Re-Grading Every LA Lakers Offseason Acquisition
Prior to Kobe Bryant's return, the Los Angeles Lakers were regarded as overachievers who maximized their offseason acquisitions to tread water in the competitive Western Conference. The Black Mamba's return has changed the dynamic of this scrappy team.
While Mike D'Antoni will have to figure out a way to integrate Bryant into an underachieving squad without the services of his three point guards for the foreseeable future, enough of the season has passed to know exactly what role each offseason acquisition can fill to ease this transition.
What may be just as impressive as thriving without Bryant is that these new acquisitions were able to hover above .500 despite the mounting uncertainty around Pau Gasol's offensive role since D'Antoni took over the team.
The grades the Lakers' offseason acquisitions receive will be based on their initial expectations and whether they fell below, met or exceeded them.
Robert Sacre (Re-Signed)
Signed to a $2.8 million contract over three years, Robert Sacre is a young, developing prospect for a Lakers team that is very weak in the interior.
With uncertainty in terms of Pau Gasol's future in Los Angeles, Sacre could potentially become an integral part of the rotation for the Lakers in years to come. Expected to be more of a practice player and a project for the Lakers, Sacre has worked his way into a starting spot and has been beyond expectations in recent games.
The Canadian has scored over 10 points in two of his last four games and has gobbled up five or more rebounds in three of those contests. While the sample size is too small to truly determine if Sacre can continue to be an impact player, the fact that he is seeing more time than a player like Chris Kaman is a positive trend.
While his averages of 4.1 points and 3.2 rebounds per game won't blow anybody away, he does a lot of things well defensively for a Lakers team that is allowing 103.5 points per game, which is the second-highest average in the league.
Sacre is very good at contesting shots. While he isn't the most athletic player, Sacre almost always jumps straight up when contesting a shot and is quick on his rotations. This has translated to 1.1 blocks per game despite only averaging 11.8 minutes. While he won't be a defensive game-changer, Sacre isn't a defensive liability by any means.
Based on initial expectations, it appears as if Sacre has fast-tracked his development. The fact that he is now starting over the likes of Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman could mean continued improvement for the big man.
Drafted 48th overall in the NBA Draft, Ryan Kelly has been exactly what the Lakers expected him to be. Regulated to the D-League for the majority of the season, Kelly either spent time dominating the competition as a part of the D-Fenders or sitting at the very end of the Lakers' bench.
Not particularly athletic or quick, Kelly is known for his shooting touch. As a big man who can stretch the floor, he could potentially fit in as a rotation player in D'Antoni's system if he can continue to get acclimated to the NBA style of play.
While he hasn't done much of anything on the court, he has met the relatively low expectations that were bestowed upon him and shouldn't be punished with a low grade for meeting them.
Signed to a one-year deal worth $1.1 million, Farmar has been the Lakers' most consistent threat off the bench.
Not only is he an offensive threat from anywhere on the floor, but he also plays the best defense out of all the point guards on the roster. While this may not translate into steals or an abundance of rebounds, his lateral quickness and tenacity on both ends of the court make him an essential part of the rotation.
Averaging 9.2 points on 43.8 percent shooting from the field and 39.3 percent from beyond the arc, Farmar's numbers are right around his career averages. However, it's his consistency and his ability to control the tempo of the game that makes him such an important part of the team.
Expected to compete for the starting spot, Farmar has settled in nicely into his position as the sixth man and should continue to be productive once he returns from his injury.
As the leading scorer of the LA Lakers, Nick Young has exceeded expectations. Brought in to provide a scoring punch from the bench, Young has done just that and more. Averaging 14.5 points, Young gets most of his points by creating off the dribble.
As a part of an offense that tends to stagnate in a half-court set, Young's ability to create off the dribble is essential for the Lakers, especially with Kobe Bryant playing more of a facilitating role since returning from his Achilles tendon injury.
While his high-volume shooting does tend to stop the ball at times, his 43.6 percent shooting from the field and 35.2 percent from three-point range are serviceable percentages for a player who's responsible for jump-starting the offense when it stagnates.
After a short stint as a starter, Young is actually averaging more minutes and more efficient percentages as a permanent player off the bench. He averages 16.3 points on 46.2 percent from the field and 38.0 percent from three-point range.
Expected to be an incumbent starter and a major contributor, Chris Kaman started off the preseason developing what appeared to be a really cohesive tandem with Pau Gasol. However, as the season progressed Kaman lost his starting position and his minutes to the likes of Jordan Hill and Robert Sacre.
While Hill and Sacre are no scrubs, Kaman has clearly shown more talent throughout his career. A borderline All-Star at one point in his career, Kaman is seeing more time on the pine than on the court these days.
Averaging 8.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game on the season, Kaman is still a serviceable post scorer and rebounding presence. However, his diminishing quickness and athleticism make him a poor fit for Mike D'Antoni's system. Seeing as D'Antoni is really ignoring the post-up as part of his system, Kaman's main role on offense is as a jump-shooter or an offensive rebounder, something that Sacre can do while bringing more athleticism and quickness to the table.
Brought in to fill the hole at the small forward position after Metta World Peace's departure, Wesley Johnson has brought consistency to the Lakers' starting lineup.
Averaging 8.4 points and 3.5 rebounds while shooting 42.5 percent from beyond the arc, Johnson is exactly what Mike D'Antoni needs from a wing player. Johnson can run the break, finish in transition and spread the floor with his three-point shooting.
While Johnson can't really create for himself in a half-court set, he is good at moving without the ball and his ability to hit an open jumper makes him the perfect role player. In fact, the Lakers' problem isn't their offense, which has actually been pretty good. Scoring an average of 101.1 points per game, the Lakers' main problem is their defense.
Although Johnson doesn't do much to mitigate their problems on the defensive end despite his athleticism and lateral quickness on the perimeter, his ability to fit in as a glue player offensively is invaluable for D'Antoni and his system.
Brought in to provide depth on the bench, Shawne Williams was able to earn some time as a starter before settling in as a contributor off the bench. While he is only averaging a little over five points per game on atrocious percentages, Williams provides a big body for D'Antoni to utilize as well as another big man who can spread the floor.
Utilized as more of a decoy and a three-point option, Williams plays his role well and does many things that don't show up on the stat sheet. One of the few players on the team who really tries to convert on a lot of the 50-50 plays, Williams is the type of glue player than D'Antoni needs coming off the bench.
However, despite the benefits he brings, there is no doubt that his inefficiency on offense is a major detriment to the potential contributions he could be making. Williams promptly lost his starting position when the benefits of having a bigger body at the 4-spot was more alluring than Williams' three-point shooting threat.
Brought in more because of his potential, Xavier Henry has been a crucial part of the Lakers' early season success on offense.
While Nick Young has recently usurped Pau Gasol's position as the team's leading scorer, Henry is perhaps the most consistent penetrating threat the Lakers have on the roster. Based on the way Mike D'Antoni is running his offense, the Lakers don't generate a lot of points in the paint because they do not post up and they run the pick-and-pop more often than the standard pick-and-roll at this point.
Henry is a threat from three-point range while also being the only player to consistently attack the paint in isolation situations every game. Averaging 9.7 points on 45.2 percent shooting from the field and 43.6 from three-point range, Henry's only offensive weakness is his free-throw shooting percentage, which is under 60 percent.
He should easily be in double figures in scoring if he can convert his free throws at a slightly more efficient rate. Like Young, Henry is vital to the offense because he can create for himself when the half-court set gets stagnant.
However, unlike Young, Henry is much more relentless when it comes to penetrating. If Henry can learn to drive and kick it to his teammates more effectively while hitting a better percentage from the line, he can become one of the premier offensive players in the NBA.