Los Angeles Lakers’ Paper-Thin Wing Depth Waiting to Be Exposed

When you can count in your midst one of the two best shooting guards in NBA history, lack of wing depth shouldn’t be very high on the concern scale.

But that’s precisely what the Los Angeles Lakers face in the weeks leading up to the start of the NBA season.

Hot on the heels of his 36th birthday, Kobe Bryant—a pair of season-ending injuries to his detriment—is no longer the peerless force of a decade ago. From here on out, his game will be defined more through guts and guile than sheer athletic grace.

For L.A. to stand the slightest chance of crashing the Western Conference playoff party, Bryant needs a supporting cast capable of shouldering the playmaking load.

Sadly, the Lakers’ summer shopping spree has thus far yielded little more than flotsam on the fringes.

Just how desperate are the 16-time NBA champs? According to USA Today’s Sam Amick, L.A. recently conducted a workout for a slew of agents, including Daniel Orton, Dexter Pittman, Toney Douglas, Ben Hansbrough, Malcolm Lee and, last but not least, former No. 2 overall pick and basketball bon vivant Michael Beasley.

Such summer trials are anything but rare occurrences, of course. Still, all it takes is a fleeting glance at the Lakers’ depth chart to grasp how dire the situation is—particularly on the perimeter.

Beyond Bryant, the only wing one could reasonably expect to start for more than half the NBA’s teams is Nick Young, whom the Lakers recently re-signed to a four-year, $21.5 million tender, per Amick.

Coming off a season in which he tallied career highs in points, true-shooting percentage and overall player efficiency, Young is, by all accounts, a fine piece to have. Even if the deal’s length and largesse feel a bit extreme.

Still, Young’s importance hasn’t been lost on his legendary teammate.

“Kobe puts more pressure on me,” Young told InsideSoCal.com’s Mark Medina in a recent interview. “Ever since he gave me that phone call, I’ve been in the gym every day.”

More encouraging still, according to NBA.com (requires subscription), the duo of Young and Bryant registered an overall net rating of plus-4.4 over 82 minutes this past season.

Small sample size aside, concerns their somewhat redundant playing styles seems, at this point, premature, to say the least.

All the same, you can’t expect the two to log 48 minutes every night—Bryant because of wear and tear, and Young because no coach has that kind of patience. And certainly not Byron Scott.

After Bryant and Young, the drop-off is stark and steep, especially in the wake of Jodie Meeks‘ departure.

Between them, Xavier Henry and Wesley Johnson entered the NBA steeped in scalding-hot hype. Save for a few stretches last season, however, neither has come remotely close to actualizing it.

And while 6’5” rookie combo guard Jordan Clarkson possesses plenty of promise, his NBA game is nothing if not a raw work in progress.

That brings us to Beasley, whose helter-skelter career very nearly came to an end following a slew of off-court incidents before being scooped up by the Miami Heat ahead of the 2013-14 season.

At 25 years old, Beasley—who arrived NBA-side as a seeming lock to fulfill his otherworldly potential—certainly could chart a second act as a serviceable, if not spectacular, rotation player.

Even if he somehow manages to graze that ceiling, Beasley will essentially be a carbon copy of Johnson and Henry: players capable of authoring nice offensive stretches with little to nothing to show for it at the other end.

Indeed, Eye On Basketball’s James Herbert underscored precisely this point in his dispatch on the Beasley workout:

For Los Angeles, though, signing Beasley would be a curious move because head coach Byron Scott wants to be a defense-first team. The Lakers lack good defenders, so you’d assume they’d want to fill out the last couple of roster spots with guys who have a history of playing well on that end of the floor.

Scott, whom the Lakers hired on July 28 after months of speculation surrounding who would replace the deposed Mike D’Antoni, certainly has his work cut out for him on the firepower front.

Those looking for a statistical silver lining to L.A.’s glaring lack of wing depth, consider: Based on net production by position, the 2 and 3 were actually the least woeful last season, per 82games.com.

At the same time, a proposed change to the team’s offensive approach could make that relative strength a crippling weakness sooner than later.

During his introductory press conference, Scott acknowledged his playbook would be heavily informed by the Princeton offense, a system predicated on precise passing, cutting and playmaking. Playmaking the Lakers—beyond Steve Nash and, to a lesser extent, Jeremy Lin—simply don’t have.

Of course, when you’ve got an all-time great at your disposal, even the most ironclad creed is bound to have caveats, as Scott all but admitted when he told CBS Los Angeles’ Jim Hill, “I am looking forward to having Kobe as a guy that I can turn to and say, ‘Let’s get the ball to this guy, and he can make things happen.’”

And so it is that the Lakers, with boundless cap space one year away and only a marginal shot at making the playoffs, are poised to peer past their glaring weaknesses in lieu of the most sensible temporary fix: lean on Kobe Bryant.

Even in an era when the shooting guard position is perhaps the weakest it’s ever been, L.A.’s dearth of wings will be one of the more familiar refrains in a stage play that—like many dramas—isn’t headed for a happy ending.

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Diagnosing Los Angeles Lakers’ Remaining Roster Flaws

Optimism comes cheaply in August for followers of the Los Angeles Lakers. It should not, however, be confused with reality.

Make no mistake: The Lakers of 2014-15 will not be very good. Even with some offseason moves designed to shore up more than a few weaknesses, Byron Scott’s first year as head coach promises to be a rocky one.

It would seem there is nowhere for these Lakers to go but up after finishing 27-55 last year, the team’s worst in franchise history. Yet there exists enough question marks on the current 13-man roster to warrant a good dose of head-scratching.

Lakers fortunes begin and end with the 36-year-old Kobe Bryant, who is coming off two major, career-threatening injuries in the past year. The big question mark, of course, is Kobe’s health and whether or not his well-traveled basketball legs can withstand the rigors of an 82-game season at 30-plus minutes per game.

Assuming Bryant plays injury-free and averages 30 minutes and 20 points, the rest of the roster will need to step up and have career years in order for this team to have any chance of making the NBA playoffs.  And, that may require a huge leap of faith and a lot of luck.

 

A Look At a Suspect Roster

Small Forward: The Bench Looks Better Than the Starters

Nick Young is the only other Laker not named Kobe Bryant who could be counted on for major minutes and plentiful scoring. Happily signed to a four-year extension ($21.5 million), the Los Angeles native is poised to improve on a year in which he averaged a career-best 17.9 points per game.

Scott has already made it known he prefers that Swaggy P come off the bench. Last season’s most successful experiment saw Young not only score from all over the court but also improve dramatically as a defender.

Young is needed to serve as catalyst and driving force behind a second unit that otherwise appears thin. Scott did tell Mike Trudell of NBA.com that Young could see some important minutes playing alongside Bryant:

I liked how he played and how he was giving full effort on the defensive end, and I really love his energy. He cared about winning. He changed his whole persona, what people thought of him. I’d never seen him play defense before. I also saw him being unselfish at times where he made passes. I do love Swaggy coming off the bench.

He will play together with Kobe as well, but I do love his energy and firepower being able to score the ball off the bench.

If Young comes off the bench, that means the Lakers will probably go with Wesley Johnson or Xavier Henry at starting small forward. While both showed flashes of excellence last season, neither was consistent enough on both sides of the ball.

Toward that goal of adding depth, the Lakers this week brought free-agent small forward Michael Beasley in for a second look and could offer him a contract if they liked what they saw. The 6’10”, 235-pound Beasley is just 25 and was actually pursued by the Lakers two years ago when the former No. 2 pick (2008) played for the Minnesota Timberwolves

Beasley played for the Miami Heat last season and was praised for much of the year by head coach Eric Spoelstra, per Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald. And, though Beasley saw less playing time at the end of the year, the former Kansas State star retains an intrigue about him and could add much-needed depth at the SF position.

 

Not Enough Big Bodies in the Middle

The Lakers are stacked with power forwards but lack a big body for the 5 position. Outside of the limited Robert Sacre (7’0”), L.A. lacks a dominant center to clog the middle.

Scott insists that his team defense will be by committee, per Trudell:

You’re going to have to play a lot of help the helper to keep the ball from getting into the paint. That’s a lot of rotations, a lot of help, a lot of stunt and recover, where the guy with the ball sees one-and-a-half or two defenders every single time. You want to clog up the paint as much as possible and make the opponent take contested jump shots.

It may be a sound plan, given the roster, but also feels like a lot to ask of a team that last year was among the league’s worst on defense.

Back from that squad is Sacre, Jordan Hill, Johnson and Ryan Kelly. Former Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer was added via the amnesty clause, Julius Randle was the No. 7 pick in the NBA draft and Ed Davis was signed as a free agent after playing last year for the Memphis Grizzlies.

All are in the 6’9”-7’0″ range, big enough to make a difference if they learn how to help each other. Davis is considered the best rim protector of the bunch and has played some center. Consider him an X-factor on defense.

 

Point Guard: Potential with a Lot of Uncertainty

Given what they had to start the summer, the Lakers deserve credit for finding adequate replacements for the departed Kendall Marshall, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar. Marshall was one of the league’s best passers (8.8 assists in 54 games), while Blake and Farmar were above-average perimeter shooters (40 and 44 percent respectively) who will be missed.

Blake and Farmar both fell victim to the injury bug that fell upon the Mike D’Antoni-led Lakers and were deemed expendable. The only point guard who remained on the roster was the most injured of the group: 40-year-old Steve Nash, who played in just 15 games and has one year left on his expensive ($9.7 million) contract.

And so the Lakers start fresh this fall. There’s a healthy (for now) Nash, rookie Jordan Clarkson and former Houston Rocket Jeremy Lin, who is certain to get the most playing time of the three.

After Lin, in his prime at 26, there’s a big drop-off. Nash cannot be counted on due to his recent spate of injuries, and Clarkson, while talented enough, is just beginning his career. That doesn’t leave the team with much depth.

The ideal scenario would have Lin playing 25 minutes and Nash and Clarkson picking up what’s left. A healthy Nash is still one of the league’s top outside shooters and a tremendous passer.

And Lin is not only an improved passer and outside shooter (36 percent from three-point range last season), he is tremendous at penetration to the rim and pure money (82 percent) from the charity stripe.

 

Outside Shooting Could Be An Issue; Offense a Work in Progress

Long-distances threes were an issue last season only because the Lakers, under D’Antoni, shot too many of them and didn’t get back on defense when they missed.

They did end up as the league’s third-best team in three-point shooting, making good on 38 percent.  But the Lakers were 29th in team defense, giving up 109.2 points per game. 

This season could be the reverse. Scott envisions an offense that is part Princeton, part triangle and part traditional half-court. As he told reporters at his introductory press conference last month:

It’s going to be a mixture of a little bit of everything that I’ve done in New Jersey, New Orleans and Cleveland.  There are a lot of different sets that you can call in the Princeton offense, there’s like five different sets.  And we won’t get into all of the them and we won’t even try and work on all of them. It’s going to be a mixture of things that I think can make this team successful.

Magic Johnson told reporters that Scott’s offensive philosophy will translate better for this Lakers roster: “The team is better than what we had last season, because we have more guys who can do more things than just shoot three-pointers.  If I don’t see another three-pointer from a Laker team, I’ll be happy.”

Despite Johnson’s strong mistrust of the three-pointer, the reality is that it’s a critical element to fielding a successful team today. The Lakers are still able to add one or two players to their roster and would be wise to have at least one be a threat from the perimeter.

Nick Young (39 percent) is the best returning three-point shooter for L.A., followed by Wes Johnson (37 percent), Lin (36), Ryan Kelly and Bryant (both 34 percent).

Without another sharp shooter, the Lakers may have to rely on Young and hope for improvements from Lin, Johnson, Kelly and Henry.

 

Just Not Enough Firepower

Since Byron Scott was named coach in July, he has been preaching defense. He may be emphasizing that aspect because the Lakers’ offense appears anemic. It could be a long season trying to score points.

Losing star forward Pau Gasol and his 17 points per game won’t help the Lakers’ struggle to put points on the board. 

Will Carlos Boozer be enough to replace that productivity? He’ll need to step up his game from the 13.7 points per game he had last season, the lowest average since his rookie year of 2002-03.

Julius Randle could be an important part of the Lakers offense if he is able to withstand the pressure and rigors of an 82-game season in the NBA. The former Kentucky Wildcat averaged 15 points his first and only season in college and looked promising in the summer league (12 points per contest).

Still, It’s asking a lot from a 6’9”, 250-pound rookie who won’t turn 19 until November 29 and graduated from high school just a little over a year ago.

 

A Season of Uncertainty and Entertainment

The Lakers have some serious flaws on their roster. They also posses youth (not counting Bryant, Nash and Boozer), athleticism and potential.

Much like last year, the Lakers will be entertaining. It will be interesting to watch a new coach, new players and one old but still very good superstar as they try to prove the skeptics (myself included) wrong.

The honeymoon period for Byron Scott and his team has been extended, but will probably end sometime shortly after the season starts in late October.

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Pros and Cons of Los Angeles Lakers Gambling on Michael Beasley

From the Miami Heat to the Minnesota Timberwolves. From the Wolves to the desert-based Phoenix Suns. From the Suns back to South Beach and the Heat. 

In just six seasons, Michael Beasley has become quite the well-traveled NBA player, hopping from team to team as he attempts to jump-start his career in the Association, one that fizzled after he was selected at No. 2 in the 2008 NBA draft. 

Could the Los Angeles Lakers be his next destination? 

According to USA Today‘s Sam Amick, Beasley has already met with the recently downtrodden organization for a second time this offseason, though he remains an unrestricted free agent: 

After missing out on LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony in July, the Lakers held a free agent workout Tuesday in Los Angeles. The workout included forward Michael Beasley; big men Dexter Pittman, Greg Stiemsma, and Daniel Orton; and guards Bobby Brown, Toney Douglas, Ben Hansbrough and Malcolm Lee, a person with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports.

Putting aside the fact that this makes it sound as though Beasley is a Plan B after the team missed out on LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, this is still significant. The Lakers have two unfilled roster spots, and the former No. 2 pick is now a legitimate candidate for one of them. 

But is that a good thing? 

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Do the Los Angeles Lakers Owe Kobe Bryant More in His Final Chapter?

As Kobe Bryant prepares for the mental, physical and emotional rides sure to follow in his 19th NBA season, it cannot be easy for him to shake one haunting question.

Is this it?

That’s not a confrontation with mortality either. After a torn Achilles and fractured tibia have twice put him face-to-face with the game’s grim reaper over the past 16 months, he knows all too well which side of his hourglass holds the most sand grains.

What Bryant could (and honestly should) have a hard time understanding is how the Los Angeles Lakers have botched the last leg of his journey this badly.

L.A. set a franchise record for losses last season (55) and had its second-lowest winning percentage ever (.329). While they should have a healthy Bryant this time aroundwhich it didn’t for all but six games last yearthe Lakers could conceivably be worse.

“The team has gone from not knowing who was its third-best player behind Bryant and Pau Gasol to not knowing who is its second-best player now,” wrote Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding. “And Bryant still has to prove that he can stay healthy and produce as a best player must.”

Even if things get better, the difference could be marginal. Bleacher Report’s Adam Fromal pegged the Lakers for 32 victories, two more than they were given by the ESPN Forecast panel.

“Those thinking the Lakers will be marginally better than last year are on the right track, because that’s what they are: slightly more talented, walking a slippery slope, one injury away from another season-long fiasco, one Kobe Bryant renaissance shy of exceeding minimal expectations,” wrote Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale.

The offensive talent has improved through the offseason arrivals of Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer and rookie Julius Randle, but where is the fortune-reversing needle-mover in that group? Don’t go looking for it, because it isn’t there.

New coach Byron Scott isn’t bringing it with him either. He wants to form a defensive identity, but neither this roster nor his track record suggests that one is coming.

On paper, the Lakers should score a ton of points and give up even more. If that recipe sounds familiar, it should. Those are the same ingredients left over from last season’s debacle.

Bryant, of course, will never see the situation as such. Or he won’t admit it if he does, at least.

Rather than sulk over swinging and missing on Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James this summer, Bryant has tried taking a page out of the “good job, good effort” kid’s book on positivity.

When he says those things, you really want to believe him.

You want to feel like he’s excited about getting a veteran like Boozer or a prospect like Randle. You hope that he can help Lin find some of his old magic and stabilize the point guard position Steve Nash’s 40-year-old frame won’t allow him to play.

You almost get excited for Bryant when you remember the size of that chip on his shoulder and what it might mean for this opportunity in front of him.

“There’s a reason ‘Braveheart’ stands next to ‘Gladiator’ and ‘The Godfather’ atop the movie-loving Bryant’s all-time list,” Ding wrote last summer for the Orange County Register. ”Beyond winning or leading his own army, his dream was to lead his underdog army to the ultimate victory.”

The concept is enticing. Just try imagining a rejuvenated, refueled Bryant helping the undermanned Lakers slay the dragons of the Western Conference.

But that picture doesn’t last long, does it? It’s just not realistic enough for our minds to really bring it to life.

Now, think about what that actually means. Think about the caliber of player we’re discussing—and the fact that he isn’t good enough to save this squad.

This is Kobe Bean Bryant, or the Black Mamba as he’s known inside the lines. This is a generational superstar, one of the greatest players this league has ever seen.

This is a guy who not only patterned his game after Michael Jordan’s, but also built one of the very few resumes capable of standing toe-to-toe with his.

This is one of the only names that can be mentioned in the same breath as Jordan’s without the speaker getting laughed out of the room. Heck, Jordan himself has linked the two together, via author Roland Lazenby:

“Kobe is the only guy with the will and the skill to even come close,” wrote NBC Sports’ Kurt Helin. “Kobe and Jordan are cut from the same cloth, both driven to compete, to win, to do whatever it takes to get there. Their will and drive stood out in the ultra-competitive NBA. There will not be many more like them.”

The Lakers need to appreciate the time they have left with Bryant, and handing him a lifetime achievement award in the form of a two-year, $48.5 million contract extension isn’t nearly enough. Not even if he might say it is:

This isn’t about money.

It’s about preserving Bryant’s identity.

His reality is changing. His lift isn’t the same, and neither is his place in this profession. He’s trying his best to adjust on the fly, to learn how to exist inside a kingdom he used to claim.

It isn’t likely Bryant will return to his past production levels, but he could find his way somewhere close.

Before suffering that torn Achilles—after logging 43.5 minutes a night over a 10-game stretch for this franchise at age 34—he was putting up 27.3 points, 6.0 assists and 5.3 rebounds. He isn’t as far removed from his elite past as his prolonged absence has made it seem.

But his days of being that vicious, venomous Mamba as we know him are over. Because what separated him from his peers wasn’t statistics, success or star power.

It was his perpetually unquenched competitive thirst, now a wasted gift for a team with a best-case scenario that stops short of a playoff berth.

Bryant has given the Lakers everything: 1,245 games (25th in NBA history), 45,567 minutes (13th) and 31,700 points (fourth). He’s the only player among the league’s top-nine scoring leaders to have never worn a different jersey.

His loyalty has been rewarded with endless stacks of cash, complementary supporting casts and, for a long time, one of the loudest voices inside the organization.

The Lakers are moving forward now, only Bryant’s reign hasn’t ended. He’ll close out one of the finest careers in NBA history by spending the next two seasons as a walking relic, a legendary competitor with no chance to compete.

For everything he has given this organization, this league and this sport as a whole, he deserved a far better fate than this.

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Los Angeles Lakers: Michael Beasley And Frontcourt Signings Imminent?

As we wait for the beginning of Kobe Bryant‘s farewell tour, and nightly attempts of “go to hell” ball, the Los Angeles Lakers are still piecing together a roster worthy of Staples Center’s price of admission. Currently the Lakers are carrying 13 players into the season, with five of them listed at the power forward […]
Los Angeles Lakers: Michael Beasley And Frontcourt Signings Imminent? – Hoops Habit – Hoops Habit – Analysis, Opinion and Stats All About The NBA

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VIDEO: Jordan Clarkson puts in work at the Lakers’ practice facility

Fans of the Los Angeles Lakers should be excited about this kid.
Shortly after officially signing his two-year contract with the purple and gold earlier this week, rookie Jordan Clarkson took to the Lakers’ practice court in El Segundo in order to work on his game.
It was only a matter of time before the Lakers signed Clarkson, 22, seeing as they paid $1.8 million to acquire him from the Washington Wizards on draft night. The Missouri product would then go on to average 15.8 points and 5.0 rebounds per game at the Las Vegas Summer League last month. The 46th pick also shot 42.1 percent from three-point range during the showcase in Sin City.
In a Vine video shared by the Lakers’ official Twitter account, Clarkson can be seen working on his all-around game as he hits shots from the outside while also showing off his floater in the lane. The clip then ends with Clarkson showing off his athleticism with a nice slam.
This guy is definitely one to watch.
.@JClark5on going to work in the gym the day after signi

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Top 5 Reasons Why the Los Angeles Lakers Won’t Make the Playoffs This Season

Despite acquiring a few fresh faces this summer, the Los Angeles Lakers are not prepared to qualify for playoff contention. Whether it’s an inability to effectively defend opponents, the lack of a true starting-quality center or the presence of too many talented teams, the Lakers just don’t possess what it takes to make the postseason in 2014-15.

Five key reasons exist to explain this case. Each one holds the potential to impact Los Angeles’ performance as a whole, and the criteria are ranked in order of least influential to most influential.

Without further ado, let’s begin. 

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EJ: The Lakers need to their dismantle roster

Eddie Johnson explains what moves the Lakers need to make with contention not looking likely.

      
 

 

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Lakers’ Nick Young Is Afraid ‘The Purge’ Is Real

The idea of one day with no laws was the main premise of the movie The Purge, and Nick Young is afraid the concept is real.

The following pictures surfaced on the Internet of a supposed real-life purge coming to some major cities around the United States.

After seeing the pictures, Swaggy P took to Twitter to express his concern.

[Twitter, h/t Black Sports Online]

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Lakers’ Nick Young Is Afraid That ‘The Purge’ Is Real

The idea of one day with no laws was the main premise of the movie The Purge, and Nick Young is afraid that the concept is real.

The following pictures surfaced on the Internet of a supposed real-life purge coming to some major cities around the United States.

After seeing the pictures, Swaggy P took to Twitter to express his concern.

[Twitter, h/t Black Sports Online]

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