It has settled down a bit in the Lakers realm of making roster additions, or at least that’s how it seems. There is no doubt that Mitch Kupchak, Jim Buss and the rest of Lakers management are on the phones and scouring through scouting reports to find talent that would improve the roster and increase the team’s chances of bringing the Larry O’Brien trophy to L.A. next June. While the Dwight Howard chatter has cooled around the basketball and sports media world, the Lakers continue to look for one or two more pieces to complete the puzzle.
I previously wrote about the importance of the Lakers acquiring a solid shooting guard to backup Kobe Bryant and to further deepen the bench. While I believe in holding onto the talented Andrew Goudelock and further developing his skills and mentality of the game, I do not believe he is the person to fill this need yet. I base this on his disappointing performance during the NBA Summer League and the reality that Mike Brown is hesitant to play him for real minutes, as we saw during the second half of last season.
Therefore, the Lakers are going to most likely look for free agents to fill this role. While the vast majority of the top free agents have already been scooped up by other teams, there are still suitable options for the Lakers to take a real look at. Two of the names that have popped up on the Lakers’ radar according to sources around the league are Leandro Barbosa and Jodie Meeks. While Laker fans have voiced their opinions about who they want in purple and gold in the coming months, let’s breakdown these two player’s’ games.
Let’s begin with veteran Leandro Barbosa. While it is no secret that Barbosa’s game has taken a step back from his admirable tenure with the Phoenix Suns, he would be coming into the Lakers organization as a role player with much less pressure on his shoulders. Additionally, Barbosa does offer many of the needs for the Lakers second unit. He is a solid mid-range shooter, a quick player who will routinely cut to the basket and can be trusted on the floor for long spurts of minutes, which is essential for resting Kobe Bryant.
Of course, there are some notable negatives in Barbosa’s game. He lacks a defensive mentality, and while he is speedy, it is used primarily on the offensive end of the court. Barbosa will not be a player who gives extra effort to get a rebound, as he only averaged 2.1 last season with the Toronto Raptors and the Indiana Pacers. He has a tendency to be streaky at the three-point line, especially during the last few seasons.
Barbosa made $7.6 million last year with the Indiana Pacers, which is out of the budget range that the Lakers can afford to pay any free agent. However, it was expected that Barbosa would be limited in his options of what team to sign with during the off-season, which seems to be true so far. The possibility of re-joining Steve Nash and signing with a team that could be in contention for a championship next year may be more than enough for Barbosa to lower his salary expectations and accept a veteran’s minimum contract worth $1.4 million.
Now, let’s turn to the unrestricted free agent out of Philadelphia, Jodie Meeks. Meeks offers youth (he is 24), a higher level of athleticism and solid shooting. The Lakers are in dire need of consistent shooting, especially at the three-point line. This is Meeks’ highest value as a player and his presence would improve the bench’s offense. Meeks also has been praised for his work ethic, which would please Mike Brown and Kobe Bryant. The biggest advantage Meeks brings to the table is the promise he holds as a player.
The biggest negative to Jodie Meeks is that he is currently a one-dimensional player. He is considered a shooter, but right now he is only a long-range shooter. Meeks has shown consistent struggles on the defensive end throughout his three years in the NBA. Unlike Barbosa, Meeks does not create opportunities away from or on the ball on the offensive end, and lacks the aggression to slash to the rim.
The Lakers would aim to add Jodie Meeks to their roster for the veteran’s minimum, just as Barbosa. However, they do have the mini-MLE still in their pocket, but are choosing to use it as a last resort. The Lakers would not, and should not, use the MLE on Meeks, as his salary for last season was under $1 million.
Lastly, let’s compare Barbosa and Meek’s stats from last season. Barbosa averaged 10.6 points, 1.5 assists and 2.1 rebounds per game on 39.2 percent three-point shooting and 41.8 percent shooting from the field in 21.2 minutes off the bench. Jodie Meeks averaged 8.4 points, 0.8 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game on 36.5 percent three-point shooting and 40.9 percent shooting from the field in 24.9 minutes, where he started in 50 of 66 games for the Sixers.
Once again, it will come down to the numbers for the Lakers if it comes down to choosing between these two players. A Barbosa or Meeks addition to the Lakers bench will absolutely be an improvement, that is not a concern. These two players come with many positives but both have baggage as well, mainly on defense.
The Lakers must first decide if they want to fill this roster need with a player that still needs development and is a player for the future (Meeks) or a player who will offer more of an immediate impact to the bench and for the closing years of the Kobe-era (Barbosa). The question for Lakers management to answer is who could give a better impact at the right cost for the organization. My money is on Barbosa.