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Lakers need to improve, a lot, but their options are limited

Coming off a disappointing season and facing salary cap and luxury tax issues, Lakers will try to upgrade from a menu of second-tier players. A look at who's available:

May 05, 2013|By Mike Bresnahan
  • Among possible options for the Lakers, clockwise from top left: Francisco Garcia, Marco Belinelli, Stephen Jackson, Kyle Korver, Chris Kaman, and Andray Blatche.
Among possible options for the Lakers, clockwise from top left: Francisco… (Getty Images )

Poor Lakers. Even if Dwight Howard walks and Metta World Peace gets amnestied, they're still too far over the salary cap to chase any big-name free agents. Silly NBA rules.

Along those lines, a sad-looking quote stood out as players and staffers slogged through two days of end-of-season meetings last week — except Antawn Jamison, who skipped them as a final goodbye to the team and Mike D'Antoni.

"The collective-bargaining agreement really limits how we can add to the team," Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said. "We get a limited number of exceptions. Probably the most widely used exception would be the veteran's minimum. It's hard to find a young player that would do that because if it's a younger player, he's probably not going to take the veteran's minimum. And if he did, he's probably not good enough to play."

Stop the excitement.

The veteran's minimum is typically $1.4 million a season. The Lakers will also have the "mini" mid-level exception of $3.2 million that can be used on one player or divided between two next season.

Sadder Kupchak quotes could be on the horizon for Lakers fans this summer — "We regretfully said goodbye to Pau Gasol today after waiving him via the amnesty provision," or "We were surprised that Dwight Howard chose to sign with Dallas" — but here's a look at who they could pursue when free agency begins July 1.

Current salary, age and latest team are listed next to players' names.

Kyle Korver ($5 million, 32, Atlanta)

Kobe Bryant said the Lakers needed a few things on their roster — speed, length, athleticism. That's all.

I'll add something else — shooting.

Korver will have to take a pay cut (get used to hearing this phrase), but he's one of the NBA's best shooters not named Stephen Curry or Ray Allen. He could help loosen defenses that sag down on Gasol, Howard or whomever mans the middle for the Lakers.

Chris Kaman ($8 million, 31, Dallas)

He's falling apart faster than a third-grade science project but he'll be cheap and happy to return to Los Angeles.

He'd better work on that 5.6 rebounding average last season.

Marco Belinelli (27, $2 million, Chicago)

Teams with money will look at his backcourt mate, late-season fireball Nate Robinson, but Belinelli is a comparatively inexpensive combo guard who can shoot and handle the ball. Think the Lakers need any of those?

Francisco Garcia ($6.1 million, 32 Houston)

Some paperwork first. He has a $6.5-million team option that Houston would have to decline next month.

If that happens, he's athletic and feisty, and his three-point shot has steadily improved the last few years.

He scored 18 points twice in the playoffs against Oklahoma City, so, say it with me, he'll have to take a pay cut to join the Lakers.

Stephen Jackson ($10.1 million, 35, San Antonio)

Risky pickup! Risky pickup!

There, I said it. But with World Peace possibly leaving via amnesty provision (it's either Gasol or him), the Lakers need someone to give wacky, wonderful quotes to reporters.

Just thanking you in advance, Mitch. Thank you.

Mike Dunleavy ($3.8 million, 32, Milwaukee)

He had a sneaky-good season with the Bucks, averaging 10.5 points and shooting a career-high 42.8% from three-point range.

He doesn't help with speed, athleticism or ball-handling ability, but he can shoot and score.

Josh Smith ($13.2 million, 27, Atlanta)

Kidding. Proceed.

Raja Bell ($3 million, 36, Utah)

Wheee! D'Antoni can finally reunite with Bell, who didn't play one minute with Utah last season after deciding he didn't want to be there at all and was deactivated.

So we'll have to go back to 2011-12 to see how he did . . . 6.4 points a game. Wonderful.

He'll come to the Lakers for $1.4 million next season. Count on it.

Andray Blatche ($854,389, 26, Brooklyn)

He had some moments with the Nets and is still entitled to $16.3 million over the next two years because Washington amnestied him last summer.

For once . . . a player who might be willing to take a pay cut.

Wesley Johnson ($4.3 million, 25, Phoenix)

The fourth overall pick in the 2010 draft finally found a semblance of a game in March (13.2-point average) and April (12.9). Phoenix has the upper hand here but maybe he'll take a pay cut (there it is again).

Dorell Wright ($4.1 million, 27, Philadelphia) and Nick Young ($5.6 million, 27, Philadelphia)

Essentially the same player, same age, same team.

Young had slight edges in scoring (10.6 to 9.2 points) and minutes (23.9 to 22.6) but Wright won by a nose in three-point accuracy (37.4% to 35.7%).

Or did Wright have the edge in scoring and minutes and Young better long-range accuracy?

DeJuan Blair ($1.1 million, 24, San Antonio)

He fell out of the rotation earlier this season and would always be plenty undersized as a 6-foot-7 power forward. He hustles, though, and how many Lakers did that this season?

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan

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