Get ready for a wild few days of NBA player movement as free agency officially opened at 12:01 a.m. today, July 1, although contracts can't become official for a week. And one active team figures to be the Los Angeles Lakers. Let's take a look.
Lakers Need A Big Man!
All the talk leading up to last week's NBA draft was that the Los Angeles Lakers were pestering the Sacramento Kings about a trade for All-Star DeMarcus Cousins, who is probably the best center in the league right now. Supposedly new Kings head coach George Karl has been pushing for the Kings to trade Cousins, preferably to Karl's former team, Denver, for a package of point guard Ty Lawson, swingman Wilson Chandler and power forward Kenneth Faried. Those guys are all pretty good but that's not enough for Cousins in my mind. Karl really has a set of you-know-what on him because he was only hired as the Kings coach at the All-Star Break and had promised that he wouldn't interfere with player personnel moves. Kings team president Vlade Divac has said he's not trading Cousins and owner Vivek Ranadive also says he won't do that yet Karl keeps pushing -- to the point Ranadive might already have to fire the guy (and replace with John Calipari?). That franchise is just a mess.
That the Kings took another center, Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein, with the sixth overall pick last week only intensified rumors the team might trade Cousins. But in reality, the Kings think Stein can help Cousins a ton with his defense and rebounding. Cousins prefers not to bang with the big centers but instead play power forward.
The Lakers surprised some by taking Ohio State guard D'Angelo Russell over Duke big man Jahlil Okafor with the No. 2 overall pick last week. That hasn't stopped the Lakers from offering Russell for Cousins straight up. Obviously the Kings would be stupid to do that. They've also been asking, through back channels, for young forward Julius Randle, second-year guard Jordan Clarkson and future draft picks from the Lakers. Now that sounds like a better deal for the Kings than the Denver one, even though we don't know if Russell or Randle will be any good yet. Clarkson had a surprisingly strong rookie season.
It's 100 percent clear the Lakers have to add a big man because they have informed Jordan Hill that they are declining his $9 million team option. That tells me that the Lakers think they are going to get some big man. After declining Hill's option, the Lakers will have about $23 million in salary cap space.
Kevin Love was also considered an option since he starred at UCLA and lives in the city, but he kept saying he would return to Cleveland and he just agreed to a five-year, $110 million contract to stay with the Cavs. Kobe Bryant has already been recruiting Clippers free-agent center DeAndre Jordan to switch locker rooms. If I'm Jordan, I'd rather stay with the Clippers, if the money is the same, because they will contend for a few years. Memphis' Marc Gasol is a free agent, but all signs point toward him staying put.
So who does that leave for the Lakers? That answer would clearly be Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge, who is not going to return to the Pacific Northwest. Reports out of Los Angeles are that Aldridge favors playing for the Lakers over returning to his home state of Texas and suiting up for San Antonio, Houston or Dallas. He will meet with all of those teams as well as Phoenix, Toronto and the New York Knicks. I know the Spurs are putting on a full-court press, with Tim Duncan himself personally recruiting Aldridge. The Rockets would have a terrific Big 3 of James Harden, Aldridge and Dwight Howard, but they are going to have to open up cap room. I don't think the Mavericks have much of a chance even though Aldridge went to high school there. It will be the Lakers, Spurs or Rockets.
Would a Lakers team of Kobe, Russell, Clarkson, Randle and Aldridge make any noise in the West? I don't think so. And Aldridge would take up most of the Lakers' available cap space. But at least the Lakers would be more interesting against the NBA odds.