Waiving Hello

Kurt —  July 5, 2005

The latest “what ifs” on possible off-season Laker moves are rounded up in a new piece by Eric Pincus at Hoopsworld. (And as a side note, credit to Eric for stepping up and taking responsibility for rumors he reported that never came to fruition, and saying he learned some lessons. Most jounalists in that position blame their sources or say things just changed at the last minute.)

The article talks about Bynum’s workouts and how he wowed Lakers’ staff, but the most interesting news was about the Lakers looking at picking up other players who might get waived as part of the one-time CBA get-out-of-jail-free cards teams may get.

Rumors are that Jalen Rose, should he be waived, would sign with the Lakers for the lower level exception as the triangle point guard. That could enable the Lakers to sign Theo Ratliff with some or all of the mid level exception if he is available.

Pincus (and, I’m sure others) sees these two as “significant upgrades,” but I’m not as sold on them. Rose, maybe, but I have concerns about Ratliff. Let me explain.

We’ll start with Rose. He is entering his 12th year in the league and last season had a bit of a bounce-back year in Toronto, improving his numbers from the previous years. He had a PER of 16.95 and an eFG% of 50.1%, both big bounces from the previous several years (his PERs were 12.4 and 14.9 the two previous years). He also had a career best 1.12 points per shot attempts. Of his shots, 82% were jumpers from beyond 15 feet, and he shot 47% on those.

But for those that picture him as a tall (6-8) point guard in the Laker triangle, I have a question: What about defense? I don’t know how Rose will perform against point guards because last season he spent 54% of his minutes guarding the opposing three and virtually none against point guards. Two years ago he covered some points and had a solid opponents PER of 14.5, but the year before that he guarded twos and threes, never a point. How is he going to do against Steve Nash or Barron Davis? Is he at his age really a step up over Chucky Atkins in this regard?

I also have concerns about how much Rose’s numbers will regress next year, but for the lower level exception (about $1.6 million) he could provide some scoring punch. I’m not opposed to getting him, but I wouldn’t expect much.

I’d expect even less from Theo Ratliff. At age 32 this past season his numbers entered their second year of decline and it’s a trend I’d expect to continue (just like Brian Grant’s numbers). Ratliff’s FG% fell from 48.5% to 44.7%, he grabbed just 11% of the available rebounds when he was on the floor, down from the above 13% he had the previous three years, and his PER dropped to a career low of 10.1.

But we’re getting him for defense and blocked shots, you say. Last year he did average a very good 3.7 blocks per 40 minutes, much better than the best Laker last year (Mihm at 2.3 per 40). However, that was the lowest number for Ratliff in seven years. His opponents PER last year was a worse-than-average of 16 against centers and 17.2 against power forwards. The year before, Ratliff was at 15.2, sticking with the theme of his skills declining. Or look at it this way: Last year Ratliff’s defensive rating (the points scored by the person he was guarding per 100 possessions) was 106, right at the league average. The season before it was 101. Last season was Ratliff’s career worst defensively.

Ratliff is another Brian Grant, albeit a much less expensive one. I would love to have the Ratliff of a few years back, but the one playing now is on the downside of his career. The Lakers need a younger, longer-term answer.

Kurt

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