Top Five Free Agent Point Guards the Lakers Should Seek in 2012
The Lakers have been great over the last twelve years, going to the finals seven times and winning five of them.
Much of that success however, can be attributed to Phil Jackson’s unique and effective triangle offense. While effective, it did not necessitate a traditional point guard.
The Lakers have been operating without a premier point guard since Nick Van Exel left the organization in the nineties.
Today’s NBA has seen the return of several hall of fame caliber little men and the point guard position has enjoyed somewhat of a renaissance. With Jackson gone and Mike Brown instituting a different type of offense (one more traditional to the NBA), it’s time for the Lakers to find themselves a solid traditional point guard to lead them.
With that in mind this article will analyze which point guards will be available this offseason in free agency.
Kirk Hinrich, who has been playing for Atlanta is an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
Hinrich is a relatively young point guard with a lot of upside for the Lakers. He does not have a need to score nor is he trigger happy with the ball. That style would would mesh well with the Lakers’ current lineup and the three primary scorers they already have in Kobe, Gasol and Bynum.
Hinrich is also a very underrated passer with a surprising amount of speed on the floor. He is highly capable in the fast break and pushes the ball up the court very well. Although not considered a scorer, he has an effortless release on his shot and consistently knocks down the open three.
Most important perhaps to the Lakers, his defense is solid and he is capable of locking down most point guards, keeping them in check. Although he’s not a real high flier, he’d be a solid addition to the Lakers’ roster and the price would definitely be right.
Hinrich's making $8 million this season, and with the Lakers’ salary issues, he would be a great addition at that price.
Felton is a tremendous athlete with quick lateral movement and serious ability handling the ball. He is a solid three-point shooter and able to slash in the lane, disrupting defenses and creating opportunities for teammates.
He’s also an above average passer with good court vision. Felton has bounced around the NBA since coming in from North Carolina, where he excelled.
This season he is averaging 10.3 points, 6.7 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game, solid numbers that the Lakers would gladly welcome.
He’s currently earning $7.6 million per year, so like Hinrich he’d be a manageable contract for the Lakers to add. His most attractive assets for the Lakers though are his ability to play defense.
He’s an excellent perimeter defender that uses his quickness to stay with his man and rarely gives up an open shot. Felton is a particularly good transition defender, something the Lakers have struggled with for years.
Andre Miller’s numbers are close to Felton’s but with the added benefit of experience.
He is having a stellar year with the Nuggets this year and would be an outstanding acquisition for the Lakers this summer when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
He made $7.8 million this season so he fits into the budget that the Lakers are looking for.
While Miller is getting older, his performance this season proves he still has plenty in the tank. He’s averaging 10.9 points, 7.0 assists, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game.
Miller’s also a surprisingly good rebounder for a point guard who has a knack for being in the right place to snag the ball from larger rebounders in the lane.
He’s an incredible ball handler and a stellar passer.
While he’s not a good shooter, particularly from outside, he seems to always find a way to get his points. Although he doesn’t defend in the post well he is a solid outside defender who is excellent at preventing penetration and defends the three-ball well.
His experience and ability to find his open teammates make his an excellent choice for the Lakers.
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The old man of the list will be an unrestricted free agent from Phoenix this summer.
Many have dismissed Nash due to his age but his performance says they’re foolish to do so.
Like Kobe, Nash is in his 16th season.
Still, his court vision may be the best in the history of the NBA. He is an impressive scorer who manages to score within the offense, never forcing his shot.
Nash is averaging 14.5 points, 9.9 assists, 2.5 rebounds, and 0.6 steals per game this season. He adds more points to the scoreboard than any of the players listed before him. His ten assists a game would be a huge boom to the Lakers’ organization, and as a fourth person on the floor capable of scoring reliably, he’d be a very nice asset in that regard.
Perhaps his greatest strength would be his ability to make the other players on the floor with him better. With a bench as dismal as the Lakers' this year, wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to put him in when they’re having difficulty finding their offense to help them locate it?
His one downside is his age, which is slowing him down. He gives you virtually no steals as he’s never been known for real quick hands. He is OK at defending the perimeter but once he’s been beat he’s useless and cannot recover.
His post defense is non-existent as well. Fortunately Nash's basketball IQ is off the charts, which can make up for a lot of these deficiencies.
Any team would be lucky to have Nash on their team, and with his career nearing its end he can’t expect to continue to earn the $11.7 million he made this year. The right team might be able to talk him into taking the mid-level exception.
The Lakers should hope they’re the right team.
The grand prize of point guard free agents in 2012. Williams has done everything but erect a neon sign in New Jersey to make it clear he’s testing free agency unless Dwight Howard comes to town. So for the purposes of this list we’re assuming Howard isn’t showing up and Williams will be exercising his player’s option.
Williams has all the upside in the world.
A bulldog of a point guard, Williams has size, speed, ability, and youth going for him. At 27 years old, he’s averaging 20.2 points, 8.8 assists, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per game for New Jersey this season.
The contract he gets next will be the one he hopes to build a championship in and the Lakers are going to need to convince him that L.A. is the place he can accomplish that goal. The only player on this list that can still consistently and effectively create his own shot, he is a powerhouse offensive weapon that would instantly become the second or third option on the Lakers and on any given night could easily be option number one.
Williams is also extremely quick and is known to be a very solid defender.
His defense could improve but is still a vast upgrade over what the Lakers have now. Although he’s not a three-point gunner, he slashes through the lane getting to the basket at will and often drawing the foul. He has fantastic court vision, is an excellent passer, and improves the players around him.
Williams keeps his permanent residence in San Diego so clearly has an affinity for the area. He is the Hope Diamond of free agents this offseason and the Lakers need to do everything in their power to acquire him as he has named them one of the teams he would be interested in moving to.
The Lakers Must Take Action
With so many excellent choices to choose from the Lakers better do something this offseason to improve themselves at the point guard position. Deron Williams is the obvious and most desirable choice but will also be the most sought after.
Any one of these guys would be a huge upgrade for L.A. though.
Losing Chris Paul in the "Great Stern Veto Debacle of 2011" was a striking blow to the psyche of the Lakers organization.
Acquiring one of these players is a solid first step in getting the franchise back on the road to a championship. With so much talent down low they’d have plenty of targets to throw lobs to and one of the all-time greats on the wing to knock down the jump shot when the bigs aren’t available.
Only time will tell, but this free agency period has potential to be very interesting.