Losers: Los Angeles Lakers
Maybe it’s unfair to put the Lakers here, after all they’ve been without three of their best players, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Julius Randle, for long stretches due to injuries. However, the Lakers still remain a “loser”.
Admittedly, the team has a strange roster in terms of salary concerns. Kobe takes up a monster cap hit while Nash and Jeremy Lin are on sizeable, expiring contracts. Additionally, the team is flush with veterans on relatively cheap, expiring contracts (Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Price, Wayne Ellington, Wesley Johnson) and younger players on manageable deals (Ryan Kelly, Robert Sacre, Ed Davis, Jordan Clarkson, Tarik Black). Throw in Nick Young and Jordan Hill on reasonable contracts and you have the Lakers’ roster.
If one thing is for certain with Los Angeles, it’s that they want to be a contender as soon as possible. So keeping players like Nash and Lin around instead of dealing them for future salary commitments makes sense in terms of chasing a big fish or two in free agency.
The big problem with the Lakers is that they don’t really have much in the way of assets. Whether it be young players or picks, the Lakers have a pretty bare cupboard—at least compared to other struggling franchises like the Magic, Timberwolves and 76ers. That’s why it’s puzzling the team didn’t move players they felt weren’t part of their long-term future for assets, even if those assets were second-round draft picks.
Ryan Kelly could have been dealt to a team seeking a stretch four (Phoenix perhaps?) while Ed Davis could have received a fair return given his production and upside on such a manageable contract. Teams looking for an energy big could have acquired Robert Sacre. Wayne Ellington is averaging nearly 10 points per contest on a contract that calls for less than $1 million.
Jordan Hill is another player who could have been dealt. The former lottery pick is averaging 12.4 points and 8 rebounds and provides value as a floor-spacing big who can also rebound. Moving him would have freed up more money to chase free agents over the summer, but the team may feel he can contribute on a contending team.
The fact that the Lakers had so many players on inexpensive contracts meant they could have dealt them to just about anyone. It’s hard to imagine the team keeping a lot of this roster together for next season given the dreadful record the team has posted, so it’s a little confusing as to why the team didn’t do anything. The fact that they didn’t do anything is a bit puzzling. Because of that, the Lakers are a “loser”.
The Lakers will hope that they can turn their upcoming cap flexibility and bottom-feeding roster into a contender come next season. If not, you can probably expect more reactions like this out of Kobe Bryant.
All stats courtesy of http://www.basketball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.