Adding Anthony would add clarity to the future of the roster; something simple, a continuation of the star focused approach that the current regime has taken since Day 1.
It’s the rumored move that would re-ignite the fan base.
Fast-forward a week, and it’s clear that Carmelo is not coming to Los Angeles. He couldn’t even if he wanted to.
At this point, the Lakers have spent their wad of cash they entered this off-season with. They boast relatively little new talent, and have left the fans (and media) confused as to what the plan really is for the future of this legendary franchise.
However, before I speculate on what the grand scheme might be, let’s take a look at the deals that are primed to take place (as in, become official) over the next few days. Each contributes to the big picture in its own way.
Lakers Trade For Houston Rockets’ Point Guard Jeremy Lin, First-Round Pick
The Lakers acquired Jeremy Lin (and his $8 million+ salary), a future first rounder for their second-rounder in 2015.
The draft pick is the key here. The Lakers are in the business of adding assets, and even a pick in the mid-20s is considered one. This type of pick can be attached to simply sweeten future deals or kept to add cheap, young talent.
Lin slots in as the starting point guard, or the Lakers sixth man at worst. He adds a scoring threat to the roster, and will allow the Lakers to have a second ball handler who is a threat in that department.
Financially, the Lakers have no commitment beyond Lin’s $15 million this year ($8 million counts against the cap), which makes this a low-risk move.
The disappointment from this trade is that this was likely the Lakers’ plan C, at best, and Lin will eat up a ton of cap room this year.
However, he represents an upgrade on the roster, with little commitment.
Lakers Re-Sign Nick Young & Jordan Hill
After missing out on the top names, the moves came quickly.
First, the Lakers signed Nick ‘Swaggy P’ Young to a three-year deal with a player option for a fourth year. His average salary will be around the $5 million mark.
The Lakers also re-signed forward/center Jordan Hill to a one-year deal with a team-option for a second year. He will earn $9 million a season.
Young is a fan favorite, and may be a bit overpriced at $20+ million over four years, but can score, something this Lakers team will need to compete.
Hill is more intriguing.
With impressive Per 36 numbers, Hill seems to be worth a good chunk of change. I’m just not sure that $9 million is the number I would be comfortable at.
Nonetheless, he is only on the books for one guaranteed year. His large salary can be used to acquire higher priced talent if need be, and he’s still young. This signing could have been a lot worse.
What’s The Plan?
It’s clear with these moves that the Lakers plan on targeting the summer of 2016 to truly make a free agent splash.
Lin, Hill, Steve Nash, and Kobe Bryant will all be off the payroll at that juncture, and a certain 2013-14 MVP is slated to be a free agent.
Until then, there are a few priorities for the Lakers.
First, as much as they say they want to compete at a high level, it seems that the priority is to sell tickets (duh). Lin will draw even more eyes from the Asian viewership, Nick Young will continue to do Nick Young things, and Kobe has his obvious dramatic appeal. The Lakers will continue to nearly print money over the next two seasons.
Second, they will guard their cap space. This is much like what the Dallas Mavericks have been doing the past few seasons. The Lakers will continue to be in play for the major free agents until they are confident they have landed a core they like. Expect cost cutting moves that add assets.
Third, the development of Julius Randle will be key. It’s possible Randle will be a star in the league. If that is the case, the Lakers will have a much higher rate of success of getting big name free agents to bolt from their current teams. Boasting a huge market, unstoppable brand, ideal climate, AND a young star? That’s just unfair.
So, what’s the plan?
Unfortunately, for right now, being patient looks to be the course of action for the Los Angeles Lakers.