State of the Cap: Los Angeles Lakers

Sun, 09/07/2008 - 8:17pm

By Josh Redetzke

2008/09 Los Angeles Lakers Payroll: $75.9 million
2008/09 Estimated NBA Salary Cap: $58 million
Roughly: $17.9 million over cap

The Good:


Kobe Bryant
The Lakers needed to add an all-star caliber player to their line-up in order to go anywhere in the playoffs and they needed to do it without giving up anything of value. They did just that when they fooled the Grizzlies into giving up Pau Gasol for little more than table scraps. They didn't have to give up Lamar Odom or Andrew Bynum, they didn't even have to give up good, young role players like Luke Walton and Sasha Vujacic. All the Lakers had to give up was an expiring contract, a point guard, and a draft pick, none of which they wanted or needed. Gasol played wonderfully as a Laker, averaging his usual 18.8 points, 7.8 boards, 3.5 assists, and shot nearly 59% from the field. He will be very well paid over the next three seasons at a total of $49 million. Considering the team's contender status with him on the roster, it will all be worth it.

Of course, you can't talk about the Lakers without mentioning the great play of Kobe Bryant this year. He scored 7 fewer points and took 7 fewer shots than he did during his monster scoring season two years ago, but this time he was able to elevate the team around him into one of the best in the league. By showing a little unselfishness, Kobe was rewarded with an NBA Finals appearance and the MVP trophy. LA was shocked by Boston in the finals and that will only make Kobe hungrier for a championship. He will earn $21.2 million next season and during the following summer, he can opt out of his contract and turn down $47.8 million over two years in order to become a free agent. By the looks of this team, Kobe isn't going anywhere for a while.

A lot of the Laker's role players really stepped up this season, but Jordan Farmar stands out from the rest because of his improvement. In his second year, Farmar more than doubled his scoring average to 9.1 and he raised his field goal and three point shooting to very respectable levels. He is under contract for two more seasons at the rookie rate of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. With Derek Fisher getting old, LA will need Farmer to continue to raise his game and eventually take over the point guard spot.

The Bad:
In his brief stint this year, Andrew Bynum took another big step towards becoming a very good center in this league. He averaged a double-double with 13.1 points and 10.2 rebounds, blocked 2.1 shots per game, and he made an incredible 63.6% of his field goal attempts. The problem is that he only played in 35 games and when it came time to return, it was delayed longer and longer until finally he missed the entire playoffs. Now there is talk that Bynum wants a five-year, $80 million dollar extension. Are you really comfortable paying that to a guy who has only played at a high level for 35 games and is coming off a lengthy injury? I mean, that is Dwight Howard money, and Bynum is no Dwight Howard. The Lakers will obviously take a look at him early next season to see how he responds before handing over that kind of cash, but it would still make me a little nervous.

The Lakers role players are key, but a few are overpaid. Luke Walton's 6 year $30 million deal could be better spent. Vlad Radmanovich at $30 million over 5 years is also a bit steep, as is Vujacic's 3 year $15 million deal. But the Lakers do have one of the deepest and best benches in the league.

The Future:
Even though the addition of Pau Gasol was a catalyst and Kobe Bryant got all the attention, the real reason for the Laker's resurgence was the improvement of many of their role players. Farmar, Derek Fisher, Sasha Vujacic, Vladimir Radmanovic, Luke Walton, all those guys were giving the team quality minutes and making plays when needed. What's great is that all of those players make about $6 million or less per year so they are earning their pay very well. Vujacic, Fisher, and Radmanovic all shot over 40% from the three point line. That really spreads the floor for Kobe's drives or gives Gasol and Odom more room to work down low. Nearly every important player on this team is signed for at least the next two seasons, which means the Lake Show won't be canceled anytime soon.

Phil Jackson has two more years on his contract and isn't getting any younger. Could these be the final two seasons for the Zen Master?

The only notable player not under contract after next season is forward Lamar Odom. There is no doubt that Odom can still play excellent basketball and fill up a box score, as his 14.2 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 3.6 assists will attest. However, at $14.5 million, he definitely isn't cheap. With the Bynum extension looming, is Odom worth going sky high above the luxury tax line? His expiring contract and usable skills could fetch them the star point guard they have been looking for. If he does stay with the team, hopefully they can convince him to take a little less to remain with a contender.

Compared to last summer, it's been a much quieter off-season for the Lakers.

Free Throw:
As with any great team, it is difficult to keep the roster together year after year due to free agency. This summer, LA lost an enjoyable, high-energy big man when Ronny Turiaf signed with Golden State. They probably would have had to overpay to keep him, but the Lakers will miss him on their bench.

Grade: A-

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