Should the Lakers Pursue Leandro Barbosa?

As Lakers Nation reported earlier, the Lakers are still in talks with guard Leandro Barbosa. After the Lakers acquired shooting guard Jodie Meeks via free agency, it appeared as though the Lakers would stand pat in the back-court.

Recently, I wrote an article detailing the Lakers’ depth chart, and how many options they had at each position.

At the shooting guard position, they currently have Jodie Meeks backing up Kobe Bryant, followed by Devin Ebanks depending on how Mike Brown decides to utilize his front court, Andrew Goudelock, and drafted-but-still-unsigned guard Darius Johnson-Odom.

At the point guard position, Steve Blake and Chris Duhon would be the frontrunners to back up All-Star Steve Nash, with Darius Morris in tow behind them.

Now, let’s break down what Leandro Barbosa would bring and if the Lakers should entertain the possibility.

Barbosa holds career averages of 12.5 points on 46.1 percent shooting from the field and 39.1 percent shooting from three-point land; he can also handle the ball quite well.

However, Barbosa would likely be competing with Jodie Meeks, who averaged 9.5 points on 41.7 percent shooting from the field and 38.1 percent shooting from behind the arc in 26:11 minutes over his last two seasons.

Obviously, Barbosa would potentially be an upgrade at that position, and his speed is still a problem for opposing teams. On the other hand, Meeks is five years younger (25 compared with Barbosa, who is almost 30) and is still coming into his own; Meeks will be entering just his fourth year in the league while Barbosa will be entering his tenth.

The obvious tradeoff here is going with a proven veteran who is perhaps just past his prime, or giving an opportunity to an up-and-coming guard who shows a lot of promise.

The other tradeoff–one which isn’t as obvious–is that if the Lakers are actually willing to sign another player, choosing Barbosa over someone such as, say, Matt Barnes, might not be the best option.

Barnes reportedly would like to re-sign with the Lakers, but the Lakers aren’t particularly interested; since then, Barnes has been in talks with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Although Barnes was relatively consistent off the bench last season (7.8 points on 45.2 percent shooting from the field and 33.3 percent shooting from three-point land, along with 5.5 rebounds per game), an injury left him virtually a non-factor in the playoffs for the second straight season.

However, Barnes was a hustle player who made cuts to the basket and played inspired defense. Not to mention the fact that Barnes is still relatively quick, but has the length to bother smaller guards and even guard certain small forwards as well. Therefore, if the Lakers were to sign Barbosa, they would have to weigh the pros and cons between picking up an offensive player versus a defensive player, such as Barnes.

Another dilemma the Lakers will have to face is whether they want to add another veteran to the squad, or if they want to give someone like Andrew Goudelock an opportunity as well, behind Meeks.

Barbosa could even find himself playing at the lead guard position, but in my opinion, Steve Blake and Chris Duhon will give Mike Brown enough options behind Steve Nash.

Conclusion

When I first heard of this move, I thought to myself “they might as let Jodie Meeks have that spot and feel comfortable knowing his role.” However, after reading what Robert Horry–someone who knows a thing or two about role players–said earlier about the Lakers perhaps not having enough depth to make it to the Finals, I reconsidered.

Additionally, the fact that Kobe Bryant hasn’t had a consistent backup could also play a role. Defense behind that position has been a problem, but offense has been an even worse problem. So, if it takes two proven options behind Bryant to finally lower his minutes consistently, maybe it’s not the worst idea.

Barbosa would give the Lakers a sixth man who can frustrate opposing players such as James Harden or Ray Allen by utilizing the philosophy that “the best defense is a good offense.” Making players such as those two play some defense when they’re on the floor (Harden is a sixth man, and Allen will likely be coming off the bench next season as well), could inhibit their offense quite a bit, instead of letting them just come out and have their way with other teams’ second units.

Steve Nash has also reportedly been recruiting Barbosa and would love the opportunity to play with his former teammate again.

As far as what the Lakers should actually do, I’m pretty much torn. They can either allow the current reserves to prove themselves with this team; bring in a more defensive minded, versatile guard such as Matt Barnes; or bring in a quick, offensive minded guard in Barbosa.

I can’t argue with any moves Mitch Kupchak and/or Jim Buss have made this off-season, and I’m not about to start now. I am 100 percent convinced that whatever they choose to do will be the correct move. Right now, all we can do as fans is speculate and wait for the season to start.

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