L.A.'s position, post-draft

By Jason Wojciechowski on June 27, 2008 at 4:24 PM

A quick rundown of the effects of yesterday's draft on the Lakers.

First, the Spurs took coveted point guard George Hill in the first round, denying him to the Lakers. To me, it was an odd pick, given that DJ White, Mario Chalmers, Chris Douglas-Roberts, and others were still on the board. In any case, though, there went any thoughts of L.A. moving up to the top of the second round to pick him. They instead ended up with Joe Crawford from Kentucky. I refuse to make a Joey Crawford joke here, because they will be (and have been) made elsewhere. Chad Ford says that he doubts he'll stick in the league. If he's not even that good, he could have a hard time pushing Coby Karl off the roster.

L.A. appears so far to have made no trades, but other teams did deals involving players that might have been coming to the Lakers. Notably, Memphis pulled off a head-scratcher of a deal, sending Mike Miller and Kevin Love to Minnesota for OJ Mayo. Minnesota can probably use Miller, so I think that takes him off the table in any Lamar Odom deal.

As an aside, can this deal possibly be explained? The full list goes like this: Marko Jaric, Antoine Walker, Greg Buckner, and OJ Mayo to Memphis for Kevin Love, Mike Miller, Brian Cardinal, and Jason Collins. Collins is a useful 10th-12th guy who can bang and play smart defense, and his contract for $6 million is expiring this year. For an undersized Minnesota team, he's a useful guy to have around. Cardinal is a bad contract, at $5.8 million for a player who doesn't really bring anything to the team, but there are only two years left on the deal. Mike Miller is, of course, Mike Miller: I've sung his praises before, so I won't do it again here. He'll be the second coming of Wally Szczerbiak in Minnesota, except he's a better all-around player. To boot, his deal is pretty reasonable, at $8.3 million for two more years. And Kevin Love is a guy Minnesota was rumored to want/need for a while. Memphis could have also used him, mostly because they don't have any good players in the front court.

On the other side of the ledger is Antoine Walker, who shouldn't even play, but has three years left on his deal that's for basically the same dollars as Mike Miller. You've also got Marko Jaric, who's not a horrible player (36% from three last year), but he's not what you'd call "good" either (43% overall), and he's also got three years left on his deal at $6 million. Greg Buckner is a defensive-minded two-guard who doesn't add anything on the offensive end, with two years left on a $2.7 million per year deal. And then there's OJ Mayo, who overlapped with Randy Foye in Minnesota (i.e. they probably weren't going to keep both of them), but in Memphis, he'll compete with Javaris Crittenton, Mike Conley, and Kyle Lowry for playing time unless they just make him a straight-up shooting guard (which strikes me as a bad idea).

Ok, so what happened is Memphis, in order to get OJ Mayo, takes on two three-year deals while giving up shorter contracts, and doesn't add any players you actually want on the floor. Minnesota, by contrast, gets shorter deals, making up for some horrendous past mistakes, and gets back a very good player (Miller), a potentially very good player (Love), and a useful benchy (Collins). OJ Mayo is worth all this? I don't think we can even blame Memphis ownership for this, because I don't see a salary reduction at all here. I just see Minnesota completely ripping off Memphis.

Anyway, back to the Lakers: Richard Jefferson was also traded, so, thank goodness, he's off the table as well, unless Milwaukee wants Odom. Again, though, I'd hate this deal, even if Milwaukee included a sweetener, say by throwing in Charlie Villanueva and taking back Chris Mihm.

What about Andres Nocioni? The Bulls' only pick was Derrick Rose (since Sonny Weems is apparently headed for Denver), who hardly gets in Odom's way in Chicago, and in fact makes some of their guards expendable. The thing is that Ben Gordon and Chris Duhon are free agents, and Kirk Hinrich makes $11 million, so a deal involving him would have to also have someone like Luke Walton or Vlad Radmanovich going to Chicago, which only makes the deal worse from the Lakers' perspective. So I don't think the Derrick Rose draft pick makes an Odom-for-Nocioni swap any more likely. Does it make it less likely? I don't think that's the case, either, given that it was pretty unlikely from Chicago's perspective anyway: Nocioni, Noah, etc. is a lot to give up for Lamar Odom.

And how about Ron Artest? Well, buzz now is that he is opting out of his deal, despite his "99%" comment from last week, but he also says he won't sign for less money to play for a contender, which is the right move for a 28-year-old for whom this is likely his last chance at a big contract. Of course, if he does opt out, he'll already have gone back on one promise, so Lakers fans can have some hope that he'll go back on another and sign for the mid-level exception after all. And hey, maybe they can pull a Joe Smith under the table deal with him and promise to resign him for big money after 2009.

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