2015 Free Agency
Brandon Bass (two years, $6.1 million with player option) – Bass is a steady, efficient power forward who doesn’t make many mistakes, but isn’t likely to move the needle much either. His mid-range jumper will help with floor spacing and his free throw shooting is spectacular for his position (83 percent for his career). On the downside though, Bass isn’t a rim protector and his rebounding leaves a lot to be desired. In other words, he’s a solid role player, but that’s it.
Fortunately, Bass isn’t being paid solely for his production on the court, but also for his reputation as a veteran voice in the locker room. The youth movement is in full swing, but it’s important that the Lakers have experienced players aside from Kobe who can help carry the message from the coaching staff to the team. Byron Scott can talk all he wants about being a professional, but Bass can model how it’s done.
He will also be tasked with fast tracking Julius Randle’s transition from de facto rookie to key contributor (essentially inheriting Carlos Boozer’s role). If Bass is successful in this endeavor, then he will be well worth his modest salary, but still his signing isn’t the type of move that’s going to placate anxious Lakers fans or strike fear into the hearts of the Western Conference elite.
Lou Williams (three years, $21 million) – In a vacuum, signing the reigning Sixth Man of the Year on a deal that will pay him just eight percent of the projected salary cap in 2016 and six percent in 2017 is an absolute home run. ‘Sweet Lou’ is a known commodity who can be a backup point guard in a pinch, which is certain to come in handy, but his best role is as a microwave-style scorer off the bench. He flourishes when he is provided with space to break his man down in isolation and is a master at getting to the free throw line, where he shot an impressive 86 percent last season.
However, the Lakers don’t operate in a vacuum and while Williams was a great value signing, his fit on the team is highly questionable. The main skill he brings to the table — his scoring — also happens to be the specialty of Nick Young, Kobe Bryant, Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown. That’s a lot of shoot-first players to share one basketball, giving Coach Scott the massive task of trying to stagger minutes, so there aren’t too many overlapping skill sets sharing the court at one time.
Of course, none of that is Williams’ fault, nor does it necessarily make him a bad signing. With Kobe’s recent injury history, it’s likely that he will be bubble wrapped for much of the season, and Brown is not a lock for major minutes. Swaggy P also has some work to do to earn back Byron’s trust, so his minutes may be limited as well. Additionally, Lou will likely spend some time running the point and dusting off his skills as a distributor, so the skill set duplication may not be as bad as it appears on paper. One way or another, the team will eventually be balanced and the primary concern for Mitch Kupchak this summer was to add talent and sort out fit later. For now, it’s mission accomplished.
2019 second round pick for Roy Hibbert – Following the draft, it was clear that the Lakers badly needed a starting center, and they would have to hope to find one on the free agent market. Accordingly, fans fell into a panic shortly after the free agency bell sounded, watching in horror as the purple and gold missed on one big man after another.
They focused on pitching long shots like LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre Jordan, and even Greg Monroe, seemingly wasting their time while more attainable mid-tier players were being wined and dined by the rest of the league. The good vibes of the D’Angelo Russell selection felt like a lifetime ago while every Woj-confirmed free agent signing appeared to march the Lakers closer to the precipice. Even Ed Davis was snatched away while the top-tier players kept the Lakers in a holding pattern.
It was excruciating to watch unfold, particularly since the same scenario had played out during the previous two summers.
In the end though, we needn’t have worried so much, Mitch had things under control. The Lakers front office had been working on contingency plans, and knew that they would likely be able to acquire two-time All Star Roy Hibbert from the Indiana Pacers if all else failed. When it was clear they wouldn’t be landing the league’s elite, they pulled the trigger, bringing the master of verticality to Los Angeles.
The cost? A piddly 2019 second round pick and the cap space required to absorb the nearly $16 million due to Hibbert next season.
Lakers Nation breathed a sigh of relief. Hibbert may not have have been the high-profile free agent that the Lakers were looking for, but he provides the rim protection the team sorely needs and brings an All-Star pedigree. Even in a down year last season, he was in the top-five in opponents field goal percentage at the rim and given the Lakers lack of perimeter defenders, Roy is going to have a very busy 2015-2016 season.
Of course, it’s not all jiggling jello. It takes two to trade, and Larry Bird of all people isn’t going to willingly allow the Lakers to fleece him in a deal. In spite of his past accomplishments, Pacer fans couldn’t wait to banish Hibbert from Pawnee. His offensive game is terribly inefficient, and his lumbering 7’2″ body often struggles to keep up in faster-paced contests. Indiana is so convinced that the league is leaving big Roy behind that they let a guy who is only a season and a half removed from being an All-Star go for nearly no compensation.
To truly put things in perspective, Jordan Hill’s PER (an admittedly imperfect stat) of 16.2 last year beat Hibbert’s 15.4. Hill currently finds himself employed by the Pacers at just 1/4 of Hibbert’s price.
That said, Hibbert’s ceiling is still high, and his fit on the team is about as perfect as it gets. He will have plenty of scoring around him to minimize his offensive struggles, while Roy’s stellar rim protection will help mask the failures of L.A.’s perimeter defenders. With a fresh start and in a contract year, the Lakers are sure to get the best that Roy Hibbert has to offer.
CONTINUE SLIDESHOW: Grading Lakers’ 2015 off-season