Ike Diogu and 5 Olympic Standouts the L.A. Lakers Should Seriously Reach Out To
This year's Summer Olympics should provide the team with the perfect opportunity to do just that, as the Olympics served as a scouting combine of sorts for NBA teams—only in a lot of respects, the Summer Games are better than the combine.
The London Olympics pitted the best national teams and the world's greatest players against each other. It's live, high-quality basketball, and you know you're going to get the best effort from players because national pride is on the line.
Under those circumstances, some players absolutely shined. Whether it's NBA veterans looking to impress teams with their improved play or young players looking to break onto the scene, there were plenty of stand-out players in London.
Of those players, here are five that would fit in well with Los Angeles and that wouldn't be impossible for the Lakers to acquire.
Darius Songaila, Forward, Lithuania
Darius Songaila was an anchor for Lithuania throughout the Olympics and one of the most productive players in London. During the tournament, Songaila averaged 11 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game.
But the raw numbers aren't what impressed with Songaila, it was that he did it while averaging only 16 minutes per game and shot 80 percent from the field. That's right, 80 percent.
Songaila would be a good fit in Los Angeles because of his ability to produce off the bench. It's a role that he's well-versed in from his eight-year career in the NBA, during which he averaged 6.9 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 18.6 minutes per game.
He also showed the same efficiency during his time in the NBA, posting a career field-goal percentage of .499 and a career free-throw percentage of .844.
Songaila isn't capable of stepping in and starting on a championship-caliber team like the Lakers. But given L.A.'s depth, he wouldn't be asked to. All Los Angeles needs from him is another big that can score off the bench.
With Josh McRoberts gone and Jordan Hill the primary backup at center and not much of scorer anyway, the team could use a player like Songaila to provide some offense from a backup role.
Plus, even though Songaila doesn't currently play in the NBA, he told ESPN's Marc Stein during the Olympics that he'd like to make a return:
Lithuania's Darius Songaila told me postgame he hopes to sign back in NBA ASAP. Definitely had his moments vs. Team USA: 11 pts in 17 mins.
@ESPNSteinLine (Marc Stein). August 4, 2012
With Songaila looking to return to the NBA and with the Lakers in need of a backup big man that can provide some offense, there's no reason why Los Angeles shouldn't explore signing him.
Ike Diogu, Forward, Nigeria
Like Darius Songaila, Diogu is a power forward that could help provide some scoring off the bench for Los Angeles. The power forward led the Nigerian team in scoring at 14.8 points per game.
But unlike Songaila, Diogu is a very good rebounder. He led Nigeria by averaging nine rebounds per game. But his rebounding has also translated to his time in the NBA, especially on the offensive glass, with Diogu averaging 8.9 rebounds per 36 minutes, including 3.5 offensive boards.
When he was entering the NBA in 2005, Diogu was a high-profile prospect. He was drafted No. 9 overall by the Golden State Warriors, and while Diogu has never lived up the expectations that go along with being drafted ninth overall, he's still got much of the skill set that caught scouts' eyes.
Diogu is currently a free agent after last playing with the San Antonio Spurs in 2011-12. At 28 years old, he's still in the prime of his career.
The Lakers should seriously inquire into signing Diogu; he shouldn't cost too much money, and he'd provide a good scoring option and some rebounding off the bench.
Joe Ingles, Forward, Australia
It helps to shine against superior competition, which is exactly what Joe Ingles did when his Australian team faced off against Team USA.
In the game against the eventual gold-medal winners, Ingles scored 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field, including 2-of-4 from three-point range and 5-of-6 from the free-throw line. The small forward also added six assists and eight rebounds against the Americans.
But it wasn't just that one game for Ingles—he was fantastic for the duration of the Olympics. He averaged 15 points, five rebounds and four assists for the whole tournament. It's the type of performance that garners attention, which is exactly what Australia's coach Brett Brown pointed out:
"I think the NBA will be paying Joe attention, especially after these Olympics," said Brown, who serves as assistant coach on the San Antonio Spurs where Mills plays.
"Joe's got a body like [Detroit Pistons small forward] Tayshaun Prince. He's long, left-handed, multi-faceted at guard or small forward; he's stepped up in defence to take personal pride in guarding people, and you've seen his competitive spirit here."
Ingles is the type of player the Lakers need to acquire before it's too late. He'd fit in nicely with Los Angeles because of his ability to back up at both guard and forward. Plus, his style of play matches with the new Princeton offense that L.A. is toying with because that offense utilizes passing from big men and moving without the ball, both of which are strengths for Ingles.
He's still relatively young at 24 years old and has been playing for Regal FC Barcelona, but he's ready for the NBA. The Lakers need to be the team to give him a shot to prove it.
Leandro Barbosa, Guard, Brazil
There has been speculation throughout the offseason that the Lakers would sign Leandro Barbosa. After his performance in the Olympics, signing Barbosa looks like a very good idea for the Lakers.
Barbosa played brilliantly for Brazil in London. He averaged 16.2 points with a 48.7-percent field-goal percentage. On top of that, Barbosa hit 40 percent of his three-point attempts and sports a career three-point percentage of .391.
Considering the Lakers were 25th in the NBA in three-point percentage in 2011-12, Barbosa's ability to shoot the ball would be a welcomed addition.
The nice thing about Barbosa, at least from L.A.'s perspective, is that even though he can shoot the ball consistently from three-point range, he's not solely a spot-up shooter. He's got the ball-handling ability and quickness to slash to the basket, which is something that the Lakers lack coming off their bench.
Plus, Barbosa's ability to play both shooting guard and point guard should also make him attractive to the Lakers. Even with Steve Blake and Duhon on the roster, if Los Angeles were to sign Barbosa, they could find enough minutes for him because of his versatility.
And unlike most of the players still left on the free-agent market, Barbosa has a track record of productivity. He was the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year in 2006-07, and he's averaged 12.5 points per game during his career.
Not to mention that his most productive season came in Phoenix with Steve Nash running the offense. Now that Nash will be manning the point in L.A., the timing couldn't be better for the Lakers to sign Barbosa.
Carlos Delfino, Forward, Argentina
From the looks of things, the Lakers won't have many lock-down defenders coming off the bench other than Jordan Hill. With Hill playing primarily center and power forward, Los Angeles could use a solid backup wing defender.
Carlos Delfino fits that bill.
Delfino displayed his defensive ability again during the Olympics for Argentina, just as he has throughout his seven-year career.
What he'll bring to the table for Los Angeles is the lateral quickness to stay in front of offensive players, a solid 6'6", 230-pound frame that allows him to defend shooting guards and small forwards, and he has quick-enough hands to consistently steal the basketball.
Although he'd be brought in primarily as a backup defender, Delfino's no slouch on the offense. He's a capable three-point shooter (.362 three-point percentage for his career) and is a very good passer for a small forward—a skill that should help him out with Los Angeles due to the Lakers' plethora of capable scorers and their switch to the Princeton offense.
The one area where Delfino is lacking is in playoff experience. But considering he's played in three Olympics, including winning the gold medal in 2004, you can't argue that Delfino hasn't played in big games.
Not to mention that if the Lakers get Delfino, he won't be expected to carry much of the load.
In that sense, he's the perfect player for L.A. He's got a niche he can fill, and he's experienced from his time in the NBA and in international competition.
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