The Los Angeles Lakers this offseason after losing center Dwight Howard to the Houston Rockets found themselves in a unusual position for one of the most heralded franchises in all of sports by having to regroup after a superstar player chose to leave their organization.
In response to Howard’s decision to go elsewhere, the Lakers have made a series of smaller moves to position themselves well financially next year to have about $50 million in cap room space to spend in a free agent class that will likely feature big name players such as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Paul George, Rudy Gay, Danny Granger, and DeMarcus Cousins.
So with that in mind, here are the top five moves the Lakers have made this offseason:
1. Kurt Rambis added to Lakers assistant coach staff
The hiring of Rambis to Mike D’Antoni‘s assistant coach staff was a surprising move given the fact that he had been openly critical of D”Antoni’s coaching style that did not emphasize the use of big men within his fast-paced offensive strategy. It was a decision by the Lakers head coach that even caught Rambis off guard.
His return to the Lakers’ bench could be very beneficial to the team in regards to their defense. As an assistant coach during the Phil Jackson era in Los Angeles, he was primarily responsible for the team’s defensive strategy that was a hybrid defense that used the combination of man to man and strong side zone which helped the franchise win the 2009 NBA championship.
Since he was hired he has spoken to the media about improving the Lakers on the defensive end of the floor, so if he is indeed placed with the responsibility of handling the defense expect a change to the defensive philosophy to something that is most effective and suitable to the personnel of this current Lakers’ team.
Rambis impact on the Lakers will be displayed this upcoming season as the team will improve on a defense that last year ranked 23rd in points allowed at 101.0 per game, 28th in defensive efficiency, 29th in opponents turnovers per game at 12.4, and was 14th in opponent field goal percentage at .453.
2. Amnestying Metta World Peace
Peace was a fan favorite during his four years with the Lakers due to his hustle, hard work and dedication but the decision for the team to use its amnesty clause on the former defensive player of the year was made purely based on financial reasons. The move will save the organization $14 million, which will help put the franchise in better position financially for next year’s free agent class to potentially make a huge splash.
The Lakers will certainly miss Peace’s intensity and defensive presence but what makes this a good move is the amount of money the team will be saving. The state of the Lakers franchise at this point is to have the best possible financial flexibility for the summer of 2014 and this move has certainly helped that cause.
3. The addition of Nick Young
What Young offers the Lakers is player who can score by creating his own shot, athleticism, and versatility as he can play both the shooting guard and small forward position due to his 6’7″ height and quickness. He can also become a fill-in starter if Kobe Bryant for any reason is unable to return by the team’s season opener against the Los Angeles Clippers.
If the Lakers were to make Young their sixth man, he would provide the team with a much needed go-to scoring option off the bench. Another benefit to this acquisition is that the Lakers signed him to a relatively inexpensive contract at two-years and $2.3 million with a player option for the second year. This move gives the team another scorer at a low cost that will not affect their financial flexibility for next year’s offseason.
4. Signing Chris Kaman
The former Dallas Mavericks center brings to the Lakers a player who has a decent low post and mid-range game and a formidable defender at his position. Kaman will most likely come off the bench as Pau Gasol is expected to slide over to the center position. If he can produce in limited action as his did last season for the Mavericks, where he averaged 10.5 points and 5.6 rebounds in 20.6 minutes per game, it would provide a huge boost offensive for the Lakers’ bench that last season ranked 28th in scoring and 26th in efficiency.
A bonus from this move is that the Lakers were able to sign the 10-year NBA veteran by using their mini-mid level exception at just under $3.2 million for a one-year contract. If Kaman does produce this deal will not only look great for the price they paid but also because of the fact it does not hurt the team’s financial situation for the 2014 offseason.
5. Bringing back Jordan Farmar
The Lakers decision to bring back Farmar will help strengthen one of their key positions as it provides the team with another ball handler, who has some quickness with the ability to shoot and is a feisty defender. He will also help Steve Blake ease the minutes load on the soon-to-be 40-year-old starting point guard Steve Nash, who last season dealt with various injuries that limited his ability to play and be effective while on the floor for the team.
This time around for Farmar, he returns to the Lakers with more experience playing professional basketball in not only the NBA but also playing for teams overseas. The 26-year-old, like Young and Kaman, left money on the table to ink a deal with the Lakers by signing a one-year contract at the veteran’s minimum, which in its own right is another huge financial benefit to the organization.
A key factor to note with the each of these free agent signings is that it they allowed the Lakers to obtain talent at an inexpensive price to help the team remain competitive this upcoming season and most importantly permitted them to maintain their same financial flexibility for next summer’s free agency period.