(Photo: Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)
The 2015 off-season started off with so much hope for the Lakers. Early on there were reports of the Lakers moving up on the list of preferred destinations of free agent LaMarcus Aldridge.
News surfaced that Jimmy Butler was interested in joining the Lakers on a short term deal and that the Bulls were contemplating letting him walk.
Chris Broussard reported that Kevin Love was scheduled to meet with the Lakers during the week.
DeAndre Jordan and Greg Monroe were also reported to have meetings scheduled with the Lakers brass.
The Lakers had just drafted D’Angelo Russell and the idea was bandied about in basketball circles that because they went with a guard over the center, Jahlil Okafor, who many had expected them to take, that the Lakers already had an agreement with one of the big name free agent front court players.
Well, the clock struck midnight on the east coast on Wednesday and very quickly each and every one of those very favorable reports of the Lakers landing a big name free agent proved to be false and that hope that existed just before midnight started was squashed by the crushing weight of reality.
First, reports of the LaMarcus Aldridge meeting not going well.
Then, Kevin Love apparently did not have a meeting line up with the Lakers as Broussard had reported because he was busy agreeing to a 5 year extension to re-up with the Cavs.
Shortly after, news of the DeAndre Jordan meeting with the Lakers is that it was “underwelming”.
Then, Report of Greg Monroe agreeing to terms with Milwaukee. Yes, a player chose Milwaukee over Los Angeles.
Ed Davis who the Lakers hoped would be their safety net in case they didn’t get one of the big names in free agency decided not to wait around and agreed to sign with the Portland Trailblazers.
Now the Lakers are technically still in the Aldridge and Jordan race as neither have officially crossed them off the list, in the case with Aldridge he’s agreed to a 2nd meeting, but all indications are that they are a long shot of signing either player.
The Lakers looking like they’ll whiff for the 2nd straight year are getting very close to being in the state of now-what.
Once all the notable free agent class is picked clean the Lakers can turn to high salary players that are in the last year of their deal who they can pick up in trade from teams looking to dump salary by utilizing their loads of cap space in the same way they picked up Jeremy Lin from the Houston Rockets last season. The Lakers could also pick up additional assets by taking on players in salary dumps like they did in the Lin deal where they received the Rockets’ 27th pick in this just completed NBA draft which they used to draft Larry Nance Jr.
The following are the 3 players that could be moved by teams looking to dump salary, are on the last year of their deals and can still have a sizable impact on the coming season.
1. David Lee – Golden State Warriors – PF
2014/15 stats: 7.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 51.1 FG%
2015/16 Salary: 15.4 million
- The Warriors are coming off a championship and might not be looking to make too many changes but it will be hard to justify keeping Lee and his exorbitant salary when he has such a limited role on the team.
- People forget that Lee is a 2 time All-Star and had season averages of 18+ ppg 4 times and 9+ rpg 7 times. Lee is 32 years old so he is approaching the back end of his prime but for one year, given a prominent role, Lee can produce on the offensive end.
- Draft picks available for trade: The Warriors have both their 1st and 2nd round picks available for trade starting in 2019 and beyond.
2. Roy Hibbert – Indiana Pacers – C
2014/15 stats: 10.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.6 blocks per game
2015/16 Salary: 15.5 million
- Hibbert is another 2 time All-Star that can be moved for the purpose of shedding salary and is still relatively young (28 years old).
- Hibbert’s numbers don’t stand out, but his worth is what he brings on the defensive end where he has a massive impact as a rim protector. With Hibbert the Pacers have ranked in the top 4 in Opponents points per game in the last 3 years and ranked first in defensive rating in 2 of the last 3 years.
- Hibbert is a slow footed, lumbering center which are starting to become a dying breed, but with Kobe and a few of the other pieces on the Lakers team that could excel in a slower, half court game, such as Randle and D’Angelo Russell, along with the fact that Byron Scott is a coach that is as old school as it gets, he could be a good fit style-wise for the Lakers, at least for 1 season.
- Draft picks available for trade: Pacers have all their picks, both 1st and 2nd round, available starting next season and beyond making them a very attractive trade partner.
3. Joe Johnson – Brooklyn Nets – SG
2014/15 stats: 14.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.7 apg
2015/16 Salary: 24.8 million
- Johnson is 34 years old and while he is only 2 years removed from an All-Star appearance he is a far cry from this days in Atlanta when he was a top 5 shooting guard in the league. Johnson can still provide in spurts and counted on in the clutch, very similarly to Paul Pierce’s role in Washington last season.
- Unlikely that the Nets will be able to move Johnson’s massive contract even if it is in it’s final year, but if they can throw in some future draft picks (way, way in the future) and/or young players, such as Bojan Bogdanovic or recently drafted Chris McCullough, it might entice a team like the Lakers once all other options have been explored.
- Draft picks available for trade: The Boston Celtics left the Nets’ cupboard bare with the Pierce/Garnett trade by taking back numerous 1st round picks. The Nets don’t have a pick that they can trade until 2020.