Predicting the Roles and Impact of Each Lakers Newcomer This Season
The Los Angeles Lakers reshuffled their deck this offseason, re-signing several players from last season's team while also bringing in new talent.
Jeremy Lin and Jordan Clarkson will shore up the backcourt, while Julius Randle, Carlos Boozer and Ed Davis will be jockeying for minutes in a suddenly crowded frontcourt rotation.
Each of these fresh faces has a role that suits their game best, but on this roster they may be either stretched too far or bottled up entirely.
Let's take a look at each of the new guys individually and set some expectations on their play for the 2014-15 campaign.
Jordan Clarkson will be a backup guard who can handle the ball and get his own shot. His game brings to mind another player who will make an appearance later in this list.
The Lakers' second-round pick showed some flashes early on in summer league, averaging nearly 19 points through his first three contests in Vegas. He also connected on 42 percent of his triples, a good sign for a guy who struggled with his outside shot in college.
Depending on the health of Steve Nash, Clarkson may see quite a bit of action as L.A.'s second-string point guard. Unfortunately, he still has a lot to learn about running an offense.
Clarkson finished school with more career turnovers than assists, and that troubling trend continued in summer league.
The Missouri product tallied just six total assists in five games while coughing the ball up a whopping 17 times in that span.
The Lakers will probably want to add another point guard to the roster while they develop Clarkson in a role that doesn't require him to be the primary facilitator on the floor.
One of the steals of free agency was the Lakers scooping up Ed Davis on a minimum deal.
The veteran big man has a career player efficiency rating above the league average, and at just 25 years of age, he still has room to grow.
Davis is probably fourth in line to get minutes in an unexpectedly crowded frontcourt, but he may play his way into a bigger role as the season progresses due to his defensive impact.
The 6'10" forward ranked fourth in the entire league in opponent's field-goal percentage while defending the rim among players who played an appreciable number of minutes and defended at least three such shots per game, per NBA.com.
His frontcourt mates Jordan Hill, Carlos Boozer and Ryan Kelly ranked 55th, 109th and 124th, respectively, out of the 128 players who qualified under those criteria.
As L.A.'s only potential paint protector, Davis could see more burn than initially anticipated under new defensive-minded coach Byron Scott.
By winning the amnesty auction for Carlos Boozer, the Lakers acquired a former All-Star who won a gold medal with Team USA in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Unfortunately, even though he's still just 32, Boozer's productivity is fading fast.
Last season marked the first in his career in which he posted a PER below league average, and he topped it off by bricking his way to a career-worst shooting percentage as well.
The Lakers are hoping for a nice bounce-back from Boozer, and his role in L.A. could get the most out of him.
Getting out of the Chicago Bulls' anemic offense should breathe some life back into his scoring, and he's always been a force to contend with on the boards.
He should put up better numbers than he did last season, but that will depend on his playing time.
The Lakers have several players to juggle in their frontcourt rotation, and according to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, there has been serious discussion about starting Boozer at small forward to ease the logjam.
Once you get past all the media hype and the lingering effects of "Linsanity," Jeremy Lin is a good basketball player.
He's terrific with the ball in his hands, with a strong ability to get his own shot off the bounce. He really improved as a catch-and-shoot threat from deep last season, knocking down 40 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes, per NBA.com.
Lin's game is best suited to a bench role, as he's not a pure point guard and can change the complexion of a game with his scoring ability.
That's where Lin should begin the year, backing up a (hopefully) healthy Steve Nash.
Even if he's forced into a larger role as the starting point guard, Lin is good enough to be an adequate fill-in, but he will struggle to hold his own in a division that boasts three All-NBA talents at the position.
His minutes should stay in the 28-32 range, but he will probably see his overall numbers rise along with his usage rate, especially if the Lakers fall prey to the injury bug again.
In Julius Randle lies the Lakers' greatest hope.
In addition to being ready to contribute right away, Randle is the bridge to the future.
That's why L.A. needs to throw him into the fire from day one and let him make as many mistakes as necessary to develop as quickly as possible.
Two years from now when Kobe Bryant's contract comes off the books and the Lakers have loads of cap space to pursue big free agents, those guys need to look at the Lakers and see a blossoming star in Randle whom they would like to come play with—similar to how LeBron is pairing up with Kyrie Irving in Cleveland.
No superstar free agents chose to come to L.A. this summer because of the dismal roster and because Bryant's cap-clogging deal prevented much personnel improvement. With Randle still on his rookie deal in two years, the Lakers could easily fit in two max free agents and end up with three stars for the price of two.
That would be the dream, and it should be what the Lakers aim for.
Carlos Boozer's acquisition makes it tough to envision Randle playing 35 minutes a night right off the bat, but the talk of shifting Boozer to the wing suggests that the Lakers brass is invested in accelerating Randle's development.
He should be the starting power forward and play heavy minutes. Randle will put up big numbers for a first-year player and be in the running for Rookie of the Year—especially after he starts playing 40 minutes a night down the stretch when L.A. is eliminated from playoff contention.
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