If anyone is wondering where the Lakers think they are weakest, they need not look further than the fact that their last 3 personnel moves were all attempts to shore up their backcourt.
— Transaction #1: the Lakers used their sole pick in the 2008 NBA draft: Joe Crawford a guard out of the Univeristy of Kentucky. Crawford, who is 6’5″ in some reports and 6’4″ in others, is a solid shooter, but no ball handler, particularly under pressure.
Why would the Lakers need a point guard sized shooter who can’t play point guard? Well, this IS a Phil Jackson coached team, isn’t it. Jackson is known for using small forwards that handle the ball (Pippen, Odom), and shooters like Steve Kerr, Craig Hodges, John Paxson and B.J. Armstrong to spread the floor on offense, and defend opposing point guards on defense.
— Transaction #2: the Lakers offered 6’7″ shooting guard Sasha Vujacic a 3-year, $2.6 million contract, and ended up re-signing Sasha Vujacic to a 3-year, $15 million contract. That’s some difference! If Sasha has peaked as a player, then the Lakers have overpaid yet again for a player. However, if Sasha continues to grow and to step up at critical times, then the Lakers did alright. But what else could they do? If Sasha got an offer from another NBA team, the Lakers would have had a chance to match it. But with Josh Childress going to Greece for $20 million for 3 years, it was feasible that Sasha, who is from Slovenia, could likewise get such an offer, particularly after his Finals performance brought him world attention, and the Lakers would not be able to match it.
— Transaction #3: on Friday, August 1, 2008, the Lakers signed 6’5″ shooting guard Dwane Mitchell. Like Crawford, Mitchell is a shooter, not a ball handler. In the d-league last year, Mitchell managed to be 5th in the league in turnovers, even though he left the d-league to play in Germany in February. In his partial d-league season, however, Mitchell averaged 20.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.60 steals in 37.3 minutes and found himself in the 2008 D-League All-Star game. And even though he left the D-League early, Mitchell was 3rd in the league in free throws attempted, indicating he is aggressive and takes the ball to the hole and doesn’t settle for jump shots. The kicker though is that Mitchell distinguished himself in the Lakers summer league this summer.
Given that the last 3 personnel moves for the Lakers were all attempts to improve their backcourt, obviously the Lakers are concerned with their guards.
Which leaves us wondering what they are doing with 6′ 5″ Koby Karl. And will Jordan Farmar be able to play himself out of the dog house he put himself into during the NBA Finals?
According to Lenovo’s stats, the most effective 5 player combination for the Lakers over the course of their last 10 games of the post season was: Fisher, Bryant, Odom, Gasol and Radmanovic. I know a lot of bloggers are down on Radmanovic, but this wasn’t close. This 5 player combination was at least 190% more effective than any other 5 player combination the Lakers tried. A lot of players were critical of Phil Jackson’s substitutions as well during the playoffs, but it looks like he nailed the right starting 5.
Here’s a quick look at the Lakers depth by position:
1 – PG – Fisher, Farmar
2 – SG – Bryant, Vujacic, Mitchell / Karl / Crawford
3 – SF – Odom, Ariza, Walton, Newble
4 – PF – Gasol, Radmanovic
5 – Ce – Bynum, Mihm, Mbenga
Four of the Lakers starting five could potentially make the All-Star team if they have good years next year. Obviously, the bench is where the worries are.
While other teams are wheeling and dealing, the Lakers are healing.
If Andrew Bynum, Chris Mihm, Trevor Ariza, and Luke Walton can make it back to their top form prior to injury, the Lakers suddenly look very deep in the front court.We don’t need no stinkin’ Ron Artest!
I can see why their player acquisitions have focused on upgrading the back court though.
But perhaps another area the Lakers should be improving is its coaching staff, particularly with Tex Winter in retirement. Frank Hamblen, Kurt Rambis, Brian Shaw, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Craig Hodges and Jim Cleamons don’t quite do it for me.