Brandon Bass the Perfect Fit for Rebuilding Lakers

Fred Katz@@FredKatzFeatured ColumnistJuly 7, 2015

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The Los Angeles Lakers whiffed on their top free-agency targets. Now, they're remedying the situation by finding whittled role players.

Next up, Brandon Bass. From Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports:

Marc J. Spears @MarcJSpearsESPN

Celtics free agent forward Brandon Bass to sign with the Lakers, a source told Yahoo Sports

Here's the interesting part, though. As NBA.com's David Aldridge points out, we still don't know Bass' salary:

David Aldridge @daldridgetnt

Confirm Brandon Bass agreement w/Lakers (@SpearsNBAYahoo first). Contract terms pending other LA moves. Lakers do have room exception.

It's impractical to evaluate a signing without knowing the financial aspects, but it is possible to speculate about role or fit. And for L.A., Bass makes sense as long as the team does some roster mending.

Bass will be the Lakers' fourth power forward, joining Julius Randle, Ryan Kelly and Larry Nance. That means we're probably going to see one of those guys get moved before the season begins. Could any of them be included in a Nick Young salary dump, as Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported was a possibility after the Lakers signed Lou Williams on Sunday, per RealGM's Shams Charania?

Speculatively, that guy is probably Kelly. The Lakers just drafted Nance and obviously appraise Randle, their 2014 first-rounder, as a more expensive commodity than a stretch 4 who has value but is clearly less talented.

Of course, a player like Bass doesn't have much on-court value on a team bound for the lottery, and make no mistake about it: That's exactly where the Lakers are going in the tough-as-ever Western Conference. But laying an actual foundation is essential for a squad under reconstruction.

EL SEGUNDO, CA - JUNE 29:  Los Angeles Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak attends a press conference introducing draft picks at Toyota Sports Center on June 29, 2015 in El Segundo California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

People made jokes about the series of meetings LaMarcus Aldridge had with the Lakers for a reason. It seemed ridiculous that a team with the history and success of the Lakers could sit down with a big-time free agent to talk shop without actually getting to basketball. But that's what happened, as Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times reported.

The Lakers pitched him on flash, and he wasn't enthused, to the degree that L.A. had to beg for a second meeting—like a desperate teenager after a failure of a first date—just to talk about the sport he'd be playing. But you have to imagine the Lakers had a reason to frame their pitch to Aldridge around the buzz that is Los Angeles because it's pretty hard to make the actual basketball aspect look enticing right now.

The New York Knicks have the same problem.

Players want to go to those markets, but they don't want to do it if it means sitting through a rebuild. They want the foundation, the role players to be there for them to slot between.

The Knicks, especially, have done a nice job of finding those role players this summer, the ones who could be appealing to stars not this offseason, but next. The last few signings for the Lakers, who will have loads of cap space during the summer of 2016, show a similar mentality.

ATLANTA, GA - FEBRUARY 20: Lou Williams #23 of the Toronto Raptors drives against Shelvin Mack #8 of the Atlanta Hawks on February 20, 2015 at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading an
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Lou Williams is an odd fit with a team that already has too many ball-handlers and contested-shot-takers, but his contract (three years, $21 million, according to Wojnarowski) is perfectly reasonable for a 28-year-old reigning Sixth Man of the Year. Considering today's NBA economic environment and the way salaries have shot up this offseason to make Aron Baynes a $20 million man, Williams' contract should be flippable midseason or even in 2016-17.

Getting in a position to acquire Roy Hibbert is another example of that, just on a higher level. If you can't fill your cap space with the guys you want most, take in expensive players with high ceilings on one-year commitments and see if you can turn them into real value, either by embedding them in a worthwhile role for down the line or by flipping them for picks or a bevy of players if you're discouraged with your team's performance midseason.

That's the value in signing Bass, who can actually play like the idea of Carlos Boozer, a man who came to the Lakers last offseason and disappointed once fans realized this was a different Boozer than the one they saw in Utah years before.

Plus, as Darius Soriano pointed out at Forum Blue & Gold, a vet who played on winning teams in Boston and Orlando can be valuable for the Lakers' up-and-coming prospects:

Having [Bass] battle every day with Julius Randle in practice on the court to help aid in his development while also serving as a good example of how to be a professional, veteran in this league off the floor will be a nice addition.

I'm also firmly of the mind that the Lakers, while needing to rely heavily on their young players for production this season, cannot build a roster solely of young players without some veterans to help shape their growth. If you remember the 90's "Lakeshow" teams, they too filled their roster by surrounding some of their young talent with veteran players who could help be leaders and be positive examples on and off the floor. Mitch Kupchak, much like Jerry West before him, seems to believe in this approach and Bass would fit into that philosophy well.

On the court, Bass will do what you'd want Boozer to do as a mid-range shooter. Aside from a down year with the Celtics in 2013-14, he's hit more than 45 percent of his shots from 16 feet out to the three-point line each season since 2010. While the NBA is getting away from that sort of style, the Lakers still value the mid-range shot, and it's still important to have secondary and tertiary options as big men who can shoot.

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 14:  Brandon Bass #30 of the Boston Celtics shoots against the Toronto Raptors during the game on April 14, 2015 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or
Brian Babineau/Getty Images

Unlike Boozer, though, Bass doesn't command the ball often. He can still have purpose without it, like when he's setting ball screens or even sealing guys down low for cutters who are heading toward the basket. And he's a way more capable defensive player (in every aspect) than Boozer ever was, even if he's far from an all-world stopper.

Again, without knowing the money, no one can say if the Bass commitment is a good or bad one. For all we know, the Lakers are going to swing around tons of roster spots so they can bring him to Los Angeles on an otherwise unworkable contract. Obviously, that's not ideal.

But Bass made $6.9 million this past season and is coming off a strong yearlong performance. With the way teams are spewing money this offseason in anticipation of a rapidly rising cap in 2016, it's tough to give out a contract that would be regarded as a bad one.

If the Lakers can sign him up for a reasonable price—like the room exception, which David Aldridge alluded to earlier—that's more than equitable value for a 30-year-old who still has plenty left in the tank.

Follow Fred Katz on Twitter at @FredKatz.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com unless noted otherwise.


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