Los Angeles Lakers Must Add Small Forward Depth Before Next Season

Ehran Khan@@ekhansworldContributor IIIJuly 29, 2015

Kobe Bryant will likely be the starting small forward for the Lakers in 2016. The team needs to shore up their depth behind him.
Kobe Bryant will likely be the starting small forward for the Lakers in 2016. The team needs to shore up their depth behind him.Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers turned over much of their roster this offseason, constructing a new roster on the fly.

Whether the new pieces fit and the team functions remains to be seen, but the front office did manage to stock up at every position—except for small forward.

Currently, L.A.'s depth chart has Nick Young listed as the No. 1 small forward, with rookie Anthony Brown as his backup.

The Lakers are probably going to want some extra insurance for the position.

For starters, you don't want to be starting Young. As a ball-stopper whose best attribute is volume scoring, he's not a great fit alongside Kobe Bryant and another high-usage guard like D'Angelo Russell or Jordan Clarkson. Plus, Julius Randle is going to need his touches this year as well. 

Nick Young's gun-slinging ways make for an awkward fit with the rest of the starting five.
Nick Young's gun-slinging ways make for an awkward fit with the rest of the starting five.Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Though Young is the best shooter on the squad, he's never been content to be a catch-and-shoot kind of player. Last season, Young posted his lowest-ever figure (by a significant margin, too) on assisted three-pointers and his lowest ratio of assisted two-pointers since 2009, per Basketball-Reference.

Young's durability is a concern as well. He hasn't made it through even 65 games in a season since 2010 and has missed about one in every three games (81 games missed in total) over the past three campaigns.

Nor can you rely on 2015 second-round pick Brown to soak up a large chunk of minutes at the 3 either.

Brown profiles as the perfect fit to the lineup. He's got great size for a wing, and his greatest strength is his three-point stroke, which flourished during his last two seasons at Stanford. According to DraftExpress, Brown was second in his draft class in points per possession in catch-and-shoot situations.

Brown may be a nice fit for the Lakers down the road, but he's unlikely to play a big role in 2016.
Brown may be a nice fit for the Lakers down the road, but he's unlikely to play a big role in 2016.Rich Schultz/Getty Images

While he looks like the ideal candidate to space the floor at small forward alongside L.A.'s plethora of scorers and ball-handlers, the reality is that Brown will most likely not be ready for a major role in 2015-16.

That's no knock on Brown—that's just the case for most rookies drafted outside the lottery. Sure, sometimes you unearth a Jordan Clarkson-like gem, but it's exceedingly rare for second-rounders to step into the limelight from jump street. Byron Scott didn't even feel that Clarkson himself was ready for big minutes until crippling injuries forced him to insert the 1st Team All-Rookie selection into the lineup.

Brown's performance at Summer League showed that he's still rough around the edges. He shot just 33 percent from the floor and 25 percent from three, and he didn't record a single assist in 107 minutes of action.

The most likely scenario has the Lakers rolling out Bryant as the starting small forward on opening night. 

Coach Scott recently told the media he was mulling different lineup combinations. "I think [Bryant] will play more 3 than 2," said Scott, and he even alluded to the future Hall-of-Famer manning the 4 at times.

Bryant cannot be counted on to play a full season anymore.
Bryant cannot be counted on to play a full season anymore.Harry How/Getty Images

That configuration makes a lot of sense, as it allows both Russell and Clarkson to be on the floor as well. Though the spacing will be tough to navigate, that lineup features the largest quantity of talent and play-making ability, as well as gives L.A.'s core nucleus of young guys plenty of burn to develop chemistry together.

However, Bryant can no longer be counted on to be there all year long either.

Three major injuries have limited Bryant to just 41 games over the past two seasons. 

With so much uncertainty among the Lakers' crop of potential small forwards, it's necessary for the front office to keep an extra body on hand just in case.

The hard part is finding someone who can contribute if called upon. This deep into free agency there are only a handful of unsigned stragglers left—and most of them remain unsigned for a reason.

Their best bet is probably veteran swingman Dorell Wright.

Dorell Wright is one of the few candidates remaining whom the Lakers can turn to for depth at small forward.
Dorell Wright is one of the few candidates remaining whom the Lakers can turn to for depth at small forward.Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images

Wright, a Los Angeles native who went to high school with Russell Westbrook, fits the 3-and-D mold that the Lakers are looking for.

He didn't get much playing time in his last stop in Portland—where the Blazers leaned heavily on their incredible starting five—but he did knock down 38 percent of his treys last season and once previously led the entire league in triples.

The last time he got significant playing time, which was with the Philadelphia 76ers in 2013, he was a productive player, posting a PER of 16.0—above the league average.

Whether the Lakers go after Wright or another free agent, it's important for L.A. to bring in another player to bolster its depth at small forward.

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