When a team loses in the playoffs often times their fans and front office have a sense of accomplishment and optimism. There is a certain amount of success to be felt when you are one the eight best teams in your conference. Unless that team is the Los Angeles Lakers, then optimism is replaced by pessimism.
The Lakers won 57 games, which was the same as last year, however if they do not hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy then the season was a complete and utter failure. So keeping with the tradition of overacting here is a list of players who will help the Lakers return to the NBA finals.
With Phil Jackson certain to retire it is tough to assess what type of player would fit best into a system that has yet to be determined. The deficiencies on this team are obvious so regardless of the system better players are going to be required for any system to have the ultimate success.
This list is comprised of role players and one former star who could step in and not only help the Lakers today, but also in the foreseeable future. This list does not consist of household names and only their local team’s fans and their mothers probably know who they are. Yet rest assure that if given the opportunity to play alongside Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol these players would flourish in the same manner that Trevor Ariza and Jordan Farmer did.
So why not look to players that are feasibly available and fit the Lakers biggest needs, point guard and small forward.
Williams is an underrated player who has struggled in his four years in the NBA. However, with the right coaching and opportunity he would definitely flourish. He has worked hard in his three NBA stops and would provide a sense of urgency for the Lakers.
Williams has shown the three point range that the Lakers so desperately need. He shot 40% last year from the three and also managed to play solid defense for the Knicks in the playoffs.
Prince is the oldest player on this list, but may very well be the best. Before everyone “comments” take a minute and review this Piston’s 2010 - 2011 numbers. He averaged 14 points a game and shot 48% from the field and 35% from the three. Compare those numbers to the Lakers current starting small forward who averaged 8 points a game and shot 40% from the field.
Artest and Prince shot the same percentage, 35% from the three, but Artest had 233 attempts compared to just 98 attempts for Prince. Though Artest has been celebrated as a great defender, Prince also is known as a great defender. Tayshaun has made the NBA All-Defensive team four times.
Banished to Washington Josh Howard has not resembled the form that made him an all-star game selection in 2007. Howard also is attempting to return from a serious knee injury and that may have played a role in his demise.
However, playing alongside Dirk Nowtizki Howard was one of the top small forwards in the game. There is no reason to think Howard will not rekindle that very same all-star form playing with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. Prior to his knee injury Howard averaged 18 points and 5 rebounds.
Howard is not a three point shooter but does finish at the rim and has a difficult to defend mid-range game. He was a solid defender and with both Andrew Bynum and Gasol manning the middle Howard would appear better defensively.
Outside of Atlanta few people know the man who was drafted before Chris Paul and Deron Williams. Marvin Williams would give the Lakers a toughness they have lacked since Rick Fox retired. Artest is physical but has been playing more off of reputation then results, while Williams' toughness is on display night in and night out.
The Atlanta forward has averaged just a shade over one foul in 27 minutes while Artest gives you two fouls in 29 minutes.
This is a relevant stat because how much better would the Lakers have been if they did not give up the silly foul on the defensive end. How many runs would they have been able to sustain if not for an Artest foul?
Williams is a double figure scorer who never breaks away from the flow of the game. You will never hear an entire arena yell "nnnnnnnnnooooooooooo" they way they have when Artest takes an ill-advised shot. He also commands less "attention" then Artest.
By adding Marvin the Lakers can focus on obtaining a bigger name at the point guard position.
A lot would need to transpire for the Lakers to end up with Rudy Gay. A trade involving Lamar Odom and draft picks would more then likely be the starting point and would have to involve a third team.
Finances and productivity are why the Grizzles will look to move Gay. After signing Mike Conley and Zach Randolph the Grizzles will be faced with a huge decision regarding Marc Gasol. They should be all accounts sign Gasol to an extension which should give the Lakers a chance to land Gay. The Grizzles will find Gay expendable based on the success they are having without him.
The Connecticut product would be a welcomed addition to the Lakers offensively, based on his career averages of 18 points and 6 rebounds per. He also would give a team struggling to create turnovers a steal and block a night, which should provide some juice in the turnover department.
While Gay is far from a lockdown defender he is capable of providing solid defense. If combined with a defensive minded point guard Rudy would be free to defend possibly the other team’s third best offensive option. Thus allowing him to appear better then he actually is, a la Isiah Thomas.
However, Gay’s biggest contribution will come on the offensive side of the floor. Rudy would open things up for Pau and allow him to be more productive minus the wear and tear of trying to carry the offensive load every night. Also, Bryant would realize the benefit of being able to watch another player take over from the wing.
Our first point guard on the list and no coincidence it comes in the top five since it is the top position the Lakers need to address this offseason.
Raymond Felton never quite fit Denver’s scheme and with Ty Lawson looking more and more like he will be handling most if not all of the point guard duties Felton could be the odd man out.
Felton is a quality point guard who does not need much to be successful and would fit nicely as a third option. He was on his way to having a career year, getting 17 and 9 a night, until he was traded to the Denver Nuggets for Carmelo Anthony. Felton never seemed to get comfortable in the Mile High city and will probably be moved in the offseason as Denver either replaces or resigns Nene.
The North Carolina product would transfer well into the wide open play in the Western Conference. Felton would also provide the Lakers with some stability at the point guard spot and his 3 to 1 assist to turnover ratio would not hurt either.
The Charlotte Bobcats traded away their best player in the middle of the season just to reconfirm they do not know what they are doing.
Ladies and gentlemen allow me to introduce D.J. Augustin. Augustin got his first opportunity to start this year and made the most of it starting all 82 games.
He played well despite having his head coach replaced in mid-season, Larry Brown and despite losing his best player in Gerald Wallace to Portland.
In fact, in the last month of the season Augustine averaged 17 points 8 assists and 2 turnovers. If he could be this productive in Charlotte with the cupboard bare how effective could he be with a cupboard that has Pau and Kobe in it.
The Bobcats have a history of trading cash for magic beans, Tyson Chandler, Emeke Okafor, and Gerald Wallace to name a few, so this deal does not seemed farfetched.
Surprised to see Harris’ name on this list well you should not be. Harris is stuck in Utah thanks to the Deron Williams trade. He might not be there very long though, because of his hefty contract combined with the fact that the Utah Jazz are on their way to being epically bad next season. So do not be surprised to see him moved yet again.
If the Jazz can secure some salary cap space while they ponder on their next move, the Lakers could be primed to pounce. They would be lucky to get such a quality player.
Harris is one of the fastest players in the league and would put a tremendous amount of pressure on opposing defenses. Harris can defend the point, as well as, be efficient at running it. His numbers, 15 points 7 assists, and a steal, are not gaudy but would be ideal for a third option.
Dorrell Wright should be on the Lakers radar considering he plays in their division. Wright gave the Lakers 17.8 points in their four meetings this year and while those are not big numbers they were just enough to garner him some attention.
Wright is an athletic small forward who can score and defend. Stuck in Golden State Wright became more of a rec league player, but given an opportunity to play in a structured system should allow Wright and his talents to step to the forefront.
Wright is not the sexy name or even the biggest name, however neither was Devean George, Micheal Cooper, A.C. Green, and Derek Fisher. They were all role players who starred in a system designed for someone else. They were also tough minded players who were willing to keep fighting regardless of the score or subsequent outcome. Wright's struggles just to remain in the league after wasting away in Miami makes him tailor made for the Lakers.
In his first full year as a starter Wright averaged 16 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1.5 steals. He is also careful with the ball and does not appear to turn it over much.
Wright is entering the final year of his contract and could be available for pennies on the dollar.
The most important position on the court, happens to be the most glaring need for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Before the 2010 – 2011 season Deron Williams was the best point guard in the NBA. Then something happened, albeit injuries Jerry Sloan, or just waking up in Utah every morning Williams' dropped off the NBA map.
Prior to the aforementioned drop, Williams managed to get 10 assists per with a lineup that was shall we say was “athletically challenged”. He is the prototypical point guard whether in size ability, and wherewithal.
This most recent year Deron dealt with a coach that quit in Jerry Sloan, another coach who had been fired before in Avery Johnson, a midseason trade to New Jersey, and rumors he tried to destroy the Utah Jazz franchise. Eventually that nonsense caught up with Deron and a bad year became worse. Everything proved to be too much to overcome and Williams missed the final five games of the season with a wrist injury.
Through all of Williams’ strife he still managed a career high 12.8 assists per game. Though his scoring dropped off Williams’ when healthy is the game’s best point guard.
Deron is available despite the Nets giving up a king’s ransom to get him. Williams has given the Nets no indication he plans on resigning with them and is entering the final year of his contract. So facing a move to Brooklyn and the possibility of losing its only true star player staring them dead in the face the Nets may have no choice but trade Williams away.
Thus, opening up a door that Mitch Kupchak knows all to well and is all too comfortable to walk through.
Can anyone say Pau Gasol for Kwame Brown and Javaris Critterton?