Posted by: Wilson | June 20, 2008

Lakers in Free Agency

After a disappointing end to the marvelous season, the Lakers front office will look to retool the roster in order to make another run back to the Finals. The Lakers can make a run at a few players, but they also have their own free agent issues to address.

Lakers Free Agents:

B.J. Novak of The Office fame

Sasha Vujacic

Probably the highest priority Lakers free agent. This past season he excelled off the bench and easily posted his career highs in shooting percentage and points per game. He was the scoring presence that the Lakers relied on when the Mob was playing. Not only that, he logged a lot of time in the fourth quarters of close games, usually coming up with clutch triples. However, he was a little bit spotty on defense, which was exposed during the Finals. Surprising since he did a great defensive job on (hobbled?) Ginobili. Decent offers will be given to him by other teams, but the Lakers look to have the inside track after he proclaimed himself a “Laker for life”.

Bottom Line: Sasha was a great sub for the Lakers last year but with the Lakers have a history of giving mid-level exceptions to mediocre bench players like Radmanovic and Luke Walton. I would hate to see the Lakers continue the trend by giving Sasha the full mid-level. Giving him a portion of the mid-level would be the ideal situation, giving breathing room to both the player and the team. Enabling a few years of player evaluation before deciding to lock him up for good or let him walk.

Troy Polamalu of the Steelers

Ronny Turiaf

Another Mobber, Turiaf combined great defense and aggressive play with a nice outside jump shot. His aggressive play led to a lot of fouls, but this was counterbalanced with his blocks. He lacks any inside game, and will have to improve on his post moves during the off season. While being a bit undersized for a center, he regularly held his own against other backup centers, and even harassed Tim Duncan a bit in the playoffs. Also, he was the Lakers cheerleader on the sidelines; a morale booster.

Bottom Line: A few teams will come in and offer him a contract as their reserve big. But, like Vujacic, he has committed himself to playing in Los Angeles. Unless a team offers him an enormous contract, he will likely come back to the Lakers. Teams like Philadelphia and New Orleans could be in the running.

Trevor Ariza

After Mitch Kupchak’s great trade to bring Ariza to Los Angeles, he was injured after a month or so of action. He has been a player who combines athleticism and defense, with a slasher role on the offense. We saw a little bit of him in the Finals, but after getting burned by Paul Pierce, I suspect he wasn’t back to full health yet. He is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, but he does have a player option for the 08-09 season.

Bottom Line: He is expected to pick up his player option and will be an unrestricted free agent again next year. Great news for the Lakers, since he could be their James Posey answer to other teams’ best players. He could supplant Luke Walton as the first small forward off the bench, but he needs to improve his passing.

Others: Chris Mihm (unrestricted with player option), DJ Mbenga (restricted), Ira Newble (unrestricted)

Mihm was hampered by injuries last year, and with the resigning of Turiaf he could leave for another team. But, having a seven footer come off the bench is not bad (unless named Brown, Kwame).

Mbenga and Newble were hired guns for depth in the playoffs, they will likely take their games (and tacos) elsewhere. (not Jack in the Box tacos!)

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