You’ve heard the expression, ‘hurry up and wait”? That pretty much sums up what most fans of the Los Angeles Lakers have been doing since the start of the season when it quickly became apparent this team was long in the tooth and short on the bench.
The Lakers have especially struggled at the point guard position, with the combination of Derek Fisher and Steve Blake underperforming due mainly to age and injury. The stats are black, white and bleak—needless to say, the PG spot is a big hole and without an upgrade this season the team’s chances of advancing far into the playoffs are mediocre at best.
With the trade deadline just two days from now, the Lakers continue to dial, text, email and knock on doors of just about every team in the NBA as they pursue a point guard with speed, shooting ability, defensive prowess and the necessary tools to effectively run an offense that’s been mired in the muck, near the bottom of league statistics for most of the season.
The 32-year-old Blake has come back fairly well from a major rib injury that sidelined him for more than a month. Still, as backup to the 37-year-old Fisher, Blake is only averaging 5.6 points in 24.5 minutes per game for the Lakers on just 37 percent shooting. He’s not been great at penetrating the basket, content mostly to stay on the perimeter where he’ll occasionally make a nice pass into one of the bigs (Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum) or hand off to Kobe Bryant.
Fisher is the captain of the team, a tremendous, inspirational leader who still comes up with a big shot or defensive play from time to time. But most opposing point guards are running through and around the 16-year veteran with relative ease, getting to the basket or passing off to an open wing.
So, let’s forget the numbers for a moment and just take a look at five point guards who might really help this team.
How the Lakers actually get one of these outstanding PGs to Los Angeles is another story; they do not have a lot of leverage and must decide if they want to give up someone like Gasol in order to bring in a point guard who could be a difference maker.
The clock is ticking and the season hangs in the balance.
Ramon Sessions is on everyone's short list, including the Lakers. The athletic 6'3", 190-pound point guard has had to take a back seat this season to the Cavs top draft pick and possible rookie of the year, Kyrie Irving.
Sessions most likely would welcome a chance to start and play quality minutes on a contending team, two things not in the immediate future for him in Cleveland.
What stands out about Sessions are the five assists in just 24.5 minutes per game. He also is a 45 percent career shooter, a stat that has dropped this year but could be attributed to the fact he has started just four games this season. He is scoring at a clip of 10.6 points per game and is considered a decent all-around defensive player.
The Lakers would most likely trade Steve Blake as part a deal to get Sessions. This is certainly not a big deal for L.A.; they would never offer Gasol for Sessions, but may be willing to throw in a draft pick and one of the forwards, such as Devan Ebanks or Josh McRoberts.
Rumors of a Steve Blake for Raymond Felton swap have been circulating around the league for weeks. Both sides seem quite serious about this one, but it's not known just how far the talks have evolved.
I, for one, love this deal. Blake would be reunited in Portland with Coach Nate McMillan
Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com Trailblazers Insider reported this on Sunday:
"There are reports out there that the Los Angeles Lakers are in the market for a point guard, and that Blazers' point guard Raymond Felton is among their targets. Perhaps some type of deal that involves Steve Blake coming back to Portland to run coach Nate McMillan's system? I don't know if McMillan has been more comfortable with a point guard during his era than Blake, and it would allow Jamal Crawford to return to his more natural shooting guard position."
Felton is having the worst year of his career—averaging 10.3 points on 38 percent shooting (25 percent from beyond the arc) and two rebounds. My feeling is that it's the system and not the player.
Felton is a tremendous point guard who would fit well into the Lakers current system. His six-year career averages are 13.4 points, 6.7 assists and 41 percent from the field (33 percent from three-point range).
The Lakers need a younger (Felton is 27) PG who will direct the offense and, most importantly, make the right pass at the right time. You can't feed the big without the ball—Felton would be an immediate upgrade in that respect.
While most rumors involving the Houston Rockets have centered around Kyle Lowry, there are some interesting rumblings about this talented backup.
Goran Dragic, a fourth-year, 6'3" PG out of Slovenia, has been backing up Lowry this year and averaging about 20 minutes a game. A good shooter (career 44 percent, 37 percent from three-point range), Dragic also is rather adept at penetrating to the basket and is getting better each year in the passing department, this year dishing out almost four dimes per game.
ESPN.com analyst John Hollinger recently listed a few trades he believes could and should happen before the deadline and trading Dragic to the Lakers is one of them. This is his suggestion:
Hollinger writes: "This is the type of deal L.A. needs to look at if it wants to trade Gasol, one that fills a bunch of holes in one shot. Dragic, Budinger and Scola would start immediately next to Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum, while Morris would come off the bench and play regularly. With that lineup, the Lakers would have a real rotation instead of three stars and nine fringe players."
I like this deal for many reasons and think it's much more feasible than trying to pry loose Lowry, where I think the price tag may be too steep.
Jose Calderon would be an excellent fit at PG for the Lakers. As with all of these deals, I'm just not sure if the Lakers are willing to part with the assets the Raptors would probably seek.
A significant stumbling block, of course, is the $9.8 million salary Calderon commands though the Lakers could use their $8.9 million trade exception as part of any deal they might put together.
I really like Calderon, especially for his ability to break down a defense and consistently find the open man. The 6'3" guard from Spain averages 8.5 assists per game to go along with his 10.5 points.
He is efficient in that he shoots well from the floor (45 percent and 37 percent from beyond the arc) and rarely turns the ball over. Calderon is a tremendous free-throw shooter and, at age 30, is in the prime of his career.
Adding Calderon to a lineup with fellow Spaniard Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant sounds like a championship contender to me.
Again, some magic will need to happen for this transaction to go through, but stranger deals have gone down in the NBA.
The sixth-year pro from Kentucky may not be the greatest three-point shooter but who cares if you get a 6'1" PG who averages 10 assists and 14 points per game and can break down any defense when he's focused.
Los Angeles Times reporter Mike Bresnahan reported that both sides have been talking in recent days about a possible deal. The rumors have Pau Gasol going to the Celtics for Rondo. The latter would fill a big hole for the Lakers, but the Lakers would lose their All-Star power forward to their rivals.
I'm not so sure I love this deal, simply because Gasol is still one of the top three power forwards in basketball and you just cannot teach his kind of height and reach.
But this is a rumor that refuses to die. It would be controversial but Rondo could provide tremendous PG play for the Lakers for the foreseeable future. He just turned 26 while Gasol will be 32 this summer and some critics feel his best days are behind him.
After all is said and done, the Lakers may look the same on Friday after the deadline as they do today two days before it. Then again, you can be certain that management is doing whatever it can to bring in a piece or two that will further shore up the team's main weakness.