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Chris Paul, Deron Williams: Which Guard is a Better Fit for the L.A. Lakers?

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IMay 28, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 26:  Chris Paul #3 of the New Orleans Hornets reacts late in the fourth quarter while taking on the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on April 26, 2011 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

After an emphatic and embarrassing loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers will likely take a nice long look at their roster, and the first place management's gaze will fall is likely at the point guard position.

There has been plenty of speculation surrounding which players Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and owner Jerry Buss might target for the future, and most of the rumors have swirled around Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard.

Howard is certainly the type of dominant physical presence that any team would covet, but is he the Lakers most pressing need?

Although Howard's game-changing talent would be hard to pass up in most any circumstance, point guard help is clearly the Lakers' biggest need at this moment and in the future.

The perspective may have changed a little when the Lakers surprisingly chose Mike Brown to replace the retiring Phil Jackson, but the players the franchise will target likely remains the same.

The choice of Brown probably means that the Lakers' famed triangle offense is history and that means the need for a dominant point guard becomes even more pressing.

In the triangle the age and deteriorating skills of starting point guard Derek Fisher were mostly hidden since there was little emphasis placed on a conventional lead guard.

Still, there were numerous moments the Lakers were exposed defensively by Fisher's lack of quickness and inability to prevent penetration from opposing point guards and in Brown's system those weaknesses would likely be magnified.

If the Lakers do choose to pursue a high profile point guard through trades or free agency then New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul and New Jersey Nets guard Deron Williams are the most likely candidates.

Like Howard, both Paul and Williams will be unrestricted free agents in 2012, but there is a strong chance their respective teams will seek to trade them before that date arrives, or risk losing each player for nothing.

Both Paul and Williams have similar career numbers, although I would have given Williams a slight advantage over Paul before the Lakers decided to transition away from Jackson's triangle.

At 6'3", Williams is three inches taller than Paul and he doesn't need to dominate the ball in order to be effective.

That would be a valuable attribute in the triangle since the ability to play off the ball is a must, but in a more conventional dribble-drive offense that advantage is nullified.

Paul may be the NBA's top point guard when it comes to penetration and pick-and-roll offense, and his quickness off the dribble may take precedent over the bigger Williams' ability to post up smaller lead guards.

Paul has averaged 18.7 points, 9.9 assists and 4.6 rebounds while shooting 47 percent from the field over the course of his career.

Williams is not far behind with career averages of 17.2 points per game, 9.2 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 46 percent shooting from the field.

With numbers that close a decision would likely boil down to which player best fits the system that Brown would install, but even with that unknown Paul would probably get the nod because he may simply be the NBA's best pure point guard.

Paul's vision in the open court is unmatched, and he has the talent and ability to dominate a game in transition or in a half court set.

The Lakers witnessed first hand the type of damage Paul is capable of inflicting in a closer than expected first round series victory over the Hornets in this year's playoffs when Paul perhaps played two of the greatest games in postseason history.

Although Williams would be a great consolation prize in any instance, if the Lakers hope to somehow return to the NBA Finals under a new coach in Brown a strong push for Paul would be a great place to start.

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