NBA Free Agents 2011: Los Angeles Lakers Should Target These 5 Players
So far this summer, the Lakers have hired a new coach. Mike Brown, former coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the LeBron James era, is now at the helm of the Lakers. Although Kobe Bryant was a bit caught off guard by the decision, change has been made.
Phil Jackson and former Lakers-great Shaquille O'Neal retired since the season came to a close. The Lakers have been in the news nearly as much as the Mavericks or the Miami Heat—the two teams competing for the NBA championship.
Let's give the Lakers some more attention by looking at who they could try to add from the free agency starting in July. The Lakers have no first-round picks in the NBA draft on June 23, but possess four in the second round. If the Lakers can't find a way to trade up, they likely won't find a big contributor at No. 41 or below.
However, the Lakers already owe over $92 million to their players for the upcoming season, meaning they have very little to work with.
This means Lakers management needs to explore the free-agent pool early and often, looking for some pieces to complete the complex purple and gold puzzle.
Here are some of the players that didn't make the top five for various reasons that I'll quickly explain:
J.J. Barea: Very confident the Dallas Mavericks will re-sign him with Jason Kidd's age in mind.
Jamal Crawford, Jason Richardson: Too expensive for the Lakers.
James Jones: Very one-dimensional player that only shoots threes.
Carl Landry, David West: Not a position the Lakers need to focus on with their limited money.
1. T.J. Ford
How could I not start this list off with a point guard?
T.J. Ford may not be the youngest, quickest point guard in the world, but he's only 28 years old and he's no slouch. Ford showed in his days at Texas—and a little in time with the Toronto Raptors and Indiana Pacers—that he can be more than just a serviceable point guard in the NBA.
Ford is a balanced player at the point, with the ability to score on the drive and distribute the ball to teammates. He's not a very good shooter from beyond the arc, but that's the kind of thing he could develop in the coming years.
The reality is that Ford would be a dramatic improvement over the combination of Derek Fisher and Steve Blake. Fisher isn't used to having the ball in his hands on offense anymore, and Blake tends to look completely inept at times. Ford would be able to give the Lakers some stability at the position, without costing Los Angeles too much money.
Ford may get some flak for never turning into the player he was supposed to be, but the Lakers aren't worried about landing an All-Star.
2. Sebastian Telfair
A lot of people are going to criticize this selection, but I fail to see the downside of taking a chance on Sebastian Telfair.
A player like Telfair will demand minimal money, and is truly playing to salvage his career at this point. With someone like Kobe Bryant chirping in his ear all the time, Telfair might rise up to the occasion and start playing some quality basketball.
Telfair is still only 26 years old with eight years of NBA experience. He played a decent role for the Minnesota Timberwolves from 2007 to 2009, starting 94 games for them and averaging almost 10 points and around five assists per game. At that time, the Wolves were reeling from the loss of Kevin Garnett, so he was never part of a good Minnesota unit.
In January of 2009, Telfair hit 6-of-10 shots from downtown for 30 points, while also dishing out eight assists in a win over Miami. He also hit all 10 free throws in the best game of his career. In March that year, Telfair scored double-digit points in all seven games the Wolves had. He also averaged over five assists.
Telfair might not be the answer for the Lakers, but taking a shot at a quick point guard for a small amount of cash won't cripple the organization.
3. Tracy McGrady
The Lakers taking a chance on an aging star without a title sounds familiar. Do you remember the 2003-04 season?
Maybe adding Karl Malone and Gary Payton didn't end up in a title for the Lakers, but they did make the NBA finals. They also had a good shot at the championship, but the Detroit Pistons were simply the better, more complete team that season.
Tracy McGrady has been getting some work at point guard in Detroit, and showing that he can still play in the latter stages of his career. He posted an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.47 throughout the course of the season, and topped the 10-assist mark three times. He didn't play the position the whole year, learning over the course of the year.
As a kid, I always dreamed of Kobe and T-Mac on the same roster. Although it may not be the same as it would have been seven or eight years ago, it makes much more sense now.
These two used to compete for the scoring title year after year, now they can battle for a championship title together.
4. Shane Battier
The Lakers already have a solid one-on-one defender that can shoot on their roster in Ron Artest, so why add Shane Battier?
The Lakers need someone to relieve Artest if Matt Barnes decides to leave—which I hope he does. Battier is a better shooter than Artest, with a similar up-tight defensive style. He's the type of role player the Lakers have always had at small forward on their championship teams. It was once Rick Fox, why not Battier?
The Lakers couldn't buy a three for large portions of the series with the Mavericks, which is bad news for a team that is no stranger for settling for a bad shot.
The Lakers went 15-for-76 in the series against the Mavs, which is a horrendous 20 percent. Battier is a career 38.5 percent shooter from three-point range, which would greatly benefit the Lakers in the playoffs.
Battier is also a veteran player that can hopefully help calm down players like Andrew Bynum, who loses his head from time to time, especially when the Lakers are down. In a perfect world, Battier can help limit the Lakers bad shots with his underrated passing game.
Adding Battier wouldn't mean redundancy for the Lakers, just more success.
5. J.R. Smith
J.R. Smith could completely reinvent his career in Los Angeles.
He's experienced a complete lack of trust as a sixth man in Denver. However, Smith has had some memorable performances as a member of the Nuggets. Two times in the last three seasons, Smith has topped 40 points and 10 three-pointers in a single game.
Smith is one of the most talented offensive players, providing a blend of insane athleticism and dead-eye shooting. Smith would be a great spark off the bench for the Lakers, giving them a solid scoring option they can turn to at any time. He may be a bit streaky, but can really shoot the lights out.
Smith has some attitude issues at times, but hopefully winning lots of games can quell some of his outbursts. Also, Smith is a lazy defender at times, but new coach Mike Brown is going to try and implement a defensive-minded game plan.
Smith needs a new home, and what better place than LA?