Whither Webber?

Kurt —  January 12, 2007

It’s been the hot topic in the comments, but I wanted to wait until there was proven interest from the club before really delving into it. Apparently the Laker front office is interested.

The Times reported that the Lakers are one of five teams on Webber’s short list, according to his agent. Last night David Aldridge (who broke the Iverson trade story) said on the TNT broadcast the Pistons were a done deal, but then Webber himself said no deal was set.

First, lets look at the money and the roster spot. If the Lakers buy-out McKie, nobody weeps. The Lakers can offer Webber $1,178,348 according to Eric Pincus, the same amount as the Pistons. Big money offers will not be rolling in for Webber and what’s left of his knees, but my guess is someone else will offer more; Miami has its full mid-level exemption left to offer.

The bigger question, how well does Webber fit in with these Lakers?

First, how important is playing time to Webber? Because in LA he would be coming off the bench, one of the backups for Lamar Odom. That’s a crowded spot of guys who can hit the jumper, with Radmanovic and Cook getting time as well. If playing time is a priority for Webber, I doubt he’ll be a Laker.

On the floor, it’s pretty easy to picture Webber in the high post of the triangle, making smart passes to cutters and hitting the 15-foot jumper, generally being a good fit with the offense. And he is still a good passer — 18.1% of his possessions end in an assist (only Luke, Odom and Farmar have a higher percentage on the Lakers). And he can still grab rebounds, with the Sixers he grabbed 16.5% of the available boards (only Bynum at 17.6% is higher on the Lakers).

But Webber’s shot is fading — he’s shooting just 38.7% (eFG%) overall this season and 28.5% from the outside. For comparison, Radmanovic is has been off his game and is shooting 47.9%.

Then there is his defense, which is not good — opposing fours have a PER pf 17.9 and shoot 51.5% against him. Of course, those numbers are basically identical to Cook’s, and as Webber spent much of the season as a starter he likely faced a little stiffer competition. Surprisingly, Radmanovic is a little better than both of them on the season against fours (PER of 15.9, close to the league average, and opponents shoot 49.7%).

Bottom line for me — right now with all the injuries Webber sounds like a panacea, a guy who can give the team a boost. But how does he fit in longer-term with this team? Odom will be back in the next couple weeks, Kwame next month. Webber would be fighting for minutes in a crowded position, fighting with guys who are younger and, in the case of Radman, is just starting to figure out the offense.

I don’t think signing Webber is a bad move, but it’s a short-term answer. And I think if the Lakers are making moves it should be for the longer term, guys who will still be players in three years.