Looking Ahead: Friday Performers

Darius Soriano —  October 31, 2013

Yesterday we introduced you to Draftstreet and told you about the great offer to join a free fantasy basketball game this Friday that FB&G is partnering with them to provide you. If you haven’t already, join now and have a chance to win a cash prize with no commitment besides a few minutes of your time while playing GM of your own team. So, in looking ahead to Friday’s game, here are some thoughts on some Lakers’ players, based off their performance from the first two games of the year while taking into account their match up against the Spurs. (Note: the $ value for each player is related to their cost in the Draftstreet league with a $100K salary cap, so we’ll also touch on that aspect as well.)

Steve Nash ($10,840): Nash missed Wednesday’s game against the Warriors for the purpose of resting, but that doesn’t tell the entire story for his absence. After all, he didn’t play heavy minutes in Tuesday’s opener against the Clippers. Nash is a bit banged up with a sore neck and some other, undisclosed physical ailments (it’s been hinted at that he may have a sore hip and/or ankle), so there are injury concerns for him coming into this game. Plus, Nash hasn’t looked physically right going back to the preseason and hasn’t exactly looked like he’s ready to contribute at a high level. At this point, I’m not expecting much from Nash in terms of statistical production and his value to the Lakers is more in the form of his stability as a floor general and ability to capably run the offense. He can still put up good numbers in terms of assists and is a viable threat from behind the arc, but I also expect his minutes to be limited to around or less than 25. In other words, buyer beware.

Pau Gasol ( $15,785): Gasol has had two pretty good outings to start the year. He’s played well offensively, scoring from all over the court working some from the post against the Clippers while flashing his ability to hit mid-range jumpers against both the Clips and the Warriors. He’s also done well on the glass, especially defensively against live bodies who can attack the boards well. Against the Spurs, I expect these trends to continue whether he’s defended by Tim Duncan or Tiago Splitter. Pau can score relatively well against either player, though I anticipate him doing better work against Splitter who can try to work both from the low and mid post or from mid-range with his jumper. Where I’d like to see the Lakers be better is in getting Pau more touches from the left block where he’s a dual threat to either score or pass the ball out to shooters or cutters. Pau should be able to get anywhere from three to five assists a night, but he must be put into positions where he’s a scoring threat in order to draw extra attention from the defense. As much as he can score from 18 to 20 feet, defenses will let him shoot from out there without showing him much pressure. Overall, I think he can continue to be a double-double threat while shooting around 50%.

Nick Young ($7,860): Young has been a disappointment through two games. He’s taking the same “Nick Young” style shots, but hasn’t been hitting them at a good enough rate to earn much trust so far as a viable scoring threat. Part of that is facing off against Andre Iguodala in the last game, but part of it is also due to the fact that he’s not attacking off the dribble and is settling for too many long jumpers. Against the Spurs his life won’t get much easier as he faces off against Kawhi Leonard who also offers top level defense on the wing. Unless Young can start to get to the rim more where he can either draw fouls or get higher percentage shots, it’s going to be tough for him to play at a respectable efficiency level. He was able to do these things during the preseason, but they’ve been absent from his game since the games started to count.

Jordan Farmar ($5,970): Farmar had a rough game against the Warriors, but was splendid against the Clippers so he’s a player to continue to keep an eye on. He’s shown good patience in these first two games of balancing his roles as a scorer and playmaker and I expect that to continue against the Spurs and over the course of the season. With Nash nicked up, Farmar is also the player who will earn the bulk of the point guard minutes leading the second unit – a group that will look to push the pace and get out into the open court to produce easier baskets. I’ve also liked what I’ve seen from Farmar in the P&R, as he’s been good at getting into the paint when the defense pressures him or stepping back and shooting his improved jumper when the defense sags. All in all, I really like his prospects moving forward of gaining even more minutes.

Xavier Henry ($3,500): Henry’s solid play from the preseason has carried over the regular season, earning him a solid spot in the rotation. He’s playing a lot of small forward next to Jodie Meeks and his slashing, attack oriented style is a good fit on a second unit that is trying to succeed through pushing the pace and playing a more chaotic style. Henry isn’t much of a playmaker for others and that can be a bit of a concern long term as defenses start to play him only as a scorer rather than a dual threat. That said, he’s finding ways to get to the rim and either score or earn free throw attempts and that has value to this team. If he can find a way to shoot a respectable percentage on jumpshots, it will only help him get to the rim more but he’s going to have to show consistency at that for some time before defenses truly respect him. Against the Spurs’ team that shows good discipline and help schemes defensively, it remains to be seen if his tunnel vision drives to the rim will be as successful as they were against the Clippers, but if he can draw more fouls than ones he commits, his aggression will still pay off.

At this point in the year, we haven’t seen enough to know if the inconsistencies from most of the plays on the roster are just a small sample, related to the back to back start to the year, or part of their profile for the coming year. But we are starting to see roles developing and it’s interesting to see how guys who might have been pegged for a certain amount of success are playing relative to those initial expectations. The Spurs game should give us even more insight as they’re the third straight playoff caliber team the Lakers face to start the year. There is no rest for the weary, it seems.

Darius Soriano

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