The 2014 NBA free agency period opened on July 1st to a flurry of calls from aspiring GMs looking for the next big find.
The Los Angeles Lakers will be taking a slower approach as they sat down earlier this week to pitch Carmelo on the chance to define his legacy. The decision is supposedly going to be made on Monday, but with rumors flying that the Lakers have emerged as surprise top contender, he may prolong his decision until next week. Until his decision is made, the Lakers will hold pat for now in hopes of luring in players who would like to vie for a championship with Carmelo.
The complimentary pieces waiting to be pitched include the likes of Isaiah Thomas, Pau Gasol, and Vince Carter. If the Lakers don’t land Carmelo, then they will continue their pursuit of Trevor Ariza or Luol Deng. The Lakers will inevitably be linked to pretty much any free agent on the market as they have the cap space to bring in any player.
Starting with the biggest missing piece of the current starting lineup is the chance to land a starting point guard. Isaiah Thomas (20.3PPG, 6.3 AST) is a restricted free agent with the Sacramento Kings. He has been one of the best late second round picks to come out of the draft in the last decade.
Oddly enough, the Kings have never really fallen in love with him as their starting point guard. At 5-foot-9, 165 pounds, he is undersized for the position but is one of the best offensive threats in the game. What he lacks on defense he easily makes up on offense as he is developing into a great pick and roll guy. Normally restricted free agents are hard to target as their teams generally match the offer of another team, but the Kings recently signed Darren Collision and informed him that the starting job was his. The Lakers remain one of the few teams with the cap space to offer Thomas a large enough deal to pry him away and turn him into the newest piece of the puzzle.
With rumors swirling that Carmelo may join the Lakers, Pau Gasol has re-entered the picture for the Lakers. Gasol hasn’t been playing quite as well in recent seasons with injuries limiting his playing time. If the team manages to sign a marquee free agent, like Carmelo, then you can bet that Gasol would be happy to resign with the team. He is still a great player in the post but the team will need to manage his minutes, much like the Spurs do with Tim Duncan, so they can preserve his health over the upcoming season.
The Lakers will also be looking for a possible new sixth man as Nick Young seems to have interest from other teams due to his prowess as an off the bench scorer. One player who will be looking for a chance at a title is Vince Carter who is coming off a season where he averaged 17.6 PPG, 5.2 RBG and 3.9AST. At 37, he doesn’t have the ability to start anymore but has been brilliant off the bench. Carter still has the ability to randomly take over games and, in the playoffs; he has the ability to really shine.
If the Lakers fail to sign the likes of LeBron or Carmelo, they will be looking for a new small forward. The team has reached out to Trevor Ariza and Luol Deng in attempts to garner their interest in joining the team. Ariza is coming off his best season in the NBA during another contract year. It’s safe to say that he is definitely a better player than his last stint with the Lakers but his great season should be taken with a grain of salt. No one really knows if he will be just as good as before or if he might take a step back. What we do know is that he is one of the best 3-pt corner specialists around, coming off a season in which he averaged 14.4 PPG, 6.2 RBG and 40.7% from 3pt range. Ariza was an absolute beast in the playoffs for the Wizards leading the team to a surprise first round win over the Toronto Raptors.
Luol Deng is coming off a season that saw him traded mid-year to the Cavaliers. Deng who was on his way to what seemed like another great season took an obvious step back as he put up career low numbers in Cleveland. His age certainly factors into his decline but he still has the chance to greatly help any team get back into the playoffs. Ariza or Deng could be productive Laker additions.
The Lakers are searching for a way back to relevancy in the 2014-15 season and hope a big splash in the free agent market will help them secure another title shot. If the team can lure Carmelo while adding Isaiah Thomas and resigning Pau Gasol, the rebuilt lineup would be able to contend with any team out west. Even if the Lakers fail to land one of the top free agents, their fall back options still provide the team with a great chance to make it back to the playoffs in a tough Western Conference.