the Lakers made the right move by showing the door to one of the league's biggest draft busts in recent memory. Morrison will take his two title rings and go look for work elsewhere while the Lakers likely filled his small void through the draft.
GRADE: B (because he really wasn't valuable and this was expected)
Farmar wanted more playing time and that is something the Lakers could not guarantee. The Lakers lost valuable playoff and championship experience, but mitigated it with other signings.
The Lakers only had two second round picks in this June's draft, but they made the most out of it. The selection of Devin Ebanks with the 43rd overall pick gives them a very solid wing player who can shoot from the perimeter and at 6'8'' he gives the Lakers rangy size. Derrick Caracter is more of a wild card given his behavioral red flags in college and concerns about his weight stability. However, he can serve as the Lakers battering ram by providing muscle and strength in the paint as a compliment to Paul Gasol and Andrew Bynum.
Both fill specific needs on the roster and both enjoyed good showings during the Summer League.
Shannon Brown opted out of his two-year contract to seek more money on the open market. In the end, however, it appears that Brown will be headed back to Los Angeles. The Lakers have the rights to pay Brown upwards of the mid-level exception, but will likely bring him back cheaper to fill a similar role had over the last few seasons.
Brown, who averaged a career-high 8.1 points per game last season, will likely get more money than the $2.1 million he made last year but will not get the added playing time he seeks. His return is a win for the Lakers who needed to bolster their depth chart at guard even if it means paying a little more.
The Lakers didn't have many pieces to fill in the off-season, but what they did reap the benefits of was keeping their title team together while the rest of the Western Conference took body blows.
Utah lost Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver. The Suns lost Amar'e Stoudemire. All the big free agents headed eastward, leaving the Lakers as the currently unchallenged favorites to once again come out of the Western Conference. Addition by others subtraction for the Lakers.