Best Potential Point Guard Replacement Options for LA Lakers
OK, seriously. What do the injury gods have against the Los Angeles Lakers?
As if forcing the Lake Show to deal with Kobe Bryant's Achilles wasn't enough, they've now smitten every one of the team's point guards. Every. Single. One.
Steve Nash is still out as he tries to recover from the nerve injuries in his back that cropped up when his lower extremities suffered blows. Jordan Farmar has a torn hamstring, and he's going to be missing action for a significant chunk of time.
But the final, crippling blow from the pesky little injury imp is striking down Steve Blake.
With a torn UCL in his right elbow, as reported by the Lakers, the point guard is "expected to be out a minimum of 6 weeks."
The Lakers are down to less than scraps at point guard, so what happens now?
Pick Someone out of the D-League
The easiest option would be to find a short-term replacement in the D-League.
Something is better than nothing, and there are two prominent point guards currently playing at the sub-NBA level who deserve a shot in the Association. The Lakers are in perfect position to take a risk on one of the two, giving him an opportunity and deciding his long-term future after the currently injured guards return to health.
The first option is a recent lottery pick who couldn't cut it with the Phoenix Suns.
Kendall Marshall was never really granted much of a chance to succeed in the desert, and he has yet to truly put his passing skills on display at the NBA level. If you watched even a few of his games at North Carolina, you know that he certainly has them.
In four games for the Delaware 87ers, Marshall has torched his competition to the tune of 21.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 10.5 assists per contest. He even debuted against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers with 31 points, nine boards and 10 dimes, falling just one rebound shy of a triple-double.
Bleacher Report's D.J, Foster argues that he'd be a great fit for the Lakers, and one sentence from his fantastic article sticks out: "Maybe Marshall won't be the D-League's Oscar Robertson every night, but he sure looked right at home playing in such a frantically paced game."
You know who else likes his team to play at a frantic pace? Mike D'Antoni. You can connect the dots as you wish.
But Marshall isn't the only option in the D-League. Pierre Jackson should be considered as well. The Baylor product was selected at No. 42 in the most recent draft by the Philadelphia 76ers before being traded to the New Orleans Pelicans. He is currently playing for the Idaho Stampede.
But he's not just playing; he's dominating.
The poor man's version of Nate Robinson is the leading scorer in the league through six games, averaging 28.5 points per contest.
Both are interesting options, and it really can't hurt to give either a try.
Bring Back Darius Morris
The Los Angeles Lakers once had control of Darius Morris, but they decided not to extend him a $1.2 million qualifying offer at the close of the 2012-13 season. As a result, the former Michigan point guard became an unrestricted free agent and picked up by the Philadelphia 76ers.
Before being waived, Morris played 12 games for the Sixers, averaging 6.9 points, 1.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game while shooting 43.3 percent from the field with a 12.4 PER, via Basketball-Reference. Those are decent numbers, and they certainly point toward him having a home on an NBA team.
On top of that, Morris was actually not bad the last time he played for the Lake Show.
And that's a key in itself. How many of the other options have a picture like the one you see up above? None, which gives Morris a leg up in the long and arduous process of establishing chemistry with his teammates.
During the 2013 playoffs, Morris even started two games while wearing a purple-and-gold uniform. In that first start—admittedly a 31-point loss to the vastly superior San Antonio Spurs—he recorded 24 points, two rebounds and six assists, shooting 9-of-15 from the field.
It's clear that he has some game, even if he's never going to be a long-term starter.
Per Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles, general manager Mitch Kupchak said Morris is "on the list" of options, which also includes Chris Duhon and Leandro Barbosa.
Trade for Aaron Brooks
Now that we've gone over the best options that are readily available, it's time to get a little bit more complicated.
The first of the two potential trades the Lakers could make involves Aaron Brooks and the Houston Rockets. Fortunately, he's on a cheap minimum contract, so L.A. could swing a deal for him by shipping Ryan Kelly over to Daryl Morey's squad.
While the Rockets could use a stretch 4, it's not like Kelly is an established player. He's a rookie out of Duke, and he has a lot of developing to do before he should see NBA action on a consistent basis. So to sweeten the deal, the Lakers need to include a second-round pick as well.
Fortunately, Brooks is worth giving up a second-rounder.
When pressed into action, the speedy point guard has looked good for Houston. He's averaging 7.1 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game, which is more impressive when you consider he's spending just 15.2 minutes per contest on the court.
The per-36-minute numbers are what do the trick: 16.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists on 43.8 percent shooting, 45.8 percent from downtown and 88.2 percent at the charity stripe. Those are fantastic numbers for a guy who would fall into a backup role as soon as Steve Blake comes back in about six weeks.
You can do much worse with a second-round pick. You could draft another Ryan Kelly, for example.
Trade for Kyle Lowry
Of course, Aaron Brooks isn't really anything more than a short-term holdover. He's not going to be a difference-maker for a team in dire need of one that isn't named Kobe Bryant.
Kyle Lowry could be that guy.
When healthy, The Toronto Raptors point guard is a mid-level starter who plays tough. His bulldog mentality makes him, as B/R's Grant Hughes said in a discussion, one of the players you really don't want to match up against when he's feeling it.
And he's presumably available after general manager Masai Ujiri brought in Greivis Vasquez as part of the Rudy Gay trade. The man in charge is playing for the future, and that means salary dumps are happening whenever possible.
However, trading Lowry isn't necessarily a salary dump since his contract expires at the end of the year. That's why the trade has to look like so:
- Lakers receive Landry Fields and Kyle Lowry
- Raptors receive Steve Nash and Jodie Meeks
While it would undoubtedly be painful to part with Nash—especially because Mike D'Antoni was partially brought in to make him work on the Lakers roster—it's necessary.
Giving up Meeks fulfills the Raptors' need for expiring contracts. Nash can be stretch-provisioned to minimize the impact he has on the cap. Fields' contract is awful, so Ujiri would be more than happy to part ways with it, and the Lakers should be willing to take it on in order to get Lowry.
It's a mutually beneficial deal.
Let Kobe Bryant Play Point Guard
This is the plan right now, and depending on its success, it could be the plan in the future.
According to McMenamin, Kobe Bryant is now the starting point guard, and "The Lakers don't have any immediate plans to add a PG, according to [a] team source. D'Antoni wants to see what Kobe-Meeks-Henry-Young can do."
I'd want to see that as well.
After all, Kobe has looked fantastic when playing as a combo guard in the past. Per Basketball-Reference, he hasn't actually lined up at the 1 in three years, but he still effectively functioned as the de facto point guard at times last year.
Remember the five-game stretch during the middle of the 2012-13 campaign when Kobe decided to prove that he could be one of the best distributors in basketball? He averaged 16.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and 11.2 assists per game during that period.
Who's to say he can't do it again?
If anything, it would be the best option for his body, as facilitating and involving his teammates—who D'Antoni has consistently made into better players—requires less wear and tear on the aging joints and surgically repaired Achilles.
But there's one stat from that 2012-13 stretch that I've overlooked thus far: 3-1.
During a tumultuous season, Kobe playing point guard stabilized the Lakers and actually started to get them back on track.
Once more, but everybody this time.
Who's to say he can't do it again?