Sports Out West

Lakers must swing for fences in free agency

Mitch Kupchak

The Los Angeles Lakers got one huge offseason hurdle out of the way this past week in the draft, now the focus shifts to the free agency period that is set to start Tuesday.

Los Angeles had what is deemed by many as a successful draft with the selection of former Kentucky forward Julius Randle in the first round and bought a second round pick that was used to take former Missouri guard Jordan Clarkson. The following day they also signed a pair of undrafted players in former Iowa State guard DeAndre Kane and former Ohio State forward LaQuinton Ross to summer league contracts.

With the draft process complete better than anticipated, the Lakers are hoping to carry that momentum into free agency where they have positioned themselves to have roughly over $28 million in salary cap space in hopes of signing the likes of Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James among others.

General manager Mitch Kupchak on Thursday voiced his readiness to make a move at any of the top free agents, but there remains questions over whether those players be willing to give Los Angeles any serious consideration with the roster in much influx. They currently have just three players under contract in Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Robert Sacre not including their two draft picks in Randle and Clarkson.

There is also a head coach vacancy that Kupchak stated on Thursday will not be filled until after the roster is set some time in late July. The fact the team does not have the position filled coupled with unknown surrounding Nash and Bryant, who both coming off serious injuries that forced them to miss most of last season could make them a less appealing destination for free agents.

To state it frankly, there are a lot of question marks that surround the organization and that may be a hindrance to them realistically making a legit runs at Anthony, James, or any other top free agent for that matter. It is something the Lakers realize but as past history has shown time and time again, they are not afraid to swing for the fences when it comes to making a move.

The organization is willing to take risk that may not always work out with the two most recent examples in their  in acquiring Dwight Howard, who stayed just for one season and boltedfor the Houston Rockets, and Nash, who has missed a majority of the last two seasons because of various injuries. 

Sometimes it is a swing and miss result, but on the other side of the spectrum things could work out for the best. It did with additions of Metta World Peace, and Pau Gasol, who were both instrumental in helping the team win championships. It is that championship or bust mentality that has helped them stay relevant and make them one of the league’s most decorated franchises.

The Lakers’ front office is well aware of all of this, but they also know that this upcoming free agent period will play a huge factor in deciding the team’s future for the next handful of seasons, and especially when Bryant retires in two years. This also puts some sense of urgency on Kupchak and Jim Buss’s to get the next star player that will  be the next face of the franchise after Bryant is gone.

Los Angeles has the financial flexibility to get that accomplished. Now it is on them to get it done in free agency.

Photo Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

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Bob Garcia IV

Bob Garcia is a sports journalist from Southern California. He was a reporter for the award-winning newspaper, The Daily Sundial, at California State University, Northridge. You can follow him on Twitter, @BGarcia90.