The off-season is in full swing and the Los Angeles Lakers have made a number of impressive moves to help solidify themselves as a contender heading into the 2012-2013 campaign. And still, the Lakers aren’t done searching for more talent to fill their bench.
The Lakers need contributors who can come off the pine and create a spark when the starters are resting. Although they already boast some promising young players who have the potential to develop into playmakers, the free agency market still holds some skilled players worth considering.
As of now, the only limiting factor for the Lakers is money. The salary cap is so far behind them it’s a dot in the distance. Their only logical option is signing someone who’s looking for an easy ride towards the NBA Finals at the veteran minimum.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some the Lakers’ best available options via free agency, what they would bring to the table and what it would cost the purple and gold to bring them to Los Angeles.
Kenyon Martin, Power Forward, Unrestricted Free Agent
When Martin was finally freed from China after spending the 2011 lockout overseas, he came back to the states looking for a new team. Although the Lakers showed interest in the former Denver Nuggets star, Martin opted to join the other Los Angeles team, the Clippers. Now, however, he’s back on the market and looking for another potential ride towards a ring.
While he’s definitely not the Martin of a few years back, he still can provide some support in a backup role. Martin brings energy, toughness and defense off of the bench and has the potential to even contribute on the offensive side of the ball. Put simply, he can still be a difference maker.
Even better for the Lakers is that they could probably get him for the veteran minimum. At this point, K-Mart is just looking to latch on with a contender and provide some support off of the bench. That’s exactly what the Lakers need and it’s the perfect price for a team already over the salary cap.
Brandon Rush, Shooting Guard, Restricted Free Agent
The Lakers have been searching far and wide this off-season in hopes of finding a suitable backup for Kobe Bryant at the two spot. Unfortunately, their efforts have yielded no significant results. Apart from picking up a promising young guard in the form of rookie Darius Johnson-Odom, the only other option at shooting guard that the Lakers have is second-year sharpshooter Andrew Goudelock.
In Rush, the Lakers would be getting a one-dimensional guard. Known more for his shooting than anything else, Rush excels from beyond the arch but is extremely limited as a defender. He was one of the worst defenders on a poor defensive Golden State Warriors team in 2011-2012.
Even though the Lakers brought Rush in for a workout back in mid-July, the Warriors have made it clear that they plan on matching any offer that their long-range expert receives. And especially since the Lakers have little money to throw at Rush, it’s unlikely he’ll be wearing purple and gold anytime soon unless another sign-and-trade materializes.
Michael Redd, Shooting Guard, Unrestricted Free Agent
The Lakers desperately need help in the shooting department and they need it to be cheap. Well, that’s where a player like Redd fits like a puzzle piece. Although age is quickly become a factor, Redd still has a potential to be a solid scorer night in and night out.
The 32-year old shooter would provide the Lakers with a quality spot-up artist who can knock down shots consistently and spread the floor. The tread is wearing thin on his tires, but he still knows how to drive the lane and is a creative scorer, something that the Lakers’ bench unit was desperately missing after the departure of Lamar Odom.
The best part about a potential Redd-to-Lakers deal is that the aging shooter could easily cost them only the veteran minimum. Like the majority of their remaining free agent options, a quality veteran at a cost-effective price seems like a possibility worth exploring.
Jonny Flynn, Point Guard, Unrestricted Free Agent
As of right now, the Lakers are finally set at the starting point guard spot after acquiring veteran Steve Nash. Still, the backup spot is questionable at best with only Steve Blake and Darius Morris currently on the roster. Depending on how comfortable the Lakers feel about that particular situation, kicking the tires of Flynn could be an option.
Once considering a top-tier point guard prospect, Flynn has been a disappointment since entering the league in 2009. His shooting and facilitating skills are average at best, and his defense is inconsistent. He shot only 29.4 percent from three-point land last season and continues to underwhelm any team that gives him a shot. So much potential after becoming a top 10 draft pick, yet only a smidgen of it has been realized.
Reports have indicated that Flynn is back to full health and ready to contribute. Blake proved last season that he’s an inconsistent backup and Morris is still extremely raw. At least with Flynn, there’s that chance that he could break out with the right supporting cast and he has the speed to defend the league’s top point guards. And considering the way he played last season, expecting much more than the veteran minimum would only hurt his chances of catching on with another team.
Jodie Meeks, Shooting Guard, Unrestricted Free Agent
Much like Rush and Redd, Meeks would fill the void that the Lakers have at the backup shooting guard spot. He’s a veteran who has more experience the anyone else that the Lakers’ roster currently boasts and has several skills that would help the purple and gold offense.
Known for his three-point shooting, Meeks would be a worthy option who could spread the floor and provide Nash with a reliable target on the outside. His defense is below average and doesn’t have the facilitating skills that they’ll need from the bench unit, but the long-range shooting makes his tires worth kicking.
Considering that he’s coming off of a lackluster season with the Philadelphia 76ers, it’s likely that the Lakers could sign Meeks for the veteran minimum. Although he wouldn’t be much more than an occasional contributor off of the bench unless injuries forced him into the lineup, he’d upgrade the outside shooting and comes with an acceptable price tag.
The Lakers’ bench is filling out nicely as the off-season wears on, but they aren’t done making moves yet. Stay tuned as the pine squad continues to take shape.