Derek J. Hernandez

The Fake Show: The Lakers’ Mythical Dominance In Free Agency

lakers free agents payton malone

Nick Young, Chris Kaman, Josh McRoberts, and Steve Blake.

These are just a few of the high-priced free agents the Los Angeles Lakers have signed in recent years. Looking at that murderers row of NBA ballers it’s not surprising the Lakers have lost more games than the previous year each season since 2012.

This has to be a blip in the otherwise dominant run of Lakers free agency signings, right? If you asked the organization’s ferver fanbase that’s exactly the case, but history paints a different story.

Other than Shaquille O’Neal in 1996, the best free agent signing the Lakers have made since I’ve been alive (I’m 31) was probably Ron Artest in 2009. Karl Malone and Gary Payton may have been bigger names, but their games were in decline when they signed with LA in 2003. In fact, not counting players they basically re-signed, the best free agents they’ve signed since 1980 outside of Payton, Malone, and Artest were Rick Fox, Brian Shaw, and Kurt Rambis. Not exactly signings that should cause many to feel the organization is some sort of free agency monster.

Even if you look back at their all-time free agency signings, the list isn’t much better.

Marquee player additions like Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, and Lamar Odom were all acquired via trade and given the salary cap restrictions that weren’t present during their O’Neal signing and the more-or-less level playing field for small and big market teams alike, they’re likely going to have to rely on shrewd trade proposals moving forward if they want to return to prominence.

It’s also now not a necessity for players to live in big markets to garner endorsements and enhance their brand (see: Durant, Curry) just like it’s no longer a hindrance for organizations to be in small markets on their way to fielding championship caliber teams (see: San Antonio, Oklahoma City).

The Lakers have been a model franchise for years not because of their ability to sign hired guns, but because of their creative trade prowess. Now let’s see how they fare in the post Jerry Buss, parity-driven NBA.


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