2010 NBA Rumors & Free Agency: Grading the Los Angeles Lakers Signings
The Lakers have had an excellent last two months.
From winning their 16th NBA Title, convincing arguably the best coach in professional sports history to return to coach, and dragging in multiple ESPYs, it’s no wonder Pau Gasol is pointing to the future.
But now, the Lakers’ brass is getting back to work, and they’ve been working hard.
The off-season of 2010 has been constantly regarded as one of the best free agent classes of all-time. The Lakers never had a great shot at getting any of the top-tier guys, so many ruled them out as major players.
Their four signings, however, have made them one of the most active teams.
Kudos should be given to Jerry Buss and Mitch Kupchak. Every year, the Lakers’ masterminds have to hear about being so far over the cap that their luxury tax payment could buy a second team, yet they always manage to grab some solid talent.
Is their crop from 2010 as good as years’ past? Let’s find out.
Re-signing Derek Fisher
This pick made every Lakers’ fan smile, so it’s not a surprise it gets a perfect grade.
Say whatever you want about Derek Fisher. He had a sub-par regular season, struggled on defense against the NBA’s quicker ball handlers in the playoffs, and is clearly on the downside of his career.
But, his leadership is priceless.
Fisher is the only player in purple and gold Kobe Bryant listens to. When Phil Jackson can’t pick up his men, Fisher is there with a motivational speech. And no point guard in the NBA is more capable and willing to run the triangle.
Let’s hope that changes with Steve Blake.
The whole deal is even sweeter thanks to the terms. Fisher originally wanted $5 million per year, but by settling for three years, $10.5 million, he saved the franchise money to pursue other avenues.
Honor, integrity, and respect are the best way to describe Fish. This just proves it.
Signing Steve Blake
When Jordan Farmar left town to become a starting point guard (Oh, wait a minute…), the Lakers had a void to back up Fish.
It’s not secret Jackson couldn’t get Farmar to play his brand of ball. The Lakers had to make sure they added a player who could run the triangle off the bench.
Boy, did they ever.
While it’s true Blake hasn’t been in the system before, he’s an excellent choice for the job. He is a pass-first point guard, a spot up shooter from long distance, and will not expect to usurp Fisher’s role immediately.
Something Farmar never could.
The deal itself lowers the grade. Four years, $16 million for a guy who has never played a full season and is now 30-years-old is a bit too much in my book. He makes more than Fish does, which could cause some squabbling for more playing time.
Then again, Blake’s never been on a winner before. Winning changes everything.
Signing Theo Ratliff
The Lakers seemingly lost Josh Powell to Atlanta and D.J. Mbenga to fantasies of more money, so they needed to bolster their front line.
If only this were 2000.
Theo Ratliff was the definition of a serviceable, reserve big man in Charlotte last season. He came in, played strong defense down low, didn’t do much on offense, and made sure to get the most of his six fouls.
Clearly, behind the triumvirate of Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Lamar Odom, Ratliff will only get playing time when one of them is either in foul trouble or hurt.
Let’s pray for neither.
Ratliff's one-year, $1.35 million deal may look good on paper to start. But the reason the grade is average is because the Lakers could have used that money to take a gamble on a young player.
They know exactly what they can get from Ratliff. But since this bench spot barely plays, they could have used it to groom an inexperienced big to help them down the road.
Signing Matt Barnes
The UCLA product gets to come back to the city that made him.
Signing Matt Barnes must have come as a pleasant surprise to Lakers’ fans. He made Kobe work hard for every single shot when the Magic and Lakers faced off this year, and has the tenacity to get at some of the league’s best wing players.
Let’s be glad Kobe’s no longer going against him.
Barnes’ time in Orlando proved he’s no longer just a defensive player. Most all of his offensive stats (field goal percentage, points and rebounds per game) increased in the 2009-2010, and are a welcome sign to a Lakers’ bench that struggled mightily to score.
Mightily might be an understatement.
The terms of his deal are also fantastic. Barnes received offers for much more than the two years, $3.6 million he signed for, but taking a discount to sign with a contender shows his mind is in the right place.
Which is good, because his reputation as a hot head will need to change to play in L.A.
This move makes Barnes most likely the backup for Ron Artest, but it loses some points because it shortens the playing time for Luke Walton, who the Lakers sunk a lot of money into.
Overall Grade For The Off-Season: A-
The Lakers didn’t need to do anything drastic during the free agent period because there’s no reason to change a team with three consecutive Finals trips.
Just ask the Orlando Magic.
But the summer isn’t over, and there’s still a bit of money to throw around. With 11 players currently on the roster, the Lakers can sign a couple more guys at the minimum to fill out their team.
Welcome to the NBA, Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter. Diehard purple and gold fans saw the two second round picks light it up in the Las Vegas Summer league, and they would make great additions to the end of the bench.
Ebanks has really improved his offensive game and his defense looks top-notch. Caracter, despite my erroneous prediction (http://bit.ly/9Di4cp), was one of the best players of the summer, and looks to be the kind of role player Glen Davis is for the Celtics.
But what about Shannon Brown?
It seems like it’s his time to go. He wants a raise from last year, and the Lakers already have a crowded bench backcourt. Blake, Barnes and Sash Vujacic can all play guard, and adding Brown will only slice their playing time.
That playing time is already thin thanks to Bryant.
So what can the Lakers do to improve? They’ve got more time, but what will Buss and Kupchak do with it?