By Jason Wojciechowski on July 10, 2008 at 2:31 AM
I think Broderick Turner at the Press-Enterprise had it first: Ronny Turiaf has signed an offer sheet with the Warriors. The deal is four years, $17 million. That's $4.25 mil/year, for the mathematically disinclined. And when you write out that per-year number, you kind of realize the Lakers will (and should) never match this offer sheet (and you kind of wonder what the Warriors are thinking). $4.25 million isn't a ton of money in the NBA-verse, but it's still a lot to pay for a guy who'll play 15 minutes per game, even if he is a stellar defensive player. Given that I referred to a four-year, $4 million per deal as "going nuts" in this post, I think I have to stick to my guns and vote no on a four-year, $4.25 million deal.
Now, it turns out that my list of guys who might replace him might not be as much in reach as I thought it was. DeSagana Diop, for instance, signed a full-midlevel deal for five years and $31 million to return to Dallas. Diop is a guy who's offensively even more limited than Turiaf, with no post moves to speak of and certainly no midrange jumper (which Turiaf improved this year). That said, there are still players out there should the Lakers get a little desperate for big man help (and it's not clear they will be: they might just go with Chris Mihm as their main backup big and leave it at that): Craig Smith, undersized PF from Inglewood, two-year vet, restricted free agent with Minnesota, not a shot-blocker, but a good rebounder and a much better offensive presence than Ronny; Carl Landry, undersized PF in Houston, restricted free agent, similar profile as Smith but an even more valuable offensive player; Walter Herrmann, a little skinny at PF, listed by ESPN as a SF, but tall enough to play up front, good offensive numbers in Charlotte two years ago but bad ones last year with Detroit and Charlotte, good rebounder, not a shot blocker, restricted free agent; Randolph Morris, the guy who loopholed his way from Kentucky straight to the Knicks, bypassing the draft, but hardly played last year, sizeable, but who knows what his game is, restricted free agent. Then there are a bunch of unrestricted free agents: Kurt Thomas, who I've talked about; Kwame Brown (who some people seem to be excited about, but I can't really advocate this point of view -- I don't think Phil likes him, and he's a liability offensively); Eduardo Najera, another undersized guy, but an energy-and-hustle player who's not an offensive zero; Juwan Howard, who's probably done, but could still bang some bodies underneath for a few minutes a night if he had to; the aforementioned Bob Horry; Francisco Elson, because how else should we fill out the Lakers' international roster than with a guy born in the Netherlands?; Theo Ratliff, again mentioned before, and the one guy I see out there who can match Ronny's shot-blocking; and Adonal Foyle. A lot of these guys are bubble players, people who won't even make it onto NBA rosters next year, so given the sheer number of useful players available out there basically for free, you have to ask whether it makes sense to pay big (relatively) money for long (relatively) years to keep a guy like Turiaf instead of wishing him well and hoping he's still got some hugs for the Lakers when they visit Oakland.
So what does everyone else think? Lakers Nation figures L.A. won't match. Forum Blue and Gold agrees with me that the Warriors are overpaying (and compares this to the Derek Fisher signing of a few years ago). Kurt Thomas and Craig Smith are advocated as potential replacements, either of which I'd be perfectly happy with. (But neither of which will happen if James Posey is signed, I should add, seeing as how the entire reason he's upset with Boston is that they're not offering the full MLE. Giving Posey what he wants would result in no room for adding any more players, right?) Brian Kamenetzky refers to Turiaf as a "luxury" given a healthy Bynum and Mihm, but would still like to match Golden State's offer, keeping the known quantity around rather than trying to go out and find a replacement. There's certainly logic to that, given the potential incompatibility between signing a guy the Lakers covet like Posey and also bringing in a replacement backup big, but at the same time, the money has to start being a concern: the last thing Jerry Buss wants is to pay a Knicks-like luxury tax bill, isn't it? When we're talking about keeping around spare parts, not re-signing Kobe or Pau or something?
On the James Posey front, the Boston Globe says that the Celtics have increased their offer to him from the three years, $12 million they initially put on the table. It isn't clear how much the offer was increased, but it seems unlikely that the full MLE was offered, since you'd have to figure that Posey would sign that straightaway -- if that's the most he can get anywhere, why not get it in Boston? I think he's going to end up with a Diop deal, the full MLE, but given those dollars and that length, I think it won't (and shouldn't) be the Lakers. Posey, let's not forget, is 31 already. Does L.A. really want him badly enough to keep him around until he's 36? Is he really that valuable? Can't you get Brent Barry for shorter and cheaper? Quinton Ross is available if you want guard defense. Bostjan Nachbar? Dorell Wright? None of these guys bring the package that Posey brings, but they also don't come with the "Wow, the Celtics would have totally lost if not for Posey" (a debatable point) factor, either. Excelling in the Finals is like playing well in the NCAA tournament used to be: a guarantee of more attention (and thus more money) than you're really worth.
Finally, the Ron Artest talk just won't die. Sam Amick at the Sacramento Bee claims that the Lakers are willing to give up Odom to get Artest, but the question is whether they'll take back Kenny Thomas in the deal. Let's Trade Machine this -- can the deal happen any other way than Odom for Artest and Thomas? (Artest makes like half of what Odom does, so that's the problem that has to be solved.) Let's set some parameters and then I'll give you the trades the Trade Machine approves of. The Lakers aren't giving up Bryant, Bynum, Farmar, Fisher, or Gasol. The Kings aren't giving up Francisco Garcia, Spencer Hawes, Kevin Martin, or Brad Miller.
So here are some possibilities besides the Artest+Thomas one: Artest and Shareef Abdur-Rahim for Odom; Artest and Mikki Moore for Odom; Artest and John Salmons for Odom. You can add Quincy Douby to any of those deals and it still works. Same for Shelden Williams. You can add both Douby and Williams to the Salmons deal. Douby and Williams could be added to the Abdur-Rahim or Moore deals if the Lakers sent back Chris Mihm or Trevor Ariza.
Ok, so that's everything plausible I could find that doesn't include Kenny Thomas. Now, none of those are particularly appetizing deals, but at least they don't include an $8.5 million, 2-year contract for a mediocre backup power forward. On that list, I think my favorite, if a deal has to be done, is the Mikki Moore deal. I don't think the Lakers want Douby, because when would he play? He's not going to be on the court over Farmar or Fisher, so what good does he do? Anyway, Moore's deal also has two years left, but it's $3 million cheaper per year, and he's a high-energy guy who'll block some shots, be a decent rebounder, and provide some of that "toughness inside" that everyone seems to think the Lakers are lacking. A Lakers-Celtics rematch might end up with Moore and Kendrick Perkins suspended for the entire series. If Odom has to go, and Artest has to be the one coming back, then I hereby demand that Mikki Moore come with him. The Kings won't want to give him up, but you've got to give value to get value, right? And the Kings would be getting one hell of a value in Lamar Odom, both his talent and his $14 million expiring deal.