The Los Angeles Lakers entered the offseason with dreams of landing one of the marquee free agents on the market, but are left with the reality that their season will result with another lottery pick.
With Mitch Kupchak settling for a trio of bargain-priced players, the team seems to be resigned to write off the season so they can add an elite player in either 2015/2016 seasons with all their cap space (roughly $30 million). With the free agent signings of Carlos Boozer (PF), Ed Davis (PF/C), and Xavier Henry (SG), the Lakers took a low risk, high potential reward for three players that have something to prove.
Let’s start with Carlos Boozer (6-9), recently amnestied from the Chicago Bulls. The Lakers won the bidding process on waiver wire and will pay him only $3.25 million of the $16.8 million he is owed in the last season of his contract. That is a bargain in the NBA to get a seasoned power forward that can give you a double-double most nights and can put up a lot of points. Although his production has been falling for the past few years (13.7 PPG and 8.3 RBG) Chicago favored Taj Gibson in the fourth quarter and limited Boozer’s minutes to the lowest since his rookie season.
Boozer’s best position is power forward, but he can play center and give Byron Scott some flexibility with limited talent at center. His defense is not a strength and, at 32, will he have the ability to defend the emergence of the stretch PF/C that is starting to prevail in the NBA. Carlos is a strong rebounder on the defensive side, although he isn’t as active on the offense glass, averaging just fewer than two offensive rebounds per game. The intangible is that he is in his contract year with something to prove and can prove to be one of the best bargains of the offseason.
Ed Davis was a 1st round 13th pick of the Toronto Raptors and, in his first three seasons, showed a lot of promise of becoming an impact PF/C. Then a trade to the Grizzlies in 2012-13 changed that with him getting stuck behind two All-Stars in Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. His minutes (15 mpg) and numbers (5.5 PPG and 4.2 RBG) in two seasons with the Grizzlies were paltry at best and he never got the opportunity play to his potential. He signed with the Lakers for next to nothing (2 yr/$2million) and will get a chance to win the starting center spot from Jordan Hill. There is still belief that he can develop into a great rotation player if he can improve his low post scoring ability.
Xavier Henry re-signed with the Lakers and will offer some depth behind Kobe at the shooting guard position. Henry is coming off an injury that derailed what seemed to be his best season yet in the NBA. In 43 games, Henry averaged 10 PPG on 41.7% shooting form the field while setting career bests in almost every stat category. He will be used off the bench as a scorer to counteract the time that Kobe isn’t on the floor. He is a streaky shooter at best but will give the Lakers some instant offense off the bench that was missing last season.
For the Lakers to avoid another nightmare 27-win season (worst since they moved to Los Angeles in 1960), all three of these low risk, high-reward bargains need to have breakout seasons. By no means is this what Mitch Kupchak was dreaming about a month ago as the free agency signing began but now he needs this trio to help make the team more competitive on a nightly basis.