Countdown To Free Agency: The Bigs

June, 29, 2010
6/29/10
12:45
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Yesterday, I took a look at the potential -- and realistic -- free agent options at the guard spots for the Lakers this offseason. Part II tackles the forwards and centers on the market.

The list of bigs is shorter. The taller the player, the more money he generally stands to make. And the Lakers don't have much to toss around.

Still, with D.J. Mbenga and Josh Powell unlikely to return, Andrew Bynum's medical history and Derrick Caracter hardly a lock to make the team (much less a dent), a new reserve big is probably a must. Mitch Kupchak also noted the uncertain status of Luke Walton's back, meaning more than Devin Ebanks may be needed at the wing next season.

As a quick refresher, same rules as before. No restricted free agents the Lakers can't realistically make a play for make the list. No far-fetched scenarios where Chris Bosh lands in L.A. as a mid-level-exception sixth man, and no Bosh sign-and-trades, either. The scale of 1-10 grade assumes a reasonable contract, since an unreasonable one is highly unlikely. And finally, Shaq is not coming to L.A. for a plethora of reasons, so don't ask why he's not included.

SMALL FORWARDS

MATT BARNES

Matt Raoux/AP Photo
Matt Barnes can be a useful player. He can also go off the reservation at times.


POSITIVES: Fairly versatile. The Lakers could use small forward depth. Willing to defend. Adds toughness.

NEGATIVES: Sometimes appears to fancy himself a better three-point shooter than he actually is. Would get fewer minutes in L.A. than he probably wants. He and Lamar Odom may need to hash out differences. Often comes off like a stark raving loon. And it's not clear the Lakers really need to get tougher.

On a scale of 1-10, this signing is a . . . 6.5. On paper, Barnes sounds like a sensible pickup. But there is one issue I can't get past: Why is it a player of his caliber can't seem to stick anywhere? Is he difficult to coach? Bad in the locker room? Just one of those "solid but hardly irreplaceable" guys? I've always wondered about Barnes' permanent journeyman status and have asked a few people. They in turn had no answers, but also found it curious. Possibly much ado about nothing, but the situation nonetheless feels a little hinky to me.

JOSH HOWARD


POSITIVES: Can do a little bit of everything. Capable of scoring in bunches. Once a very dynamic player.

NEGATIVES: Health and production have tailed off over the last few years. Off the court issues (marijuana admission, mocking the National Anthem) don't put one at ease. Is he disciplined enough to play on a championship team?

On a scale of 1-10, this is a . . . 6. Back in 2003, I hurled countless obscenities at the television after Mitch Kupchak drafted Brian Cook with Howard still on the board. 2003 feels like it was 50 years ago.

DORRELL WRIGHT

POSITIVES: Very good athlete and rebounder. Willing to defend. Three-point shooting got better as the season progressed. Was around during Miami's championship run (albeit in a limited role).

NEGATIVES: Never gained the Heat brass' confidence.

On a scale of 1-10, this signing is a . . . 7.5. In and out of Miami's favor, and probably for a valid reason, but he would add some youth and athleticism to a team in a need of a boost. And I have to imagine the price tag will be reasonable.

JAMES JONES (REPORTEDLY JUST WAIVED BY MIAMI AS LARGELY EXPECTED)


POSITIVES: Can bomb from distance. Great catch-and-shoot player. Smart.

NEGATIVES: Pretty strictly catch-and-shoot. Not the world's greatest defender.

On a scale of 1-10, this signing is a . . . 6.5. Jones is basically a one-trick pony, albeit a horse with a coveted trick. Between him and Wright, I'd take the latter, but beggars can't always be choosers.

POWER FORWARDS/CENTERS

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Kurt Thomas can still get 'er done-ish.



KURT THOMAS


POSITIVES: Long past his prime, but not yet ready to be put out to pasture. Still plays solid post defense. Stepped up when Andrew Bogut went down in April, pulling down nearly nine boards for the month, then led all Bucks with just under eight during the postseason. Must be dying for a ring. I've been clamoring to get him on the Lakers at some point or another since around 2000, so his inclusion would allow me to turn my sights towards bigger, more meaningful goals (like . . . say . . . anything).

NEGATIVES: Respectfully, I have to imagine his playoff effectiveness came in part due to reasonable minutes during the regular season. If injury pressed him into bigger minutes for a large chunk of the season, the guy may need an oxygen mask come playoff time. Not much of an offensive force these days.

On a scale of 1-10, I'd give this signing a . . . 8. Thomas has "veteran's minimum" written all over him, and a better find at that price would be tough to come by. Assuming his role can remain reasonable, he'd be fantastic.

JOE SMITH

POSITIVES: Great locker room guy. Would likely do whatever is asked of him in order to be a part of a championship. Knows what being a role player is about.

NEGATIVES: Did next to nothing with Atlanta last season, which makes you wonder if he was simply aced out by Josh Smith, Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia, or if it's finally the beginning of the 35-year-old's end.

On a scale of 1-10, this signing is a . . . 6. Last season, I pegged Smith as the best realistic option to target if the Lakers and Lamar Odom couldn't agree on terms. Even taking into account LO's turbulent 2010, Smith's Hotlanta stint makes you realize how much worse things can get.

DREW GOODEN

POSITIVES: Can score from a variety of areas. Good rebounder, particularly on the offensive glass. On course to play for every team in the NBA, so he'll end up a Laker at some point. Might as well get it out of the way, right? Plays the piano, which is always a hit at the annual Christmas party.

NEGATIVES: Not the most accomplished of defenders. Has always struck me as a decidedly "third gear" player. Hasn't improved much since his early days. If a player goes from 2002's 4th overall pick to his generation's Chris Gattling, there's likely a reason.

On a scale of 1-10, this signing is a . . . 6. Gooden offers too much pure talent to be worthless, but unless his indifferent vibe gets a makeover, I could see Kobe decking him before preseason ends.

Gary A. Vasquez/US Presswire
The Lakers already have a Mamba. Why not a rhino?


CRAIG SMITH

POSITIVES
: Can score a lot of points in very little time. Bowls over defenders. There is a reason the Clipper P.A. guy nicknamed him "Rhino." High energy, guaranteed crowd-pleaser. He's a definitive antidote to the Lakers' propensity for jacking threes. One of Brian's favorite role players, so he'd be tickled pink. An L.A. native to replace the sure-to-depart Jordan Farmar, keeping the local flavor represented.

NEGATIVES: Ain't much on D. Size more horizontal than vertical. Can't really run an offense through Smith.

On a scale of 1-10, this signing is a . . . 7. Smith is what he is: a role player, and a fairly useful one at that. Maybe he takes a pay cut to stay home?

JUWAN HOWARD

POSITIVES: Was shockingly productive last season after injuries forced him to go from team mentor to manning the middle, along with fellow fogey Marcus Camby. That kooky mid-range shot still drops. Must be itching for a ring. A Fab Five dude on hand will undoubtedly lead to some good stories in the locker room.

NEGATIVES: How many times can you go to the well before it runs completely dry? I mean, the guy is 37.

On a scale of 1-10, this signing is a . . . 5.5. My apologies (and honest admiration) if Howard puts forth another solid campaign, but it wouldn't shock me if last season was a swan song of sorts.

MATT BONNER

STRENGTHS: Among the better bigs in the league at stretching the floor. Provides a specific option the Lakers haven't had since Vlad Rad, minus the terrible decisions. Spent years in the Spurs organization, which is rarely a bad thing. Redheaded and kinda goofy looking, which is always fun.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Matt Bonner would definitely cause some mismatches for the Lakers.


WEAKNESSES: Defensively challenged. While it's admittedly difficult for anybody but Plastic Man to grab rebounds while parked at the downtown stripe, he's among the league's worst rebounders per 48 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, this signing is a . . . 6.5. Like a lot of specialists, the returns will shift on a game-to-game basis.

DARKO MILICIC

STRENGTHS: Can block shots. Has apparently grown exceptionally good since the 2010 trade deadline, as Wolves G.M. David Kahn is willing to move Al Jefferson if it means cutting into a re-signed Milicic's PT. (Hat tip to BDL.)

WEAKNESSES: Not exactly polished offensively. He spent all season bashing the NBA and pining for a European return. He has the endorsement of Kahn, whose judgment leaves a little to be desired.

On a scale of 1-10, this signing is a . . . 2.5. I've fostered a borderline unhealthy fascination with the concept of Darko Milicic since he entered the league, but even I recognize when a joke is a joke. Plus, sadly, I'm guessing he's too expensive.

Other names I could see popping up: Big Z, Hakim Warrick, Kwame Brown (no chance, but his name will pop up), Joel Anthony, Tim Thomas (Actually, his name won't even pop up, I just wanted to scare people)

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsP. Gasol 9.7
AssistsK. Marshall 8.8
StealsJ. Meeks 1.4
BlocksP. Gasol 1.5