Ranking Los Angeles Lakers' 5 Most Likely Free-Agency Moves

David Murphy@@davem234Featured ColumnistMay 23, 2014

Ranking Los Angeles Lakers' 5 Most Likely Free-Agency Moves

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    Jason DeCrow/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Lakers will be moving into this summer’s free-agency period with just three players locked into guaranteed contracts—Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Robert Sacre.

    They have a lot of roster holes to deal with.

    It’s not quite that absolute—they also have Kendall Marshall under a non-guaranteed contract, plus Nick Young who will no doubt exercise his player’s option, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent.

    There has been a lot of talk about the amount of cap space they have to spend this summer—a maximum of $28.2 million, according to Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times.

    As Pincus points out, however, that amount is predicated on the Lakers renouncing every free agent along with their respective cap holds. Those holds include $20.3 million for Pau Gasol, $6.7 million for Jordan Hill and $2.0 million for Jodie Meeks:

    If the Lakers keep Nash and choose not to renounce Meeks, the team would have up to $20.8 million in cap space. Meeks can then be signed via his "Early Bird rights" to a contract starting in the neighborhood of $5.6 million for next season.

    The Lakers can also make qualifying offers to Ryan Kelly ($1.0 million) and Kent Bazemore ($1.1 million) to make both players restricted free agents.  Should the Lakers also keep Marshall's non-guaranteed deal with Kelly, Bazemore, Nash and Meeks, the franchise would still have $19.3 million to spend.

    The Lakers will also pay approximately $2.5 million to their No. 7 pick in the upcoming draft.

    That would leave approximately $17 million to spend on around six players. Management will have to choose wisely. This could entail spending on one sought-after free agent and spending the remaining amount on minimum-salary deals.

    And who might the Lakers pursue for that one sizable contract?

    For the purpose of this article, only free agents who don’t currently wear the Purple and Gold will be ranked.

Honorable Mention: Carmelo Anthony

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    Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

    Why does Carmelo Anthony only merit an honorable mention? Isn't this guy a major star?

    Well sure, he can light up the scoreboard and has often been mentioned as a target for the Lakers.

    But, things have changed since Phil Jackson took over as the new president of the New York Knicks. The duo has been seen dining to discuss their mutual future, and exercising one’s early-termination option is a lot less likely when you have 11 Rings in your corner.

    Besides, the Lakers would have to renounce every single non-guaranteed Lakers contract, spend every penny left on Melo and have nothing left for anyone else until after Kobe Bryant retires. 

    For now, Anthony will have to be the sixth man on this free-agency list.

5. Trevor Ariza

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Trevor Ariza has had a career marked by true highs and lows. The journeyman has been with six teams in 10 seasons, and has reached the pinnacle of success once, winning an NBA championship with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009.

    That summer, Ariza hit the free-agency marketplace and found himself in limbo when his agent, David Lee, wasn’t able to close a deal with the Lakers. Los Angeles wound up signing Ron Artest, soon to be known as Metta World Peace, instead.

    According to Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times, Ariza learned to get past it as he signed a deal with Artest’s former team, the Houston Rockets: “ You learn that it's cutthroat. It doesn't always go the way you want it to."

    Ariza is again finding himself headed for free agency after helping the Washington Wizards get to the second round of the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2005.

    The Wizards would no doubt like Ariza back but may have to make a choice—starting center Marcin Gortat is also an unrestricted free agent. And like the Lakers, the Wizards have a lot of holes to fill and only so much money with which to do it.

    A native of Los Angeles, Ariza has been missed by Lakers fans since he left five summers ago. He started 77 out of 77 games for the Wizards this season, averaging 14.4 points, 6.2 points and 1.6 steals. He’ll be 29 in June.

    Ariza’s contributions don’t always show up in stats—he’s 6’8” with an impressive 7’2” wingspan, has plenty of lateral quickness, can disrupt passing lanes and also has an explosive leaping ability. Ariza will have a lot of suitors this summer.

    How much will Ariza command this summer and what should the Lakers be willing to pay? His most recent salary with Wizards was $7,727,280.

    Remember, Nash’s $9 million comes off the books at the end of next season.

    Perhaps offering Ariza a three-year contract starting at $8.5 million, with $9 million the season after and a team option for $9 million in year 3, would work.

4. Gordon Hayward

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Gordon Hayward turned 24 in March and has a lot of upside in front of him. The Utah Jazz have the ability to present a qualifying offer of $4,677,708 to their former No. 9 draft pick, thus making him a restricted free agent.

    If that happens, will the Jazz match bids? It probably depends on the amount. Utah fired its head coach, Ty Corbin, had a disappointing 25-57 season and will have the No. 5 overall pick in this year’s draft.

    Like the Lakers, the Jazz are a team in transition—but without Kobe Bryant.

    According to a report by Jody Genessy for the Desert News last October, Jazz management couldn’t come to terms on an extension for Hayward, with his representation reportedly hoping to secure more than Derrick Favors’ four-year $47 million deal.

    Extrapolating, if the Lakers want a shot, they’d better be prepared to pay at least $12 million per year.

    As Howard Beck for Bleacher Report writes, interest around the league will be high for Hayward, and he’s excited to see what the future brings: "It's weird to think about, just because it's been four years and you kind of see yourself as staying with whatever team you get drafted by. But we'll see where it goes. I can't worry about it now. I'm just excited about where it can go."

    At 6’8”, Hayward is a high-energy swingman who plays both small forward and shooting guard. His per-game averages have gone up each year in the league, culminating with 16.2 points, 5.1 boards, 5.2 assists and 1.4 steals this season with 77 starts out of 77 appearances.

    Could he be a major piece of the Lakers' rebuild puzzle?

3. Spencer Hawes

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    It seems likely that the Lakers will be in dire need of frontcourt help going forward in an era when big-men roles are evolving.

    Hawes was traded from the Philadelphia 76ers to the Cleveland Cavaliers at the February deadline this past season and started 25 of 27 games for a team that was searching for an identity. The 7-foot stretch center has been a starter for most of his seven-season career and now finds himself at another crossroads as an unrestricted free agent.

    Of course, much depends on who Hawes is coached by. He’s not a classic low-post player but has good hands, good footwork and an intelligent approach to the game. With the ability to run the court and shoot from the perimeter, Hawes would probably have fit in nicely with Mike D’Antoni’s system.

    But D’Antoni is gone, the Lakers have yet to choose a coach, and they’ll have the No. 7 pick in a draft that is well stocked with bigs.

    Still, Hawes is one of those rare breeds—big, able to stretch the floor and, most importantly, available.

    Having just turned 26, Hawes should have a lot of good years ahead of him. It’s hard to know how much he will bring on the open market—his salary this year was $6.6 million, and he’ll definitely get a bump up.

    The other question, of course, is whether the Cavs will try to re-sign him. Now that they have the No. 1 draft pick (for the third time in four years), they’ll have a lot of options.

    The Lakers should take a long look at this guy. He may not be a star in the typical sense of the word, but he’s a starter, he can shoot the ball from just about anywhere and he could be a solid building block for the future.

    How much should Los Angeles be willing to pay? Somewhere between $7.5 million and $9 million per year.

2. Kyle Lowry

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Kyle Lowry will be one of this summer’s hottest commodities.

    The 6'0" point guard led the Toronto Raptors to a Game 7 in the first round of the playoffs, losing to the Brooklyn Nets by just one point. Lowry also scored a game-high 28 points. He does more than put the ball in the bucket, however.

    Lowry’s also unparalleled at stopping on a dime and drawing offensive fouls.

    As Jared Zwerling for Bleacher Report writes:

    Drawing offensive fouls was Lowry's secret weapon this season—the best in his eight-year career, during which he averaged career highs in points and assists per game (17.9 and 7.4, respectively). In fact, there was no one better at drawing offensive fouls—it wasn't even close.

    Eighty-four. That's how many offensive fouls Lowry drew this season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Derek Fisher was second with 55. To put into perspective how good Lowry was, the league leader over the previous five seasons drew an average of 56.2 offensive fouls.

    The Raptors will lobby hard to bring their unrestricted free agent back. But what will his price be? Lowry earned $6,210,000 last season—a modest salary for a point guard of his caliber. 

    Can he command $10 million a year for a long-term contract? Maybe more? The Lakers have a lot of needs and only so much money to go around. They’ll be one of many teams taking a hard look at Lowry this summer.

1. Marcin Gortat

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Marcin Gortat is the kind of guy who can fill some gaping holes for the Lakers.

    At 6’11” and 240 pounds, he's mobile, a strong defensive presence under the glass and has a nice scoring touch—at either close range or extending out to mid-range.

    He’s also not afraid to do the dirty work—hence his nickname, The Polish Hammer.

    Gortat was traded from the Phoenix Suns to the Washington Wizards before the start of the season and wound up starting 80 of 81 games, averaging 13.2 points, 9.5 boards and 1.5 blocks. He was a good part of the reason for the Wizards' run to the playoffs—they were ousted in the second round by the Indiana Pacers.

    And now, he’s an unrestricted free agent. The Wizards would like to bring him back, and according to Brandon Parker of The Washington Post, Gortat feels the same way: “I love the team here, We can have something special here for the next three, four, five years. We have a lot of talent on this team, a lot of young guys who can develop and become a superstar in this league.”

    On the other hand, the Wizards have a lot of roster holes and nearly $28 million in salary committed to Nene and John Wall alone. They’d also like to being back Trevor Ariza if possible.

    Gortat may have learned to love it in the nation’s capital, but he can also love it in sunny Los Angeles. About $10 million per year would make it even sweeter.


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