Under-the-Radar Free-Agent Bargains Los Angeles Lakers Must Consider

Ben Leibowitz@BenLeboCorrespondent IIIMay 23, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 21:  Andrew Bynum #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers watches in Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Oklahoma City Thunder during the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 21, 2012 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2012 NBAE (Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers are looking for more than the No. 7 pick in the 2014 NBA draft to find success during the 2014-15 season. They could find a valuable piece in Kentucky's Julius Randle or Indiana University's Noah Vonleh, but free agency will be paramount to building a contender in Los Angeles.

A variety of free agents will be up for grabs during the 2014 offseason, but only a few will make a difference next season. The Lakers will rely upon an aging backcourt, but extra pieces will determine whether or not their team will succeed.

Los Angeles general manager Mitch Kupchak has to be open to all options if the Lakers intend to succeed during the 2014-15 season.

Andrew Bynum, C, Unrestricted

Quite frankly, there’s a long list of reasons why NBA teams should have zero interest in signing Andrew Bynum.

The embattled center missed the entirety of his first and only campaign with the Philadelphia 76ers (2012-13) due to season-ending knee surgeries. Following the blockbuster Dwight Howard trade, Bynum admitted to experiencing a setback on his injured knee while bowling.

He was then signed by the Cleveland Cavaliers the following offseason and lasted only a matter of months before reportedly sabotaging team practices. As Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski wrote, “Bynum never made it to the early January guarantee date for his full $12.5 million salary in 2013-14, and self-destructed. He stopped trying on the floor, and became a disruptive presence in practices.” Wojnarowski added that the injury-prone 7-footer would jack up shots whenever he touched the ball—regardless of where he was on the court.

From there he was traded to the Chicago Bulls, who immediately waived him. Bynum then was picked up for a brief stint by the Indiana Pacers, a move reportedly rattled Roy Hibbert’s psyche, possibly causing his prolonged slump, per NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner.

Still, with all of that being said, Bynum would assuredly come to Tinseltown as a bargain free agent.

Playing for the Lakers in Los Angeles is the only place Bynum has experienced success in his roller coaster professional career. He won two championship rings (2009-2010) and averaged 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game during his final season in the purple and gold.

Considering that Bynum’s history as an injury-riddled locker room distraction cripples his free-agent stock, the Lakers could sign him to a basement-level, non-guaranteed contract and hope for the best.

Kobe Bryant won’t tolerate any of his nonsense, and there’s at least a slim chance he could return to being an adequate starting center if healthy.

He’s worth that no-risk, high-reward gamble for a team in need of frontcourt depth.

Jerryd Bayless, PG, Unrestricted

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 12: Jerryd Bayless #11 of the Boston Celtics handles the ball against the New York Knicks on March 12, 2014 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or usi
Brian Babineau/Getty Images

Jerryd Bayless didn’t do himself many favors in a contract year spent between the Memphis Grizzlies and Boston Celtics.

His shooting percentages in Memphis—37.7 percent from the field and 30.1 percent from beyond the arc—improved significantly in Boston (41.8 and 39.5 percent, respectively). Even with his hot three-point shooting as a Celtic, though, Bayless' play didn't improve upon that of prior seasons.

The former Arizona Wildcat has already played for five different teams in six seasons. He’s struggled to find a steady niche as a pro, but that could change in 2014-15.

The Lakers need to add backcourt depth in order to ensure health for Bryant and Steve Nash throughout an 82-game campaign.

Bayless is a solid backup to fill that role. He rarely turns the ball over, can run the point or play off the ball and knock down treys.

If he becomes a steady rotational player from Day 1, he could easily have a career year in L.A., like Jodie Meeks, Jordan Farmar and others did last season.

Ed Davis, PF, Restricted

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 24:  Ed Davis #32 of the Memphis Grizzlies shoots against Donatas Motiejunas #20 of the Houston Rockets on January 24, 2014 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloa
Bill Baptist/Getty Images

The Grizzlies' Ed Davis won’t turn 25 until midway through this summer. As a result, the Lakers should at least try targeting the forward as a bargain free-agent addition.

Memphis may try to retain him, viewing him as a former lottery pick who has the best of his basketball career ahead of him. But keeping Zach Randolph is likely the team's No. 1 priority. If Z-Bo isn’t seen as a long-term option at 32 years old, Grizzlies management should move on with Davis as a short-term option.

If Memphis intends on keeping Randolph in favor of Davis, then Davis could be available for the Lakers to consider.

The Lakers need a plethora of bigs to bolster their frontcourt depth. If Z-Bo is a legitimate option, Bryant and Co. would love to have him. If not, Davis is a valuable consolation prize.

Davis may be a starting spot away from establishing himself as a dominant power forward in the NBA. He may never be that, but until he gets minutes, we'll never know what his potential is.

If nothing else, the Lakers need a variety of options to fill the 12-man roster. Who they grab with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2014 draft will be paramount, but it’s worth noting that general manager Mitch Kupchak and Co. could grab an undervalued free agent during the summer.

They have a variety of free agents to target, and filling out the roster is a big need. The Lakers need to consider all options to return to contention.


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