By Joseph Crevier @JosephMCrevier on July 29, 2014
Entering the 2014 NBA offseason, Mitch Kupchak had his work cut out for him. With a roster of just three guaranteed contracts and no head coach, he had to have the ability to construct a roster basically from scratch, which he ultimately did. Were all of his offseason moves home runs? Probably not, but Kupchak did make best with the opportunities he was presented allowing the Los Angeles Lakers wiggle room to improve in the near future.
Los Angeles kick-started their offseason by drafting former Kentucky Wildcat Julius Randle with the No. 7 overall pick. Most expected Randle to be drafted much higher, so he was considered a steal even before stepping foot on the floor. When Randle finally made his Summer League appearance, he surprised the team with his impressive quickness and ability to play face-up basketball.
Overall Grade: A
Kupchak was determined to acquire an additional draft pick in the second round, no matter where it was positioned. He ended acquiring the No. 46 pick from the Washington Wizards in exchange for cash, which turned out to be an absolute steal. Jordan Clarkson has vastly exceeded expectations of a second-round pick, demonstrating his unique guard talents in this year's Summer League.
Overall Grade: A+
When Los Angeles realized the marquee free agents were going elsewhere, Plan B went into immediate action. The first move was trading for PG Jeremy Lin and a future first-round pick in exchange for measly cash considerations. Taking into account that the Lakers gave up just about nothing for Lin, this deal was a success. His contract expires at the conclusion of this season, plus Los Angeles gains a valuable draft pick.
Overall Grade: A+
This is where the Plan B goes off the rails a bit. Jordan Hill has proven himself as a frontcourt asset who has an endless motor on the offensive and defensive boards -- certainly a player a franchise would like to retain. In order to keep financial flexibility though, Los Angeles had to vastly overpay Hill giving him a two-year, $ 18 million contract. Luckily the second year is a team option, which is expected to be declined.
Overall Grade: B
Nick "Swaggy P" Young was a hot commodity amongst Lakers fans as he provided excitement to an otherwise dismal season. Off the bench, Young averaged an outstanding 18 points per game, at times willing the Lakers to victory. For these reasons, Los Angeles had to re-sign Young to guarantee bench production for years to come. Again, it was a slight overpay at four years and $ 21.5 million, but a risk worth taking.
Overall Grade: B+
Adding young talent was a major piece of the Lakers' Plan B, exhibited by the signing of PF-C Ed Davis. Minutes have come sparingly to Davis, yet he still has a ton of potential to evolve into a tenacious defensive player. Prior to being trading to the Memphis Grizzlies, Davis' stock was way up, but due to his lack of playing time last season with the Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles was able to snag him for two years and $ 2M.
Overall Grade: A-
When Carlos Boozer was amnestied by the Chicago Bulls, I'm sure Kupchak did not believe the team could acquire him for just $ 3.25 million, so why not place a waiver claim? Shockingly, the Lakers did end up winning the bidding war, further crowding the frontcourt. Boozer is a productive player, but at this time, the Lakers need to focus on developing Randle. Taking away his minutes is simply a bad idea.
Overall Grade: D
Kendall Marshall may not be a starting PG in this league, but he proved to be a capable rotation player. His contract for next season was set at about $ 935,000 prior to being waived, which makes the move pretty pointless. Such a low cap figure for a productive bench guard is worth hanging onto. Considering this move was made in order to acquire Boozer just throws salt into the wound.
Overall Grade: F
Under Mike D'Antoni, Kelly played a vital role in the team's success as a stretch-four, but I don't see him being granted much playing time on the court this season. At such a low price, two years and $ 3.5 million, Kelly won't hurt the team's flexibility, yet the extra cash could be useful next summer.
Overall Grade: C
Re-Signing Xavier Henry was definitely atop the Lakers' checklist head into the offseason. Formerly labelled a "bust," Henry showcased his talents throughout the 2013-14 season, when healthy. He averaged career highs of 10 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game while also playing a career-high of 21 minutes per game. Therefore, retaining Henry for the veteran's minimum was a steal considering how productive he was.
Overall Grade: A
Another former "bust," Wesley Johnson was given the opportunity to turn his career around last season on the injury-ridden Lakers. Despite never living up to the expectations of a No. 4 overall draft pick, Johnson will likely have staying power due to his defensive prowess and incredible athleticism. Expect him to be a valuable role player with a bargain contract of one year for $ 1 million.
Overall Grade: A
Thankfully, the Lakers' head coaching search has finally come to a conclusion after nearly 100 days of being vacant. Byron Scott was always deemed the front-runner for the job, majorly due to his experience in the Los Angeles environment as a player years ago. Additionally, Kobe Bryant has remained tight with Scott as the two were teammates during the beginning stages of Bryant's career.
Overall Grade: B+
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