Here’s a list of some free agents to consider, whose names have been thrown around as possible candidates:
Jose Calderon (6’3″ Point Guard, 208 lbs) – This is certainly one on the “dreaming” end of the spectrum, but it would be a great pickup. The 31-year-old Spaniard has a close relationship with fellow countryman Pau Gasol, is a crafty point guard, and averaged 11.3 points and 7.1 assists on 46.1 percent shooting from behind the three-point line with the Raptors and Pistons last season. However, after making over $10 million last season, the Lakers would have to somehow move one of their Steves (and maybe Chris Duhon, which is even more impossible) for draft picks to make this work.
Kyle Korver (6’7″ Guard-Forward, 212 lbs) – Korver’s name has been floating around for some time now. He made $5 million last year, but even if the Lakers were to sign him for considerably less, it would still cost them big bucks in taxes. He would certainly add some shooting though, as he converted 45.7 percent of his three-point attempts last season while averaging 10.9 points.
Jarrett Jack (6’3″ Guard, 197 lbs) – This is my personal favorite out of the whole list. Jack is a guy who can make plays (5.5 assists), shoot the ball (40.4 percent from three), play significant minutes (he averaged just under 30 minutes while scoring 12.9 points in the regular season), and has proven in these current playoffs that he’s extremely clutch. He’d be able to spell both guard positions as well. However, for those exact reasons, it’s likely that Golden State will try to retain him and at least keep his salary–which was $5.6 million–in the same range; which is a range the Lakers probably can’t afford, again, given the penalties under the new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement).
Nate Robinson (5’9″ Guard, 180 lbs) – Robinson’s name has been thrown around as well, and he was only paid just over $1.1 million last season. He’s certainly a scorer and can create his own shot in a multitude of ways, but (A) Chicago is probably willing to dish out more money given his performance in the current playoffs, (B) he may not be the best fit for the Lakers offensively, and (C) defensively he’s a liability with his height.
Marco Bellinelli (6’5″ Shooting Guard, 195 lbs) – This is actually a viable option. Bellinelli was paid just under $2 million last season, and has had an up-and-down type of season with the Bulls. Anyway, Belinelli averaged 9.6 points on 39.5 percent shooting from the field and 35.7 percent shooting from behind the three-point line. Those numbers don’t stick out at all, but I believe he’d be an improvement over Meeks.
Tony Allen (6’4″ Guard-Forward, 213 lbs) – Great defender. Horrible long distance shooter (12.5 percent from three last season). Although he isn’t highly paid at $3.3 million, the Lakers need a player who can spread the floor for their two big men, and Allen can’t do that. Pass.
Dorell Wright (6’9″ Guard-Forward, 205 lbs) – Wright was paid just over $4 million last season, but has seen his production and minutes diminish (9.2 points in under 23 minutes with the Pistons) since having a 16.4 point, 5.5 rebound, 3.0 assist season in 38 minutes per game with the Warriors just two seasons prior. Perhaps the allure of playing in a big market would appeal to Wright and persuade him to take quite a bit less money.
Nick Young (6’7″ Guard-Forward, 210 lbs) – Young averaged 10.7 points last season on 41.3 percent shooting from the field and 35.7 percent from the three-point line. However, he was paid $6 million last season, which is simply too much.
Randy Foye (6’4″ Guard, 220 lbs) – Foye was paid just $2.5 million last season and averaged 10.8 points on 41.0 percent shooting from the three-point line. He could certainly be an option if the Lakers feel that he–at age 30 by next season–would be an improvement over the soon-to-be 26-year-old Meeks.
Corey Brewer (6’9″ Guard-Foward, 188 lbs) – Brewer averaged 12.9 points last season with the Nuggets, but shot just 29.6 percent from three-point land; his salary was $3.2 million last season.
Chauncey Billups (6’3″ Guard, 215 lbs) – Yes he’s old (he’ll be 37 by next season), and yes he was injured much of last season, but we all know the type of player Billups can be when healthy. He made $4 million last year, and it’s unclear whether the Clippers will attempt to retain him. However, it’s unlikely the Lakers will try to add another aging guard to their roster, which is understandable.
Shaun Livingston (6’7″ Guard, 175 lbs) – Livingston averaged 7.2 points and 3.6 assists last season, shot 50.7 percent from the field and was paid under a million dollars. If only he was an outside threat, he would actually be an attractive option for the Lakers. His length and ability to play both guard positions certainly could make him an option if the Lakers can pick him up for cheap while also retaining one of their current backup shooting guards.
Martell Webster (6’7″ Guard-Forward, 235 lbs) – Webster averaged 11.4 points on 42.2 percent shooting from threee-point land last season and earned just $1.75 million last season. He’ll likely search for more money, but the Lakers should definitely give him a call.
Mickael Pietrus (6’6″ Guard-Forward, 215 lbs) – Pietrus is a solid defender, but averaged just 5.3 points in 19 games last season. However, he earned less than a million dollars, and if he can return to the form he was in while with the Orlando Magic, he might be a consideration; but I doubt it.
Matt Barnes (6’7″ Guard-Forward, 226 lbs) – We all remember Matt Barnes. He had his best season with the Clippers last season after being picked up towards the end of last summer for less than a million dollars. However, it’s likely that the Clippers will make a serious run at him this offseason, and he’s a perfect fit with them as well.
Mike Dunleavy Jr. (6’9″ Guard-Forward, 230 lbs) – Dunleavy averaged 10.5 points on 42.8 percent shooting from three-point land last season, but earned $3.7 million as well, which could be a problem for the Lakers if he plans to receive a similar figure next season.
As you can see, the Lakers’ options are quite limited with regards to finding a backup guard in free agency that can create his own shot, knock down the long ball and play some defense; all while being affordable for the Lakers. Maybe they exercise the team option on Jodie Meeks and hope that he improves; maybe they bank on Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris to keep improving; or maybe they somehow make a trade and try to acquire a player who meets at least a few of their needs.
It’s likely that Nash and Blake will return, and the two can be deadly together, but the Lakers undeniably need a solid backup to Kobe Bryant. Whether it’s a current player who steps up his game, a free agent who signs with the Lakers or an acquisition via trade, it’s the most necessary improvement the Lakers need if they do indeed proceed forward with the current core group of players.
The Lakers certainly need to attempt to get as young and athletic as possible, as having too many older, slowerplayers makes things extremely difficult in today’s game. They should look to make as many possible tweaks to multiple positions to do so, with no position more important at this point than the backup guard one. At the same time, if they can come away with a highly skilled veteran who’s willing to take less money, they’d better give it a shot too.
If they can manage that, they may once again be a contending team next year.
That’s just my take on it though. Let us know your thoughts and/or the moves you would make to improve the team if you were Mitch Kupchak, in the comments below!