As the the Los Angeles Lakers’ season continues to plummet towards the bottom of the NBA standings, the same landing spot of the last three seasons, those “big” free agent signings from this past off-season are starting to look worse which is saying something since most thought they were pretty awful at the time those signings were announced, including this guy.
Lakers giving a combined 34 million for Mozgov & Deng over the next 4 years takes away 1 max deal they could have offered a FA in that time
— raining3s (@raining3sdotcom) July 2, 2016
Deng & Mozgov make the Lakers better but not by much. 20-30 team will be the projection for the coming season if they sign nobody else
— raining3s (@raining3sdotcom) July 2, 2016
The rationale behind the signings were clear; the Lakers wanted to compete now and provide strong, veteran leadership to help with the development of the young core.
Also, the Lakers were no longer an attractive spot for the top tier free agents with the team not being in position to compete now so if they were going to land even a tier 2 free agent they were going to have to overpay which is exactly what they did with both Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng. Boy did they overpay!
No other NBA team was looking at offering Mozgov and Deng anything close in both number of years and amount of money to what the Lakers offered which is what was necessary for them to land both.
While the Lakers’ attempt to compete and not take the tanking route that many accuse the 76ers of taking these past few seasons is commendable, it was simply not a start move for this franchise in it’s current state and that is putting it politely.
Both Mozgov and Deng are well respected veterans that can help a team win games if in the right situation but not good enough that they would make a significant impact that would justify providing them the type of long term deals that the Lakers provided.
Mozgov was a 30 year old, marginal level NBA center, that just came off a playoff run with the Cavs where they felt he was so integral to their team that he averaged just 5.8 minutes per game in the playoffs.
Deng came off a respectable season with the Miami Heat but his trajectory as a player was pointing downward (like the nose of plane coming crashing down) with him having already logged 12 very tough years in the NBA, most of which were with notorious grinder Tom Thibodeau.
As expected (by most anyway), Mozgov and Deng have done very little to improve the Lakers as they currently sit in the same spot they’ve found themselves over the last 3 season which is as one of the worst teams in the NBA and on their way to the lottery yet again. Surely the Lakers could have been this horrible without Mozgov or Deng; last year was a perfect example of that.
The main criticism isn’t the level of players that the Lakers acquired in Mozgov and Deng, it’s the amount of money and years they committed to those level of players compared to what they could have gotten in the free agent market that were nearly comparable but required much less of a commitment.
Had the Lakers simply waited for the free agent pool to thin out this past off-season they would have numerous veteran options to select from that would have provided a similar level of impact as that of Deng and Mozgov except at a much lower price; the above chart illustrates this point.
Well respected veteran Aaron Afflalo signed a 2 year deal with the Sacramento Kings with only one of those years being guaranteed and is producing similar numbers as that of Deng. At the end of the year should the Kings want to use their cap space for more attractive options they can part ways with Afflalo; the Lakers don’t have that option with Deng.
Even if the Lakers brought back Roy Hibbert who was a major disappointment last season it would have made more sense. Hibbert has developed into a key role player off the bench for the Hornets this season and signed for a very reasonable 1 year and 5 million.
Now with the Lakers clearly headed to the lottery and trying to get wins having little importance both Lakers’ veterans are in a situation where they are getting in the way of giving the youth playing time.
Ivica Zubac, the Lakers very promising 2nd round pick from this past draft, has registered 3 double-doubles in the last 5 games which is three times more than Mozgov has registered this season despite playing in 3 times the games than Zubac. The Lakers coaching staff and front office would love to continue seeing his development which means less playing time for Mozgov.
The Lakers 2nd overall pick Brandon Ingram will also likely see increased playing time at the small forward position which will have Deng both seeing a reduction in minutes in which he suits up and getting more rest days overall.
Once this season is over Deng and Mozgov will be continue to be in the way, not with playing time for the youth but with their 32 million on the cap that is owed to them next season. Money that could have been offered to younger players with bigger impacts such as Gordon Hayward, Kyle Lowry, Paul Millsap or Serge Ibaka,
That money owed to Deng and Mozgov will continue to go up and stay on the cap for the next 3 off-seasons and each free agent class; while their skills, abilities and impact will continue to evitably go down. A normal side effect of aging.
The Lakers’ decision to sign both Mozgov and Deng was a head scratcher when the signings were announced in July of last year and it gets harder to understand as this season goes on as the losses continue to pile up and those checks from the Lakers accounting office continue being cut.