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Could Rodney Stuckey be a difference maker for the purple and gold?
The mid-level exception is one the Lakers could use in their favor. It would allow them to sign a player at the league-average salary (approximately $5.5 million based on previous assumptions) even if it takes them over the cap.
Who would be available and potentially amenable to an MLE deal?
Aaron Brooks: After the guy almost singlehandedly took the Lakers to a game seven against Houston a couple years back, it was clear what one of the teams real issues was defending penetrating point guards. Even though LA went on to win that series, the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" mantra applies to both teams.
Brooks can shoot from outside and penetrate, and despite his small stature is very active on defense. He's got a qualifying offer under $3 million a year in Phoenix and should get a MLE sized raise in the off-season. The Lakers would be smart to at least inquire.
Jeff Green: Recently traded to their nemesis the Boston Celtics, Green is due for a raise this offseason. Would it be particularly sweet to swipe away the one tangible asset the Celtics got out of that deal? Certainly. Does he fit the Lakers needs? Somewhat.
Green is a great shooter for his size and has range out to the three-point line. If he can improve his defense, and learning from nine time All-Defensive Team member Kobe Bryant may help with that, he would be a good fit for the team. He's athletic and long and could become a nice piece off the bench.
But Green is a restricted free agent, so the Celtics will have an opportunity to bring him back. The Celtics have financial issues of their own, but depending on how their series with the Miami Heat finishes up, it could be an option.
Wilson Chandler: See Jeff Green. He's a good shooter mid-range extended, plays tough and works hard on both sides of the ball. He'd see a drastic drop in shooting opportunities on the Lakers, but he's shown he can perform in both New York and Denver. He's also young and can be physical on defense, even if he has some work to do in that area.
Jose Juan Barea: After absolutely killing the Lakers in this past series, would the team be willing to scoop him up this summer to shore up their PG deficiencies? I doubt it, if only because of the Andrew Bynum fiasco in the closeout game Sunday.
However, Barea has been great as a distributor and despite his height, he is fearless going into the lane. He can also make open shots, which was something the Lakers reserves utterly failed at against the Mavs. The MLE is probably a bit much for JJB, but they can split it between him and another player.
Rodney Stuckey: Detroit has made it a priority to bring Stuckey back, as he's shown flashes of greatness in his three seasons in the league. He's big and strong, and can get to the basket effectively, averaging over five free throws a game this season. While more of a hybrid guard, he can certainly man the point position and, along with Kobe at shooting guard, create match-up problems the Lakers have heretofore been unable to exploit.
He probably will not be available, but I see him signing a contract in the $5-to-6 million range per season so it's not entirely out of the question.
TJ Ford: Formerly one of the quickest players in the NBA, Ford is no longer the Pacers primary option at PG. He's coming off a season where he was paid $8.5 million for less than 20 minutes a game, so he's in line for a significant pay decrease.
Unfortunately, he does not shoot he ball well, but is considerably better getting into the lane and pushing in transition. On a team with so many options on offense, perhaps that's a good thing.
I would think half of the MLE would get him to LA, and at 28, he's still got some good years ahead of him—if he can ever kick the injury bug he's had over the years.