While constant rumors surrounding Dwight Howard and where he will land this off-season continue to grab the headlines around the basketball community, sports media and Twitter, the Lakers have made good on their public intentions to improve the bench. In fact, if you’re are looking for a little Dwightmare relief, this is the place as he has nothing to do with the subject of this article.
Considering the two dire needs that needed to be addressed during the offseason were to sign a credible point guard and to refine and upgrade the Lakers second unit, Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss are definitely making much progress in the off-season so far.
Unless you have been living under a rock, you already know that the Lakers were able to pull off another “Hail Mary” trade to acquire Steve Nash, which exceeds the fans’ expectations of who would run the point for the Lakers at the start of the season. Last week, the Lakers signed free agent Antawn Jamison and re-signed Jordan Hill.
By doing so, the Lakers second unit has already been improved by adding offense and versatility (Jamison) and energy and defense (Hill). The Lakers have made great additions to the roster so far for a rather conservative price, which is essential for the cash strapped franchise.
However, the Lakers are not done yet, as their second unit still has one piece of the puzzle left to complete. They still need a reserve shooting guard that will not only do a sold job at filling the shoes for Kobe Bryant on the floor, but who also adds another threat or two that will cause the opposing team to have to adjust to on defense.
Any Laker fan knows and understands the importance of Kobe Bryant’s presence on the court. Any Laker fan knows and understands the equal importance of resting Kobe Bryant as well. The two go hand-in-hand and will increase their symbiotic relationship as Bryant gets older and as his career deepens into the ending stage.
Yet, Kobe is not retiring next year, so there are necessities to put in place that allow him to play at an extremely high level for as long as possible. I have pointed out the following stats in previous articles, but I will reiterate them now since they have great importance of why the Lakers need to acquire a solid back-up shooting guard. Bryant averaged 38.5 minutes per game, which was ranked fourth in the NBA and was up from 33.9 minutes per game in the 2010-11 season.
Fatigue definitely had its impact on his field goal percentage of .430, which was his worst field goal percentage since his sophomore season in the NBA (’97-98) and he only started in one game that season. Last season Bryant also earned his worst true-shooting percentage of his 16-year career with 52.7 percent. Therefore, the Lakers need to be able to trust their second unit and their reserve shooting guard to be able to provide Bryant a little relief and rest so he can stay healthy and less pressured, which will result in his shooting percentages going back to its norm. The addition of Steve Nash will help this cause too, of course.
Secondly, the Lakers need and would be thrilled to add a shooting guard reserve that is able to shoot the long ball. The Lakers were tied with the Memphis Grizzles for twenty-fifth place in the league for three-point shooting with 32.6 percent. Kobe Bryant (.303), Metta World Peace (.296) and Steve Blake (.377), who are the Lakers “three-point shooters”, all struggled with the long ball especially during the first-half of the season.
While World Peace has recently reported that he is in his best shape in years, which will hopefully result in higher production, and Blake continues to find his confidence at the three-point line in LA, bringing in another three-point shooter off the bench will create much needed depth and spacing for the Lakers. That may be a key attribute Laker management uses to determine who to bring in at the two position.
Some, not all, of the possible and rumored players that the Lakers can add as a back-up shooting guard include restricted free agent Brandon Rush, unrestricted free agent Delonte West and even calling up or signing young guards to collectively fill that position such as Andrew Goudelock and Darius Johnson-Odom.
Brandon Rush has reportedly drawn interest by the Lakers and his outside shooting, youth and athleticism is much desired by the Lakers. However, Golden State is expected to match any offer from another team for Rush. Therefore, a sign-and-trade seems like the only option to acquire Rush, but it appears to be a slim chance.
Delonte West could be a risky pick-up, but he could be signed for a veteran’s minimum contract. Additionally, West averaged 9.6 points per game and 3.6 assists on .461 field goal shooting and .355 shooting from the three.
Andrew Goudelock struggled during the Summer League, averaging 9.8 points per game on 31.6 percent shooting from the field and 23.8 percent three-point shooting. Goudelock started off the first-half of last season as a surprise three-point shooter, but quickly faded in productivity and eventually his minutes faded as well.
Darius Johnson-Odom is an undersized guard at 6’2″, but he has strength to compensate for this. Last year he shot for 45 percent from the field, while shooting 39 percent from the three-point line at Marquette. However, he did not meet expectations during the Summer League, averaging 3.8 points per game on 23.1 percent shooting and 14.3 percent three-point shooting.
While developing the Lakers young talent is essential and necessary for the Lakers, the progress of these young players is not quite there yet. Therefore, the Lakers will most likely chose to add a veteran to continue to improve their bench, primarily a shooting guard for the second unit. The Lakers must do this to continue competing with the league’s elite and to raise their chances at a title next season.