Immediately after the Yankees lost in game six of the 2003 World Series to the Marlins, the New York papers we’re combing through free agent listings, dearly hoping to find a player who would push them over the hump the following year. Later that winter, George Steinbrenner inked Alex Rodriguez to the world’s biggest contract. Unfortunately for Mitch Kupchak, there’s no basketball equivalent of A-Rod on the market right now. But there still are some big names they could add to fortify a championship push…
Ron Artest (Player option @ $8.4 mil) – Despite news today that Ron-Ron is “99% sure” that he won’t opt out of his contract come July 1, the Lakers brass could make him a sweet offer to act on that 1% to come and be L.A.’s defensive stopper. After the Spurs series, people were giddy in Southern California thinking that one morning they woke up and Sasha Vujacic became a defensive juggernaut. Those people were dreaming. Ray Allen exposed Vujacic once, and the Celtics’ ball movement proved him to be a liability in game six. Plus, Artest’s gritty toughness helps to compensate for the Pillsbury doughboy softness of Odom and Gasol.
Baron Davis (Player option @$17.1 mil) – One of the biggest issues last night for the Lakers was that Kobe couldn’t get any easy buckets. He was hitting step-back triples in the first quarter, but eventually he needed to score in the paint if the Lakers were to hang. Adding Boom would create easy open looks in the half court set and would help the Lakers get out in transition, too. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that he’s from area.
Josh Smith (Restricted Free Agent) – This is actually a terrifying thought. If the Lakers parted ways with Lamar Odom and threw a bundle at J-Smoove, they get significantly better on both sides of the ball. Maybe he was too young to understand the magnitude of the playoffs, but Smith didn’t seem fazed at all by the mighty Celtics in the first round – which is another way to say that he won’t completely disappear during big games. He’s a game-changer on defense, and enough of a matchup problem that he can get to the line 6-10 times a night.
Antawn Jamison (Unrestricted Free Agent) – If they could pry him from the Wizards’ mortal grip, wouldn’t Jamison be ideal? He’s more aggressive than Odom and a better rebounder.
Gilbert Arenas (Unrestricted Free Agent) – More than any of the other situations, adding Gilbert could be like adding A-Rod. At times, he’s one of the most exciting players in the League. But he’s also a walking media circus who takes too many shots. Is Los Angeles big enough for him and Kobe?