Heading into the 2011 NBA draft, the Lakers hater in me was quite pleased with the fact that the purple-and-gold buggers out in Los Angeles did not have a first-round pick. After all, this is a team that is in desperate need of some youth, and it was not going to be able to get any until the second round.
Then the Lakers drafted Darius Morris, a 6'5" point guard out of Michigan, with the 11th pick in the second round (41st overall). At that point, I couldn't help but mumble a four-letter word that rhymes with "sit." This is because, in my opinion, the Lakers basically drafted a guy who could very well become the next Rajon Rondo.
Don't worry. I'm pretty sure I can explain.
Had any other team drafted Morris, it would have been hard to see the appeal. He's got great size and is a solid athlete, but he's not much of a scorer. In a draft chock-full of scoring point guards, that makes Morris something of a second-rate option. That's why, one supposes, he went in the second round.
Obviously, Morris is not totally without skills. He is an outstanding defender, and scouts agree that his court vision is elite. The fact that he was fifth in the country with 6.7 assists per game this past season definitely backs up that claim.
If you know anything about the Lakers, no doubt you can already see why Morris is such a great fit. A point guard who can play defense and distribute the ball is exactly what they need.
Sure, Derek Fisher is a good player. He's been around forever, and he definitely epitomizes the term "savvy veteran." That said, it is getting increasingly difficult to determine what exactly Fisher's role is on the Lakers.
It often seems like his only job is to be the fifth guy out on the floor, and you only really notice him when he tosses up one of his trademark rainbows or commits an egregious flop, which he does frequently.
The Lakers deserve better. More specifically, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum deserve better. They need a point guard who can actually create plays for them, and Morris definitely has the tools to live up to the task.
This is where the Rondo comparison comes into play.
When Rondo came into the league out of Kentucky in 2006, he did so with little to no expectations. He split time with Sebastian Telfair and Delonte West in his first year with my beloved Boston Celtics, and he didn't do much to impress.
In 2007-2008, the starting gig was his, and he turned out to be the perfect complement for the newly formed Big Three of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.
He has gotten better every year, and at this point one can easily make the case that Rondo is the best assist artist in the NBA.
If all goes well, Morris' career will follow a similar trajectory. Initially, the only thing he has to do is get the ball to the Lakers' assorted stars. As his confidence builds, he will think of more creative ways to do so. Next thing you know, Morris will be a 10-assists-per-game kind of guy.
And the Lakers hater in me will continue to mumble and/or shout four-letter words. That's good news for them, and it's good news for Morris.
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