Finding silver linings for the Los Angeles Lakers during an abysmal 2013-14 season is not an easy task. Sure, the team’s losing record will translate to favorable draft position this summer, but what of the on-court product?
Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash have both been shut down for the season due to injuries, Pau Gasol has quarreled with head coach Mike D’Antoni through the media and injury woes to marquee players have trickled down to the entire roster.
Despite a surplus of negatives, however, one player has stood out above the rest as a guy who deserves more credit—perhaps via a new contract in the offseason.
Veteran point guard Jordan Farmar has had his season cut short due to health concerns, but he’s made a surprisingly impressive impact when healthy.
Despite not playing in the NBA during 2012-13—instead choosing to play overseas—the 27-year-old has posted arguably his best professional season in his return to LA.
D’Antoni needed players to step up in the absence of Bryant and Nash. Farmar was able to do that and so much more when he was out on the court.
In 31 games off the bench for Los Angeles, Farmar averaged 10.5 points on 44.5 percent shooting from the field and a scorching-hot 47.1 percent from three-point range, according to NBA.com. He also dished out 4.4 assists per game in slightly more than 20 minutes of action as part of the second unit.
His ability to provide instant offense and veteran leadership off the bench is one of the biggest reasons for Lakerland’s 180-degree turnaround in that department.
In just a one-season span, the Lakers’ second unit improved from 28th in bench scoring to second in that category thus far in 2013-14, according to Hoops Stats. Lacking a consistent starting five forced the bench into more action than it was likely to see otherwise, but the unwavering scoring output continued regardless.
Underrated Compared to Teammates
Nick Young has been praised for his scoring prowess off the bench—and for good reason. “Swaggy P” has spent time as the Lakers’ leading scorer even though he’s played the majority of his minutes as the team’s sixth man. Although Young has been solid offensively, Farmar leads all Lakers perimeter players with a player efficiency rating of 16.
When compared directly with his teammate, the former UCLA standout is dishing out more assists, swiping more steals and grabbing nearly as many rebounds per contest (2.5 for Farmar versus 2.7 for Young). He’s also shooting a higher percentage from the field and is more than 10 percentage points better than Young from beyond the arc: 45.7 percent versus 35.2 percent.
Both guards will be free agents at season’s end—assuming Young declines his player option for 2014-15. Given Farmar has the ability to orchestrate the offense and make teammates better, he may ultimately be a smarter investment moving forward for general manager Mitch Kupchak.
Although the entire body of work from the Lakers guard has revitalized his standing as a viable NBA talent, he was at his best after the 2014 All-Star Game.
Farmar is averaging 12.3 points, 4.4 assists, 1.3 rebounds and 1.1 steals while shooting 45.5 percent from the field and a ridiculous 54 percent from three-point territory post-All-Star break, per NBA.com.
He scored 20 or more points three separate times during that stretch, knocking down a barrage of threes in the process. Rotoworld’s Michael Gallagher broke down Farmar’s hot streak via Twitter:
Jordan Farmar over his last 7: 16.4 pts, 4.9 ast, 1.3 stls & 3.3 treys on 52.0 FG%. eFG%=67.3. Usage=25.8%. Killin it pic.twitter.com/7Hg7f3x17I— Michael Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher) March 13, 2014
The rim must have looked like the size of a small swimming pool, because he simply could not miss from deep.
Unfortunately, injuries have reared their ugly head once again—cutting down the guard's stellar streak in the process.
According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, Farmar—who has been ravaged by ailing hamstrings throughout the season—will be out a minimum of two weeks after suffering a strained groin during practice.
The Orange County Register’s Bill Oram relayed the following from Coach D’Antoni regarding the injury:
Mike D'Antoni leaves door open that Jordan Farmar could miss rest of season. "Maybe he'll get back, we'll see."— Bill Oram (@bill_oram) March 19, 2014
As the Lakers toil near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, there’s no reason for Farmar to rush a possible return. Ironically, playing 36 total games (less than half the season) was still significantly more than Nash (10) and Bryant (six) combined to appear in.
Lakers’ management has a plethora of decisions to make during the 2014 offseason. Bringing Farmar back as the leader of LA’s second unit, as well as a safety net behind an injury-prone Nash, would be a savvy plan of action.
GMs around the league may overpay for the scoring prowess of "Swaggy P," but Farmar's status as an underrated contributor simply can't be ignored.