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How to rebuild the Lakers (in one season)

It's hard to win in the NBA. The only real trick is to get good players. This presents a few problems. The conventional routes are to draft players or sign players. In the draft, it's hard to identify the best players, and even when you do, they take time to develop. In free agency, good players are often expensive and coveted by many teams. But occasionally a team can luck out and find one or more underrated talents. This offseason presents such an opportunity. Let's review how a team – say the Lakers – could make a stocked roster in short order.

Kyle Lowry

  • Current Salary: $6.2 million
  • 2013-2014 WP48: 0.247
  • 9.9 Assists per 48 minutes
  • 7.6 Rebounds per 48 minutes
  • 22.0 Points per 48 minutes on 57.8% True Shooting

Lowry has always been a distributer and rebounder. His shooting efficiency has always been pretty good, but he's really upped it this year. He'll be 28 next season and coming off a contract just above the midlevel exception. If Toronto doesn't make sure to snag him, he'll be a great free agent target.

Lance Stephenson

  • Current Salary: $1.0 million
  • 2013-2014 WP48: 0.253
  • 9.8 Rebounds per 48 minutes
  • 7.0 Assists per 48 minutes
  • 19.2 Points per 48 minutes on 57.2% True Shooting

I'm not sure what's in the water in Indiana but like Paul George, Lance levelled up this season. He'll just be hitting his prime next season and is coming off an absurdly cheap contract. Now, the Pacers do hold his restricted free agency rights. However, they'll already be at around $66 million next season in contracts. This is thanks to brilliant moves, like giving David West $12 million a season and trading for Luis Scola. That means if the Pacers give Lance anything more than $5 million a season they'll likely be in the luxury cap zone. If a team is willing to offer Lance close to his value ($10+ million), they'll force Indiana's hand. I bet they flinch.

Thabo Sefolosha

  • Current Salary: $3.9 million
  • 2013-2014 WP48: 0.188
  • 6.8 Rebounds per 48 minutes
  • 1.7 Turnovers per 48 minutes
  • 2.4 Steals per 48 minutes
  • 2.4 Fouls per 48 minutes

When it comes to scoring, Thabo is actually having an off year. The rest of his skills for a shooting guard are actually keeping his value high. The key to Thabo is his ludicrously low contract. Yes, he is up there in age. That said, for his value and his price, any team should take a good look. Oklahoma has committed their salary to Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka, and Perkins (a 50% hit rate aint bad, right?). They're just at the luxury cap for next season. Unless they amnesty Perkins, they'll probably balk at any team offering $5+ million for Sefolosha. That'd definitely be a steal.

Jordan Hill

  • Current Salary: $3.6 million
  • 2013-2014 WP48: 0.245
  • 20.8 Points per 48 minutes on 57.1% True Shooting
  • 17.6 Rebounds per 48 minutes
  • 1.9 Blocks per 48 minutes

If he played real minutes, Jordan Hill would be a marquee big. His problem is that he struggles to see playing time on the Lakers. Given his age and absurd rebounding, you'd figure he'd get more time. The Lakers have a few options. They could let Hill see the court more and re-sign him. Or, another team could swoop in and offer him a decent contract and an offer as a starter. It'd be a quick test to see if the Lakers have really lost it. Top bigs are a must in the NBA and Hill looks poised to be one. Is it a rule that a Los Angeles team has to underplay their top big?

Summing Up

Even at $10 million a player, the above could easily restock a team. Some teams easily have the cap space (Dallas, Philly, and Phoenix). Even the Lakers could nab a few (or even all of them if they did it right). This free agency period is great in that there are multiple underrated players on the market. With everyone scrambling to try to grab LeBron and Wade, there's a great chance to pull down multiple underrated players and also keep the impact on the books light. Keep an eye out for the teams that nab these players in free agency.

Al-Farouq Aminu is someone else who could be valuable. Don't know how the Pelicans view him going forward, but I bet they have a breaking point when it comes to signing him, and that breaking point is probably below his actual value.

Of course, the Lakers would probably go after guys like Evan Turner instead, which is good for fans like me who wish to see them fail, heh-heh.
I know it's early for this, but whom should the Lakers draft with their lottery pick?
Chris,

This depends where they pick. Let's assume something like 8th.

After the recent fan-shoving incident, Marcus Smart could fall that far, and he certainly looks like the real deal.
Thank you, Patrick for seeing and capitalizing on this "slip" in PR for Smart. I was thinking the same thing. I heard on ESPN that he is slipping down the draft boards. Sounds like the Sams guy in the NFL. Production matters...only.
I'm going to be very surprised if Lance doesn't get the post-rookie max from someone. Not sure how that helps the Lakers.

I also think it's pretty safe to say that Lowry is going to get $8+ million, too.

GMs always love veteran "glue guys" like Thabo who come from teh "winnerz."

Or more succinctly, not sure any of these three is going to fly under the radar enough for the Lakers and their salary profile to make good one any.
If no one offers Lance Stephenson a Max Contract, every single GM in the NBA with cap space needs to be fire. All of them. Born Ready is finally living up to his hype. He's a 6'6 Lebron James. 80% of Lebron >95% of the league. Maybe 99% of the league. And yes, Lowry would be perfect on the Lakers. He's the fiesty kind of guy that Kobe likes to have around. I don't think the Lakers would throw max money at Lowry, they will wait for Love in 2015, which is fine. He's part of that 1% mentioned above. Him, KD and Davis. So, 2014 lakers have Lowry Kobe *Wiggins/Parker (You know Adam Silver wants the Lakers to succeed), Wiggins to LA, Parker to BOS, who says no? Hill (Mike D depressing his value by not playing him) and someone. Then you add Love to this team... wishful thinking from a lakers fan. Lets go Mitch!
^ I meant max money at Stephenson.
Oh please, the NBA doesn't rig the draft. You have to remember that Silver works for ALL the owners, regardless of what is best for the league. That being said I do think Stephenson and Lowry will cost A LOT OF MONEY next year.
Dodgeson,
I think they'll get raises, the question is how much? Even Nash never bumped himself to a max. I'm curious what the combined contract value of these four players will be next season.
Now watch them team up Irving, Kobe and Melo
Assuming the Lakers want to throw a max offer at Kevin Love in 2015, how much money do the Lakers realistically have to play with next year? Between the Kobe contract, presumed lottery picks this year and next, and needing to keep $17-$18 million or so open for Kevin Love in 2015, I don't see them having the ability to throw $10 million at a single player and still have a roster.
@ Dodgson, It was meant to be a semi-satirical post, but reading it again, I can see how I just end up sounding like the average lakers fan. Don't worry I post here often and I'm not really crazy :).
I'm sure the pursuit of Love and his mutual interest in the Lakers is going to put some sort of wrench in your idea of just signing the best value guys they can this off season. There are also the rumors surrounding the pursuit of the other Kevin. Can you really put off a rebuild 2 years just for the hope of signing the best names out there in the future? I don't think the fans have that kind of patience, and I'm not sure it is necessary if the Lakers strike gold in the draft (looking closer to the 4-5th worst record by the day) and free agency this offseason.

Also, Hill's market value will be interesting to track. Lakers have hid him pretty well, but GMs are getting more savvy. The mixed bag from the Asik experiment will have a big role.

DG22 suggested (above) that the Lakers are sneakily "hiding" Jordan Hill, and intend to reap the rewards by re-signing him for cheap. I think you are giving the Lakers WAY too much credit here.

I would (and do!) argue that the Lakers aren't playing him nearly as many minutes as they should for the simple reason that they don't think he's a very good basketball player.

Any such discussion (as the one in this thread) fails to appreciate how horribly managed the Lakers are right now, under Tommy Boy. It would not surprise me if they give Nick Young something like four years, $24 mil. That's how bad things are. With no end in sight. Highly unlikely that Kobe ever plays another playoff game in a Lakers uniform.

Also: Lowry likely gets something like four years, $40 mil, and Lance Stephenson is for sure getting the max. I expect Indy to enter luxury tax territory to keep him, too, as the championship window won't stay open forever. The Pacers are somehow both great at talent evaluation in the draft but horrible at talent evaluation in terms of current NBA players. The same front office that is killing it in the draft has been shooting itself in the foot by clogging the payroll with mediocre veteran backups like Luis Scola and Ian Mahinmi.
I'm having to do some serious mental gymnastics to find a scenario where Masai lets Lowry walk. It would take some other team flipping out and offering him a stupid contract. Lowry isn't going anywhere.

Also - of course the Lakers can put off a rebuild for 2 years. They already made that decision when they chose to give Kobe 25 million a year for the next two years. The team will not be competitive until that contract is off their books - best case scenario is that they nab some solid rookies with 2-3 years of lottery picks and clean up in free agency to be competitive in 2016-17.
"DG22 suggested (above) that the Lakers are sneakily "hiding" Jordan Hill, and intend to reap the rewards by re-signing him for cheap. I think you are giving the Lakers WAY too much credit here."
I was suggesting they were doing it accidentally. It is well documented that Dan Ann Toni would rather play a d-leaguer that can shoot 3s (Williams) than Hill.
Also, I'd be curious to see what specific players BSG would give the max deal to right now or how they would optimally structure there payroll.
Lance Stephenson will be an unrestricted free agent.
http://www.cbafaq.com/salarycap.htm#Q44 - @Capologist. Lance was a 2nd round pick that has fulfilled the "starter criteria" so he is a restricted free agent provided the Pacers offer him the minimum value after the finals.
I think the rule is that for non-1st round picks (so 2nd round or FAs) they needed to be in the league 3 seasons or less to be restricted, since Lance is in his 4th he is unrestricted. It's always why Houston is in the unique situation where they may turn down the option to pay Parsons his absurd minimum deal for another year, because if they let Parsons become a free agent this summer he'll be a restricted, whereas after next year the 4 seasons rule will make him unrestricted
Apologize I missed the sarcasm in that case. It is surprising to me as an NBA fan how many people either believe that it is rigged or raise things that seem racially suggestive to me when discussing why they don't like the NBA (even friends and family who don't normally seem that racist). I guess it puts a bit of a chip on my shoulder. During Stern's recent interview on TNT the thing that seemed to be the truest to me was how he was disappointed in the coverage of the league (even though the NBA ranks pretty low in professional sports in personal crimes they have always been covered far more heavily whenever a crime happens).
Capologist and ASFW are correct. Because Lance will be finishing his 4th year, he'll be an UFA this summer.

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