Point Guards and Other Thoughts

Kurt —  August 1, 2005

Tuesday the ban is lifted and NBA trades and free agent signings can become official — including the Kwame deal (Kwame and Laron Profit for Caron Butler and Chucky Atkins). The salary cap will go up to $49.5 million, the luxury tax threshold will be just over $61 million (and will become lower next year according to Dan Rosenbaum) and the mid level exception will be $5 million.

What’s troublesome is the day has come and the Lakers still do not have a point guard in the fold. There are countless rumors out there, all discussed in Eric Pincus’ latest piece at Hoopsworld.

The big one: Jason Williams coming to the Lakers. This one might surprise you — I don’t hate the idea of “white chocolate” in a Laker uniform. I can see why Pat Riley and others also may want him. Yes, he is seriously overpaid (nearly $8 million next season) and his contract runs for three years (the Lakers wouldn’t offer Antonio Daniels three years but would take on Williams for three?). He’s not a long-term answer but not a horrible short-term fix if — and here’s the big part — if you can get him to play a smaller role in his team’s offense.

For the record, his +/- per 48 minutes last year was -0.9, or almost neutral. He’s a decent shooter — his eFG% was 49.6% last year (the same as Lamar Odom’s) and he shot 32.4% from three-point range (not far off his career average). He averaged 14.7 points, 8.2 assists and 2.7 turnovers per 40 minutes played last season. His defense is slightly worse than average — opponents shot 47.7% against him, scored 107 points per 100 shot attempts (the league average was 106), and the opponents PER was 16.2. (For comparison, last season Chucky Atkins allowed opponents to shoot 49.6%, gave up 115 per 100 attempts and gave up a PER of 19.1).

Last season, Williams took 20% of his team’s shots when he was on the floor (which is the average, five players each taking 20%). The Lakers are not going to want him to shoot that much (maybe 16-17%), and with most players when the amount they shoot goes down, their efficiency goes up (they take better shots). If — I think there may be a lot of “ifs” for the Lakers next season — Williams would not chafe against the point guard role in the triangle (read: Gary Payton) then he could be a decent solution in the short term. He’s not the defensive stopper the Lakers need at the point, but he’s better than the person currently in that position. (And while four inches shorter, about equal on offense and maybe a better defender than Derek Anderson, if Portland cuts him, although Anderson would be cheaper.)

Whoever starts at the one, Pincus said it appears Tyrone Lue will be the back up point. I’ve discussed him before, don’t love him but as a cheep back up then I’d live with him.

But if you bring in a new starting point and a back-up in Lue, then what about Sasha? After watching how he was used in the Summer Pro League, I still think he will get a chance to be Kobe’s backup. If he fails in that role then maybe Luke Walton gets his minutes, but I think that Sasha is becoming a two in the Lakers’ eyes.

Some other notes and thoughts:

• Pincus also said it appears the Lakers will waive Brian Grant as part of the Amnesty/Allan Houston rule. My only concern is this — if Grant is gone and Vlade retires, who backs up Kwame and Chris Mihm in the frontcourt? (I assume the Lakers move Odom to the three and both Kwame and Mihm start, maybe Phil has something else in mind.)

• One more note, directed to Eric Pincus — good luck to you and your wife. In a couple of months you’ll have mostly forgotten about how hard the process of giving birth can be and just be happy you have a healthy, happy child. (And if you don’t have TiVo, get it — I taped a lot of Laker games and other stuff to watch when I was up at 3 a.m. with my crying daughter.)

• The Laker pre-season schedule is out. Now, all I have to do is find a way to get to Hawaii in October.

• Is Larry Brown still the Knicks coach or has he moved on to a new job yet?

• If you are not reading Dan Rosenbaum’s new NBA blog you are missing some of the best NBA writing anywhere.

Kurt

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