There has been a ton of talk surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers this summer regarding roster moves that have already been completed (Steve Nash and Antawn Jamison) and roster moves that can possibly be on the horizon in Lakerland. Despite being the most financially strapped team in the league to sign free agents and to make other acquisitions, Mitch Kupchak and the Lakers have made outstanding deals to not only answer pressing needs on the court, but to immediately improve the team as well so far.
One of the notable issues that Lakers management is looking to solve this off-season is the bench. Signing Jamison and re-signing Jordan Hill were steps in the right direction, but as I have written this summer, the void for an upgraded backup shooting guard remains questionable. Now, there have been plenty of rumors and stories circulating around the basketball world of who could be the next Laker in this specific position. Yet, another player’s story has most likely affected the Lakers search for Kobe’s backup.
Enter the newest Laker as of today, Dwight Howard. The Dwightmare was certainly frustrating for fans, but for most Laker fans the result was worth the wait. The Lakers once again have Superman on their roster, and the future for this version of the big man appears just as bright if not brighter in Los Angeles.
As a reminder, a rare and complex four-team deal was agreed to and became official today to finally bring Dwight Howard to L.A. after what seems like years, but really a few months of speculation. The deal consisted of:
- Lakers received Dwight Howard, Chris Duhon, Earl Clark
- Denver Nuggets received Andre Iguodala
- Philadelphia 76ers received Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson
- Orlando Magic received Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Moe Harkless, Nikola Vucevic, Josh McRoberts,Christian Eyenga, one protected future first-round pick from each of the other three teams and multiple future second-rounds picks
So, does this mean that the reason for the apparent hesitation in signing more bench players, especially a reserve two-guard, was due to the Lakers playing the waiting game with the Magic over Dwight Howard? Of course it does. The possibility of adding Howard to the roster was complex and, as it turns out, involved multiple pieces.
However, once again the Lakers proved that they play chess, not checkers. Therefore, the Lakers never put themselves in a desperate situation and they know how to read other teams’ cards. Now that the Howard trade is complete, are more moves in the near future for the Lakers?
Despite acquiring Chris Duhon in the deal and adding a three-point threat to the roster, Steve Blake is expected to win the backup role to Steve Nash. Earl Clark is a young power forward who seems more comfortable at the three spot, and has potential. However, it remains to be seen how many minutes he will get behind Antawn Jamison and Jordan Hill. The Lakers still have two roster spots open if they don’t sign their draft picks from this year (Johnson-Odom and Sacre) and if they make their deal with Ebanks official. The Lakers could still use a sign-and-trade to acquire bench players or stick with developing their current roster.
Keep in mind, the top free agents have already been signed by other teams and the Lakers would be unable to afford the majority of the top free agents anyway. However, the Lakers are still in control in this situation and are able to play the waiting game a little longer, but not much longer. Why? The Lakers are still the Lakers after all, which is marketing advantage number one. Secondly, whoever signs with the Lakers know they are joining a team in real contention right now, which competes with marketing advantage number one.
The Lakers are still in control of their destiny. Even if the Lakers weren’t able to acquire Howard, they remain arguably the most attractive team to sign with in the NBA. The Lakers still have several prospects to choose from in free agency, but now have limited space on their roster. The top players on the Lakers radar include Jodie Meeks and Leandro Barbosa, with Barbosa being a bit favored at this point.
The Lakers remain hopeful to sign players to improve the bench’s depth and to backup a stellar and arguably best starting lineup in the league (Dwight Howard, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant), at the veteran’s minimum worth approximately $1.4 million. However, they still have their mini-MLE of $3.09 million to spend on a player if they deem him to be worth utilizing it.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Lakers and Kupchak have targeted players in mind to improve their bench, and unlike other NBA teams, have the unique experience and knowledge to pull the trigger on a deal if it is the right player, the right time and the right price. That is why the Laker are the Lakers and remain in the driver’s seat. Now, the question now is: Are they done?
I fully expect if the answer is no, the moves to add improvements to the bench will come very soon, especially after Nash, Jamison and Howard have added market value to the Lakers. Until then, here’s some highlights of the new Laker center to hold you over.