While the Los Angeles Lakers have more or less avoided the injury bug that has destroyed the team in each of the past two seasons, the team has suffered a few recent bumps, particularly at the guard/wing positions. Those injuries have forced head coach Byron Scott to turn to a little-used player recently, Marcelo Huertas.
Huertas hadn’t been on the court much in the past few weeks, but with Lou Williams and Anthony Brown out for a while, Huertas has seen a rise in minutes recently and he has taken full advantage of it.
Huertas, dubbed ‘The Catalyst’ for his ability to spark runs when he enters the game, has looked better than he has all season in this latest run. In six games in the month of March, he is averaging 8.2 points and 5.8 assists in 26 minutes per game.
The Lakers obviously have their backcourt of the future in D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson, but Huertas has looked like the perfect backup point guard as the offense runs smoother and ball movement is more prevalent when he enters the game.
With Huertas’ contract running out after the season, we asked our panel of experts if they believe the Lakers should bring back Huertas next season. This is what they had to say:
Trevor Lane (@Trevor_Lane): When Marcelo Huertas came to the Lakers his signing made a lot of sense for a franchise with two young, impressionable guards. Huertas is a pick-and-roll master, and while he has plenty of shortcomings (defense, outside shot) the goal was for him to teach his tricks to Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell.
After bursting out of the gate in preseason Huertas hit a rookie wall of sorts for much of the Lakers campaign, which was strange for a 32-year old international veteran. He wasn’t supposed to fall prey to the same traps that 20 year olds do, but it happened.
Injuries to Lou Williams and Kobe Bryant left the Lakers with no choice but to give Huertas another shot, and he is making the most of the opportunity. His head is on a swivel at all times, looking to get into the paint and hit cutters for easy dunks. Other Lakers know he is going to find them for highlight reel plays, and they break hard for the basket because they know the ball is coming.
I won’t even mention Huertas’ personal stats, because they aren’t all that important. The very obvious effect he has on the team whenever he is on the floor goes beyond counting stats anyway. His passing is infectious, and the way the team moves when he is on the floor says more than his stat line ever could.
Huertas’ flair for the dramatic makes him incredibly fun to watch; he is the type of player where you are afraid to blink because you might miss a jaw-dropping pass. He still has his drawbacks, but on a Lakers team that is going to need to play exciting basketball in order to keep the fans interested post-Kobe, bringing Huertas back next season for an encore makes all kinds of sense.
Nathaniel Lastrapes (@NathanielP2): Marcelo Huertas has been the biggest bright spot off of the bench since Lou Williams went down with an injury. I am a major supporter of Huertas over Williams at this point because of the impact he has on the game.
When Williams is on the floor, he dominates the ball, stagnates the offense, and takes low percentage shots in an effort to draw fouls. Huertas, on the other hand, plays pure team basketball, plays unselfishly, and encourages ball movement while he is on the floor. Huertas’ unselfish play is contagious and his teammates love playing with him.
Early on in the season, Huertas was somewhat of a scapegoat after getting embarrassed defensively by several elite point guards. His confidence seemed to have been shaken early on in the season, but he has proven that he has value to this team with his recent play.
I am a major supporter of signing Huertas to an additional year. He is a great team player and is a joy to watch when he probes the lane and waits for a teammate to get open. Huertas has had more of an impact on the Lakers bench than Williams has had all year, so signing him to another year would be a smart move for the Lakers.
Alan Huerta (@Alan_Huerta24): As exciting as Marcelo Huertas’ recent play has been, I’m stuck in between deciding if I’d want to see him return next season or not.
On one end, he’s helped the Lakers pick up their new and improved offense since Lou Williams went down and was admitted back into the rotation (averaging 9.4 points, six assists and 52.8 percent from the field in last five games). However, it’s a small sample size and it doesn’t make up for his non-existant defense that has allowed players at the most important position to have a field day on the 32-year-old rookie, offensively.
If Huertas could continue impacting the team’s offensive continuity even when Williams would return consistently, then I’d definitely be interested in seeing him return. What makes him stand out is that he’s a rare breed: a trigger shy point guard that would much rather dish it off than be forced to shoot; a rare commodity seen in today’s stat sheet stuffing league. But then again, bringing him back is not that simple.
With the Lakers still in rebuilding mode, the team will continue to target players through both the draft and free agency, which doesn’t guarantee the Brazilian a spot on next year’s roster; as a young, talented point guard would be preferred in the team’s big picture to turn the franchise around overall.
Huertas also lacks lateral quickness and athleticism, two key talents that most point guards in this league have which is mainly why he struggles so much defensively. However, at his age and with the experience he’s already had overseas, we know what his game is. And even with his best attribute being his passing ability, he is often caught telegraphing his passes (although it’s something he’s vastly improved on). As more teams get film on how he distributes his passes, the more it’ll become a problem if Huertas does continue with the Lakers or any other NBA team.
With Marcelo set to turn 33 by the time next season rolls around, I ultimately think his return depends on what the Lakers get (or don’t get) in the off-season. If Los Angeles were to strike out in free agency again and not draft any notable guards, having Huertas return as a third-stringer wouldn’t hurt the team – especially if he can build off his recent play next season.
Maximo Gonzales (@MaximoBGonzales): Many fans in Lakers Nation have once again found themselves frustrated after yet another underwhelming offseason in which the purple and gold failed to sign any of their primary targets. However, they did take a risk in a signing a 32-year-old point guard from the Spanish League in Marcelo Huertas.
Huertas made an immediate impact in the preseason, thus solidifying his spot on the roster virtually after one game, but up until recently, we hadn’t seen very much of Huertas, so we as fans were left questioning whether or not he was here to make an actual impact, or was simply just another player waiting to join the long list of Lakers cast-offs.
Needless to say, Marcelo has answered all these questions and then some. The playmaker from Brazil is a high-voltage spark off the bench, his craftiness around the rim and dynamic passing ability make him easily capable of making those around him better. And although I’d love to have him around to teach Clarkson and Russell the ways of ball distribution, I think the Lakers can exchange him for the right price if he continues to play the way he has been.
The main reason being is that Huertas isn’t necessarily a vital piece in the future of this young Lakers squad moving forward. Like I said before, he is 32 and the days of his prime are all but behind him. Unless the Lakers are planning some overhaul of players that would make them an instant contender, I think trading Huertas for perhaps an athletic defender on the wing would make more sense for this team moving forward.
Huertas is quite the bargain when you look at his salary compared to his recent production, and with every playoff team outside of Golden State and San Antonio in desperate need of a playmaking point guard to come off the bench, I wouldn’t be surprised if “Marcelihno” is thrown in the mix.