Even though the peak period for free agency is long gone, there are plenty of solid players who are still available. One of the pressing concerns for my favorite team, the Los Angeles Lakers, is that their bench is very weak. While this is not much of an issue come play-off time, to succeed in the regular season, a strong bench is a necessity. Using Wikipedia and www.thenbageek.com as my guides, I will list players who I hope the Lakers will sign, and who will then produce well in their time on the floor. Most of these players have some reason that has affected their market value, but they all have or can reasonably projected to (in the case of rookies) produce. Players are categorized by the need that they would potentially fill, and then listed in alphabetically order by team, then last name. Enjoy.
Possible Point Guard Plug-Ins
- PG Scott Machado (Iona College): In Arturo Galletti’s Wins Produced rookie rankings, Machado is ranked fifteenth, sandwiched in between Thomas Robinson and John Henson. That is good company. Machado was the leading player on Iona’s NCAA tournament team last year, and Arturo projects that he will produce .076 Wins Per 48 Minutes next year. When you consider that he’s only twenty-two and that rookies generally don’t perform all that well, it makes him a legitimate free agent target. He’ll probably be available for the minimum, and I’d rather him on my roster than Chris Duhon and Steve Blake, who would give you similar, more expensive, older production. If nothing else, he’s easy to jettison if he doesn’t pan out.
- PG Jesse Sanders (Liberty University): Jesse Sanders was the first edition of James Brocato’s underrated draft prospects series, back when it was still called “A Search for the Next Jeremy Lin.” Sanders is ranked fifth in Arturo Galletti’s rookie rankings, behind only Anthony Davis, Jae Crowder, Bradley Beal, and William Mosley. His only below-average areas last year compared to Draft Express’s Top 100 prospects at the position were steals, blocks, and points per minute, and his assist totals were amazing. Liberty is a small school that did terribly last year, but Sanders was a shining light. Arturo’s systems grade him to be an average player next year, which is better than both Duhon’s and Blake’s level last year. He’s just waiting to get signed; I don’t think he’s on anybody’s radar.
Guys to Fill In on the Wing
- SG Tracy McGrady (ATL): Five or six years ago, this guy would have been gone in the first days of free agency. It’s not five or six years ago anymore. However, in 837 minutes of action last year, T-Mac had the best season per-minute that he has had in nine years. While his scoring efficiency is not stellar, and hasn’t been in a long time, he only takes half the number of shots that he used. His rebounding numbers have also been bolstered lately, and his assist totals were always phenomenal for a non-point guard. His only weaknesses lie in turnovers and steals, but those flaws have been with him his entire career. If there’s any concern, it’s that he’s thirty-three, but I cannot see any possibility that a contract for him lasts longer than two years. Considering his age, the time of year, his injury history, and his supposed decline, he should be available for the mini mid-level exception.
- SF Derrick Brown (CHA): I cannot believe that this guy ever hit free agency for one simple reason: last year, he was the only Bobcat who played at an above-average rate. This combo forward is a solid rebounder, a low-usage, high efficiency scorer, and only twenty-five. He also record steals at a good clip. In all three of his NBA seasons since graduating from Xavier, he has played at an above-average rate. However, his assists are low and his other stats are inconsistent, but these flaws are balanced out by his positives. Sample size is not an issue; he played in 1,443 minutes last year. If it requires more than the minimum to get him I don’t imagine that it would be much more.
- SG Alonzo Gee (CLE): He rebounds well, he scores decently well, he gets steals, and he’s only twenty-five. His other stats are mostly mediocre, but only his assits are truly bad, and playing with Steve Nash will render that point moot. Because of Anderson Varejao’s injury, he produced more wins than any other Cavalier. He played 1,827 minutes last year and 1,103 the year before, so we know he’s for real, and he won’t demand touches that otherwise would have gone to Nash, Kobe, Pau, or Dwight. He would be a good swingman, backing-up Kobe and platooning with Metta World Peace, but signing him and any other candidate who only plays wing might me dangerous-there wouldn’t be enough time to go around. I would be shocked if he signs anywhere for more than the mini mid-level.
- SF Dominic McGuire (GSW): This guy is a small forward who rebounds like an average center and blocks shots twice as frequently as the average man at his position. Enough said. I can keep talking and say that he’s in the middle of his prime, he doesn’t turn the ball over that much, and his extremely low shot attempt rate counteracts his abysmal shooting efficiency. He’s also from Southern California, and he has played at an above-average rate every time that he has gotten significant minutes because of that outstanding rebounding. Furthermore, he’s another guy you could probably get for the minimum.
- SF Matt Barnes (LAL): Oh, wait, I’ve heard that this guy probably will not be a Laker again next year. Since there is no shot at all of him coming back, I won’t waste my breath.
- SG Josh Childress (released by PHX): Remember Scott Hatteberg from Moneyball, the catcher with a dead arm who converts to first base and becomes one of the team’s better players? In the five seconds I spent thinking about it, Hatteberg was the baseball equivalent of Childress: highly underrated but incredibly valuable. Hatteberg was cast aside because he was a catcher who couldn’t catch; Childress is being cast aside because he’s a shooting guard who doesn’t shoot. However, until last year, Childress shot the ball well when he did shoot. He is also an outstanding rebounder for a guard, especially on offense, and he almost never turned the ball over last year. Part of the reason people are down on him is because he skipped town and played in Greece for two years, but he has produced at least .200 Wins Per 48 Minutes in every season that he has played in the NBA. He is twenty-nine, so he might decline, but he’d back-up Kobe and Metta anyway so he wouldn’t be too much of a minutes drain. While I can see him asking for anywhere up to the mini med-level, it is conceivable that he could go for the minimum. What a steal that would be; just the possibility has me salivating.
- SF Ken Horton (Central Connecticut State University): Horton was only three rungs below Jesse Sanders, and his projection ranks higher than Metta World Peace’s stat level from last year. He averaged 1.36 Points Per Shot last year; if he were able to have something in that neighborhood in the pros, it would be phenomenal. Again, if he doesn’t pan out, you just cut him because he is not going to demand a guaranteed contract, I’m sure. Just pick this guy up, please.
Back-up Bigs to Join Jordan Hill
- C Erick Dampier (ATL): He only played 83 minutes for the Hawks last year, but he had been an above-average player in 750+ minutes of action in each of the previous nine seasons. His rebounding is usually very good, his shots, when he takes them, go in at a very high rate, and his shot blocking is very proficient. As a thirty-seven year-old with almost 1,000 career games under his belt, he has a lot of mileage on him, but that hasn’t stopped the Lakers before. At his best, he has been amazing, and we haven’t seen his worst in ten years. He’ll probably be available for the minimum salary as well.
- PF Ivan Johnson (ATL): Johnson is one of those guys who truly has been everywhere: the D-League, South Korea, Puerto Rico, China, and finally the NBA. When he got his shot, he made the most of it; he produced .100 Wins Per 48 Minutes, led by his efficient scoring and a solid number of steals. However, Johnson would be something of a risky acquisition. He was “banned forever” from the Korean league and fined by the NBA for liberally using the middle finger, he has less than 1,000 minutes of experience, and he will be twenty-eight and thus unlikely to improve. On the other hand, I doubt that he would command much more than the minimum salary, and Kobe should keep him in line for the most part were he to become a Laker. All bets are off, though, if he spends too much time with Metta World Peace.
- PF Shelden Williams (BRO): Williams is an often-underappreciated player who has has played at an above-average rate in each of the past three seasons. While he does not any one thing particularly well, he also does not do anything particularly poorly except score, and he does not take that many shots anyway. While that is not really a bad thing, it may mean that coaches will not play him because they’re unsure of what they’d use him for. Furthermore, he is twenty-nine, meaning that he is not going to blossom into something greater. A plus is that his wife, Candace Parker, plays for the Sparks in the WNBA, meaning that he is familiar with the area. I would expect him to be available for the veteran’s minimum.
- C Josh Harrellson (released by HOU): In 540 minutes with the Knicks last year, Josh produced 1.6 wins. His rebounding and scoring efficiency are below-average, but his steal, foul, and turnover rates are all good, and his rebounding is not much of a problem. Besides, we have Dwight Howard and Jordan Hill, who are both outstanding rebounders, and Pau Gasol, who’s solid, and I would have to assume that at least one of those three would share the court with Harrellson at all times. He would definitely be available for the minimum, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he went to Europe,
- C Jerome Jordan (released by HOU): He only played 108 minutes for the Knicks before being packaged in the Marcus Camby trade with Harrellson and Toney Douglas, but he played well, blocking lots of shots, scoring well, and not turning the ball over. He’s unproven and he turns twenty-six in September, but I think he’s worth a look. Like Harrellson, he’s a minimum/D-League/Europe guy.
There are some players who I would have included on this list but couldn’t because they had already signed elsewhere. They were Vernon Macklin (Gaziantep), Drew Gordon (Partizan Belgrade), Bo McCalebb (Fenerbahce), Marcus Slaughter (Real Madrid), Kevin Jones (Cleveland), Taylor Rochestie (Caja Laboral), and William Mosley (Biancoblu Basket Bologna, a second-division Italian team). I’m sure that Mosley will be available again next year, but I know that McCalebb and Jones are on three-year contracts. If only I had written this article sooner…
If I were the Lakers, I would hunt Sanders and Childress most intensely, with McGrady, Harrellson, Machado, Gee, and Brown all being targeted intensely. I would also have the other players as back-up options while assuming that I would get at least one of the point guards and one of the wings. I would look at McGuire and Horton if everything else failed, then proceed through the list of big men.
I apologize that I haven’t been posting recently. I’ve had this post on my mind for a long time, but I just never could force myself to do it until today. Once the season starts, I think that the posts will start becoming more frequent once again; I just don’t have a whole ton to write about right now. Thank you for reading, and please comment.