Analyzing the Lin Trade and the Lakers Offseason

July 12, 2014

The Los Angeles Lakers made a trade with the Houston Rockets, acquiring guard Jeremy Lin as well as a future first round draft pick and a second round draft pick in 2015 (acquired by Houston in an earlier deal with the L.A. Clippers) in exchange for the rights to Sergei Lishchuk, it was recently announced by General Manager Mitch Kupchak.

“This trade allows us to acquire a solid player who will make us a better team, as well as draft picks to improve our team in the future, while at the same time allowing us to maintain financial flexibility,” said Kupchak. “In addition to what he’ll bring us on the court, we think Jeremy will be warmly embraced by our fans and our community.”

Lin, a four-year NBA veteran with the Warriors, Knicks and Rockets, holds career averages of 11.9 points, 4.8 assists and 2.6 rebounds in 217 career games (140 starts). Last season, in 71 games with the Rockets, the 25-year-old averaged 12.5 points, 4.1 assists and 2.6 rebounds while shooting career-bests from the field (.446) and on three-point field goals (.358).

Although Lin will make nearly $15 million this season, the final one in his contract, only about $8.3 million counts against the NBA salary cap. If the Lakers do not re-sign Lin after this season, this amount would be free for the team to spend on other potential free agents in the summer of 2015.

In addition to the trade for Lin, the Lakers also re-signed two of their players from last season: Jordan Hill signed a two-year $18 million contract, with a team option for the second year ($9 million), and  LA native Nick "Swaggy P" Young signed a four-year $21.5 million contract, with a player option in the final season.


Linsanity 2.0 anyone?

Although it is fair to assume the Lakers made this transaction with the primary motivation of preserving cap-space for next year's free agent class (again), there is some hope that Lin can rekindle the fire that set the NBA ablaze with "Linsanity" back in 2012 when Lin was playing with the Knicks.

As many recall, in 2012 Lin was an unheralded bench player seemingly days from being cut from the Knicks roster who seemingly came out of nowhere to turn a hapless Knicks team around and led them into the playoffs. Lin astonishingly averaged nearly 25 points and over 9 assists per game in his first ten starts that season and showed himself to be incredibly adept at getting to the rim and finishing.

Lin ultimately parlayed his stellar performance in the final 26 games of the 2012 season into a lucrative three-year $25 million offer to play for the Houston Rockets. Lin was scheduled to make close to $15 million in the final year of the deal. As a result of this "poison pill" the Knicks refused to match the offer and Lin went to play for the Rockets.

Lin undoubtedly envisioned himself to be the Rockets floor general in 2012-2013 when he signed with Houston, but the arrival of talented but ball-dominating star James Harden to the Rockets that same season obscured Lin's role. In the 2013-2014 season, Lin lost his starting job and came off the bench for the Rockets.

Lin is in the prime of his career and playing in the final season of his contract, so there is little doubt he will have every motivation to perform this season. Considering the injuries that unfortunately seem to plague Steve Nash, Lin should have more on-court time and freedom with the Lakers to play the type of game he did in New York a couple of years ago. The evidence suggests that Lin's consistent ability to penetrate defenses combined with his improved 3-point shot should only bolster his overall production.

While Lin seems to merit only a mid-level exception-type salary at this point in his career, considering his upside, the acquisition of much needed draft picks, and the one-year commitment, the Lakers did good here despite the high salary cap hit for this season.

Additionally, the Lakers kept financial flexibility by maintaining a team option for the second year on Jordan Hill's contract.

Finally, the Lakers were shrewd in buying the Wizards 2nd round pick and then selecting Jordan Clarkson from Missouri. Considering the health history of this team's guards, the rookie may get real playing time.


Uh, everything else.

The team just completed their worst season in Los Angeles Lakers history, and the roster got worse?

Okay, 19-year old rookie Julius Randle from Kentucky does look promising and should provide help on the boards that the Lakers -- the worst rebounding team in the NBA last season -- desperately need.  He is also more NBA-ready than most first year players and will help immediately. But shouldn't we expect a lot considering he was picked #7 in the deepest NBA draft in over a decade? Randle was the prize for last season's debacle so he doesn't really count in this analysis.

First of all, the "plan" to sign Lebron, Melo...(sorry, I have to pause to laugh before I write these words)...or both, was little more than a pipe dream, or as GM Mitch Kupchak candidly termed it, "a long shot."

Sure, there was nothing wrong in trying for the home run sales pitch, but don't let that expected failure obscure the more disturbing truth that the Lakers failed to acquire any other free agents either.  Worse, it's not clear how hard they even tried, instead preferring to kick the free agent can down the road to next summer.

Isaiah Thomas, Darren Collison, Lance Stevenson, Shaun Livingston, and Eric Bledsoe would help any backcourt immediately, but the Lakers didn't seem interested in getting any of them.

Chris Bosh, Chandler Parsons, Greg Monroe, Trevor Ariza, and Mike Miller were around for immediate frontcourt support, but the Lakers apparently found these guys too pricey, as were short term veterans like Paul Pierce, Vince Carter, Ray Allen, and Danny Granger.

Other than the trade for Lin - which is difficult not to cynically write off as primarily motivated by a cap-space saving agenda - the Lakers did almost nothing to upgrade last season's roster!

Yes, the Lakers kept Nick Young and Jordan Hill (for no small amount), but they lost Pau Gasol (Bulls), Jodie Meeks (Pistons), Chris Kaman (Portland), and Jordan Farmar (Clippers). It is still unclear if the team will be able to keep either Xavier Henry or Wesley Johnson from seeking greener pastures or if they will exercise their option on Kendall Marshall or Ryan Kelly.

So basically, this is last year's team, plus Jeremy Lin and Julius Randle, and minus at least Gasol, Meeks, Kaman, and Farmar.

The loss of Pau Gasol to Chicago hurts the most of course. It is clear that the Lakers poor treatment of the 7-footer who helped bring two NBA titles was a factor in losing him. Gasol undoubtedly left LA for the two things the Lakers can't offer him: (1) A chance to win and (2) respect. After years of being dangled as trade bait, Gasol joined Dwight Howard as the only significant free agents ever to choose to leave the Lakers for less money.

And as if the loss of the best player on last year's Kobe-less team wasn't bad enough, it seemingly panicked the Lakers into overpaying Jordan Hill at $9 million per season when they suddenly realized they had no experienced big men at all on the roster other than Robert Sacre.

Final Outlook

Despite the many misgivings, we all know that the Lakers should exceed the measly 27 wins from last season for a couple of reasons that have nothing to do with the off season moves.

First, Kobe Bryant's expected return and the possibility that Steve Nash may play more than a handful of games are the primary reasons for hope. If these two aren't substantially more productive this season than this might be the worst team in the NBA.

Second, the firing of Mike D'Antoni and his unbalanced, smallball, no-defense, anti-post play system should have immediate benefits in itself. Common sense suggests that when your team is lacking in overall talent it is imprudent to try and outscore your opponents as well as lengthen the game with quick shots.

A new head coach, like perhaps Byron Scott, would value strong point guard play (Nash, Lin) like D'Antoni did but would also emphasize defense, rebounding, and traditional post play. Unfortunately, the Lakers roster currently is bereft of players who thrive offensively in the post (other than Kobe and maybe Randle)

(Ironically however, D'Antoni is probably one of the few coaches who might prefer this year's roster to last year's. The addition of Jeremy Lin and the utter absence of inside play fit his philosophy far better than the inconveniences he suffered in wasting the talents of Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman.)

As it stands, assuming Kobe's health holds up -- far from a guarantee -- the Lakers should be in playoff contention far later into the 2014-15 season than last year. But from the looks of it, early on fans will realize that its going to be the #8 seed or bust.

By Manish Pandya
Staff Editor for


  1. Agree with every point in this article except one. There is no way the Lakers even get the 8 seed

  2. Replies
    1. Robb,

      Thank you for the kind words and we are glad you enjoyed the article.


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