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Los Angeles Lakers, Page 3

Why the Lakers won’t be trading for Kevin Love

Almost 20 years ago, former Lakers GM Jerry West had his eyes set on the next Lakers dynasty. The first step was clearing a massive amount of cap room, including the salaries of several veteran players, including established guys like George Lynch, Anthony Peeler and double-double threat Vlade Divac. The Serbian center had been a decent player for the Lakers through some of the leanest years in franchise history, enduring several losing seasons after the retirements of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and James Worthy. Divac’s time with the Lakers was bookended by a similar beginning and ending. When he was dealt in the summer of 1996, Vlade wasn’t just a salary dump casualty: he was one of the few instances of the Los Angeles Lakers transacting a veteran player with a lottery pick. Divac was gone, sent away to the Charlotte Hornets. The 13th overall pick, Kobe Bryant, came in. Shortly thereafter, Shaquille O’Neal became a free agent addition. The Hornets never became title contenders. The Lakers, suffice to say, did.
 
Ten years later, the Lakers were on the other side of the 8-ball. This time, the Lakers and new GM Mitch Kupchak were the ones holding the promising youngster, a big man named Andrew Bynum. The target? New Jersey’s Jason Kidd. LA was in year three of rebuilding, with a prime Kobe Bryant becoming more and more frustrated with the team’s continuing mediocrity. To hasten his pursuit of his first post-Shaquille championship, the Impatient Mamba demanded that the Lakers “ship [Bynum’s] ass out” for a declining, yet still effective and established All-Star like Jason Kidd. But unlike 10 years earlier, the Lakers never consummated a deal. Bynum, a former 10th overall pick, stayed, helping lead the Lakers to two more titles. I’d argue, as would many others, that the Lakers wouldn’t have had the inside toughness and D to beat the Boston Celtics nor the Orlando Magic without even a hobbled Andrew Bynum.
 
Over the past two decades, we’ve seen two examples of how teams can solidify their future with shrewd trades based around lottery picks. We’ve also seen how not making those deals and keeping those young players can pave the road towards another dynasty.
 
Which side are the Lakers on this offseason, as it pertains to Kevin Love? Ready to sell their future for the promise of an established All-Star? Or sticking with a long-term rebuilding plan? Or option C: pursuing one of those two avenues and striking out like it’s Mark Reynolds on any given day of the week (20% of the people reading this thought that was MAD funny).
 
(Finish this bad boy up over at Silver Screen & Roll)

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With the Lakers slotted 7th in the NBA Draft, what’s the next step?

The wait is over: the massive rebuilding project of the Los Angeles Lakers has officially begun, my friends. After the worst season in LA history, the team is poised to make their first lottery selection in almost ten years, with the knowledge that this player could affect the fortunes of the franchise for the next decade.
 
Or will he?
 
The Draft order is set. What’s next for the LA front office?
 
Keeping the pick
 
The Lakers are going to pick seventh in the 2014 NBA Draft, dropping one spot below where their record slotted them at the end of the regular season. While the team had little over a 20% chance of getting in the top-3 selections, they also had an over 30% chance of slipping one spot. Aside from the incremental shots that they could have dropped to eighth or ninth in the Draft, this is the worst case scenario for the Lakers-if they’re not there already. Just for quick reference, here’s how the top-10 shook out:
 
(Peep the rest at SS&R)

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Rolling it back: Chris Kaman’s constant rebuilding of value

A year ago, Chris Kaman had to be fighting some mixed emotions. He had just fought through a tough year with the Dallas Mavericks, struggling to build long-term value on a one-year, $8MM make-good contract. Kaman’s goal was to show the league that, after a throwaway year with the bottom-dwelling New Orleans Hornets, he was still able to put up All-Star numbers on a good team. Paired with Dirk Nowitzki, O.J. Mayo and Shawn Marion, the “Kaveman” looked to be exactly the type of player that could take advantage of the team’s lack of low post options. It seemed like a great gamble.
 
Unfortunately, none of that really came to pass. In 66 games, with 16 missed largely due to injury, Kaman put up some solid stats with 10.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg and nearly one block in 20 minutes per contest. They were good numbers certainly, but with his growing defensive deficiencies, age and the fact that the Mavericks missed the playoffs for the first time in over a decade, Chris wasn’t going to get the lucrative long-term deal he desired.
 
That being said, his one-year, $3MM pact with the Lakers was still somewhat surprising. The fact that Kaman couldn’t get even two years at a low annual value seemed strange, as his rebounding and offensive contributions seemed to merit something even at the modest range of two years and around $6MM. But if Kaman was again going to rebuild value, what better platform to do it on but with Mike D’Antoni, whose offense-first basketball philosophy seemed to accentuate everything that Chris brought to the table.
 
(Read on at SS&R)

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Assessing Wesley Johnson’s confounding continual mediocrity

One look at Wesley Johnson and everything about him screams “NBA player”. He’s a lean 6’7″ with a wingspan around 7′. His hands are gigantic, perfect for palming the rock and jamming it in the face of any defender who should even dare. He’s got a perfect looking jump shot that might not have the quickest trigger, but is so fluid in motion that you could put it down with oil on canvas. Wesley Johnson looks like he was put on this Earth to play basketball. However, everything about his career up until last November suggested otherwise.
 
As the fourth pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, Johnson was selected over the likes of DeMarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe, Paul George and Eric Bledsoe. Granted, this pick came at the behest of the much maligned ex-Minnesota Timberwolves GM David Kahn, but the point stands. If passed up by the Wolves, there’s no doubt that Wes would have been a top-10 pick with his natural tool set.
 
However, the red flags were there. As a junior from Syracuse (a school that has had a hard time developing NBA products ever since Carmelo Anthony in 2003), Johnson was actually a 23-year-old transfer from Iowa State University. He was one of the oldest prospects in the draft and in many people’s eyes, a somewhat finished player. While many of his peers were still in their teens, Wes was well into his 20s, which was alarming considering his lack of aggressiveness his senior year. Still, the Wolves felt like it was well worth the selection.
 
They couldn’t have been more wrong. Johnson was a complete bust in Minnesota, never quite finding his niche despite playing in all but three games his first two seasons. Despite his unbelievable athleticism and statuesque physique, Wesley wasn’t finding his offensive identity, nor was he becoming the elite defender some thought he could. Instead he was just there, sometimes being essentially invisible on the court.
 
Does that sound familiar?
 
(Read the rest over at SS&R)

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A Lakers fan’s guide to rooting in the 2014 playoffs

For the first time in nearly a decade, it’s late April and Lakers fans everywhere have nowhere to be. It’s a strange feeling for a fanbase that hasn’t seen a television set bereft of purple and gold more than a half dozen times in fifty years. Even as I sit and watch these incredible playoffs unfold, with titanic matchups like this spectacular Memphis Grizzlies/Oklahoma City Thunder series or the “no holds barred” battle between the Clippers and Golden State Warriors, I know there’s still a very foreign feeling of basketball emptiness in the hearts of the Lakers fans everywhere.
 
I feel you, brothers and sister. I really do. So what is there to root for? Is there anything to root for? Why should we care after the worst season in Los Angeles Lakers history?
 
Well, that’s why we’re here, kids. After a couple of weeks reconstituting myself from too many minutes of Wesley Johnson throughout the year, I finally recollected all of my hoophead passion and redirected it towards all the hate and bile in my heart. No, there are no Lakers to cheer on this spring. However, that doesn’t mean that Lakers fans don’t have anything to root for.
 
Going through the playoff bracket, I found ways for us to be collectively emotionally involved with hate binding us together. Is this the most positive exercise in the world? No, it’s not. This is pretty much the worst thing we can do karmically. But my friends, the hate will sustain us through the long summer. Let’s hit it: who can Lakers fans root for in these playoffs?
 
(Read on at Silver Screen & Roll)

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Los Angeles Lakers offseason primer

R.I.P. 2013-2014 Los Angeles Lakers season. You made us watch over 2,000 minutes of Wesley Johnson and somehow made us think that Nick Young (aka Swaggy P) was a responsible, charismatic leader and a decent defender. You were a year that robbed us of 76 games of Kobe Bryant and made us feel like games were more of a chore than a delight. In no way will you be missed.
 
With perhaps the worst six months of Lakers basketball of all time over and done with, we can finally look towards the next six months: the offseason. VP of Player Personnel Jim Buss and GM Mitch Kupchak have a ton of work to do, which includes trying to rebuild a team around a returning Kobe Bryant and of course, dealing with the team’s first lottery pick in almost a decade. It’s fair to say that this is the most pivotal Lakers offseason since 2004, when the same front office traded Shaquille O’Neal and re-signed Bryant.
 
Let’s take a look at the biggest storylines throughout the summer.
 
Who are the Lakers taking in the NBA Draft?
 
For the first time since 2009, the Los Angeles Lakers have a first round draft pick and have the potential to keep the pick for the first time since 2007. But not just any draft pick at that: a genuine lottery pick. Right now I feel like one of the Amish in the middle of a Best Buy: I’m confused and excited and I most definitely need a new pair of pants.
 
(Peep the rest over at Silver Screen & Roll)

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Settle, Lakers fans: NBA Draft’s top four talents are seldomly drafted in the top four

As the Lakers lose night after night, part of the fan base laments another bad loss with uncompetitive fourth quarters becoming the norm. However, the other part of the fan base–maybe the louder portion–reluctantly expresses glee at their favorite team being taken down once again. The reason? Keeping “the tank” rolling towards a high pick in this year’s draft.
 
The more games the Lakers lose, the better probability that the team will have a higher–and thus logically better–selection in June’s NBA Draft. It’s a painful reality to face when one realizes that losing now may be the best way to ensure the organization’s long-term chances of winning. Fans have embraced it almost too easily, a strange reality considering the franchise’s long history of winning year after year.
 
If kept on the current trajectory over the next week and a half, the Lakers will most likely fall somewhere between pick no. 5 and 8 in the Draft. With a stroke of luck, they could end up with as high as the number one pick, though the percentage chance of that happening ranges from 2% all the way up to a sizzling 12% depending on how the rest of the season shakes out.
 
While this isn’t the most glamorous pick, as my colleague Ben Rosales pointed out in his superb article last week, there’s a bevy of great players to be had in those spots. The point of his post was to address Lakers fans out there who have cried doom if the Lakers don’t get within the Draft’s top four selections when potential future All-Stars like Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Dante Exum could all be available. I too have seen the same type of cries, with some suggesting that if the franchise doesn’t grab a top-4 pick, this season of losing won’t even be worth it.
 
Aside from the players that Ben covered in his piece, I’ve examined the drafts going back to 2003 to see exactly how they unfurled. Combining an inexact formula of All-NBA Team berths, Win Shares and the simple eye test, I’ve examined the best players in each draft class along with their actual position, as well as the “busts” from every year in the top 5. Again, this is an inexact science, so if I offend your sensibilities, my apologies.
 
I’m kidding. I don’t really care about your sensibilities.
 

(Read on at SS&R)
 
 
 
 
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Decoding the myths about Steve Nash

Before July 4th, 2012, there had never, ever been an excited Lakers fan when Steve Nash was coming to town. In fact, what everyone felt was most likely sheer terror.
 
Whether he was a Phoenix Sun or a Dallas Maverick, the perennial All-Star would come to LA with the expressed purpose of dissecting the Lakers defense and doling out assists that would sink any chance of free tacos. He was magnificent in every way, with a lifetime average of 15 points and almost 9 assists against the Show in addition to countless back-breaking, game-clinching shots. Watching Nash was like witnessing a well-choreographed boxing match–gorgeous, fluid and brutal, all while getting socked right in the face.
 
So when Lakers fans learned that he would be the team’s new point guard, they were both relieved and excited. One of the team’s biggest scourges was now one of their own, another piece of what many figured would be a championship puzzle. Dwight Howard joined the team a month later and fans began to make plans for a June parade. It was a genuinely exhilarating time to follow the team that many had figured had drifted past its championship contention window. I can remember stopping the festivities that Fourth of July, cutting out all…intake in order to concentrate and write an article for Silver Screen & Roll. It was glorious.
 
Almost two years later, here we are. And Lakers fans everywhere are right back to absolutely…reviling Steve Nash.
 
(To be continued at SS&R)

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Ryan Kelly’s surprising development

You wouldn’t think being the 48th pick in one of the weakest drafts in recent memory would bode well for anyone. In fact, in the last four drafts, only 1/4 of the players drafted 48th or lower have actually stuck in the league, an illustrious list of talent that includes the likes of Isaiah Thomas, E’Twaun Moore, Robbie Hummel and our own Robert Sacre. For the most part, teams aren’t mining talent out of the second half of the second round, but rather taking a shot on four-year college players and international youngsters with unpronounceable names and little chance of ever coming over to the States.
 
In the former forward from Duke University, the Lakers seemed to have found something. After a slow start to begin the season, which included missing almost the entirety of training camp because of recovery from foot surgery, Kelly has found his way into Mike D’Antoni’s regular rotation over veterans Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman. The forward has put up some solid statistics during his rookie campaign, emerging from the pack with 7.6 ppg, on .433 FG% and .366 3P% with 3.3 rpg to boot.
 
But what’s been most impressive about Kelly has been just how comfortable he’s looked amongst competition moving at NBA speed. The 6’10” forward has shown impressive chops that belie his rookie standing, including a great handle on ball considering his size, solid shot blocking prowess in the paint and a surprisingly versatile offensive repertoire. Let’s examine:
 
Ball handling
 
Kelly’s statistics won’t really tell the story here. He’s averaging just 0.7 turnovers per game, but to 1.3 assists–he’s not much of a passer or playmaker on this team, that’s just not his function. Looking deeper, he’s got a below average turnover percentage at over 9%, but considering he’s got one of the lowest usage rates on the team, I’m not sure just how many times he’s even touching the ball.
 
(Read on at SS&R)

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Walking the Line of Kobe’s Criticisms

If the Lakers are rebuilding, it seems that everyone besides Kobe Bryant has gotten the memo. In an interview this week, the sidelined Mamba went in specifically on how he sees this team next season and what his expectations are:

“How can I be satisfied with it? We’re like 100 games under .500,” Bryant said. “I can’t be satisfied with that at all. This is not what we stand for. This is not what we play for. A lot of times it’s hard to understand that message if you’re not a diehard Laker fan. It’s hard to really understand where we’re coming from and what we’re accustomed to, which is playing for championships and everything else is a complete failure. That’s just how it is. That’s how it was explained to me by Jerry (West) and all the other great Lakers who have played here and that’s how I grew up thinking. So that’s just how it is.”

 

“Oh yeah, let’s just play next year and let’s just suck again,” Bryant said, sarcastically. “No. Absolutely not. Absolutely not. It’s my job to go out there on the court and perform. No excuses for it. Right? You got to get things done. It’s the same thing with the front office. The same expectations they have of me when I perform on the court is the same expectations I have for them up there. You got to be able to figure out a way to do both.”

It’s clear from Kobe’s comments that he expects the team to do whatever is necessary to get back to an elite level as quick as humanly possible. After all, isn’t that what he’s going to do this summer? He’s going to train and train and train, bringing his body back to as close to peak form as humanly possible at age 36. Kobe Bryant is going to do what he has done for 17 of the last 18 years–he is going to work harder than everyone else to make sure he’s still one of the best in the game.

 

For the Lakers? Their timetable isn’t nearly on the same spectrum.

 
(Read on at Silver Screen & Roll)

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