We all have our biases.
These biases are based off what we value. For some people, Magic Johnson will always be their favorite – and thus the best – Laker ever based off how he played the game. He was a pass first player that always looked to get his teammates involved in order to maximize the team’s chance at winning. He brought a flair to the action that was captivating and his ability to come up big in the big moments was legendary, but it was his style that continues to have fans on his side.
For others, Kobe is the guy they look to as the best player due to his iron will to win and his willingness to do whatever it takes to get his team to the top. It’s not always the most efficient approach, but his skill level is off the charts and his ability to captivate fans while pulling off the (seemingly) impossible inspires a strong devotion. The last second shots, the scoring explosions, the moxie – all of them make Kobe who he is and what make fans kneel at the altar of #24.
But our biases aren’t limited to choosing who we favor in a battle of all time greats. Sometimes, our biases conspire to see all the things that are wrong with current players on the roster in order to argue against why they could be effective the role they’re assigned.
No where is this more true than with the Lakers’ point guards. We’ve gone back and forth on this issue for (what seems like) years, but it’s now more clear than ever that the Lakers need an upgrade at the point if they’re going to contend.
But do they really? To be honest, I’m not so sure.
You see, what the Lakers need is better production from the point, not necessarily better players. For some, these two concepts are inescapably linked but I’d argue that’s not actually the case.
Certainly, last season the Lakers point guards let them down. They missed too many of the open shots they were given and didn’t make the needed plays when they were asked to create for themselves or their mates. Questionable decisions were more frequent than ones that helped the team and the Lakers suffered for it. The result of those failures is that we’re now in almost unanimous agreement that there’s no other answer than to replace those players that let us down.
I’d contend, though, that what the Lakers actually need are for the point guards they have to play to their potential. I know I’ve been seen as a Derek Fisher apologist, but I don’t think last year’s performance is all he can provide to the team. Surely his age and limited (which is being kind) athleticism hurt his ability to improve as much as a younger player with fresher legs, but production is not limited to how fast you can run or how high you can jump. Fisher can make better decisions on when to drive (which should be almost never), when to look for his own shot, and when (and to who) he should be passing to on any given play. He can be more efficient a player by not forcing the action as much; by not taking the offense upon his shoulders more than he should.
Steve Blake can also be a better player than he was last year. Finding his way in the triangle proved to be more difficult than anyone anticipated and being asked to run a more traditional offense should help him be more productive. He should have the opportunity to run more P&R’s in order to create off the dribble while still getting the spot up jumpers that he’s still very capable of knocking down. He won’t be asked to be a slasher nearly as much and limiting his shots off cuts, dives, and hand-offs in and around the paint going into the teeth of the defense should help him be more efficient.
In the end, none of this may end up working out and we’ll all be clamoring for a better player at the point come game 10 of next year (whenever there is a game 10). But I think it’s also very important to understand that the Lakers are still built around a ball dominant shooting guard and a trio of versatile big men. The point guards on this team need to walk the fine line of being confident while deferential to the better players on the roster and opportunistic when their chances do arise. That’s a difficult role to play while still providing the production that the team needs. That said, the current group of players have the skill sets to do just that. And while they actually have to get on the floor and provide that production, we all need to do a better job of seeing past our biases to allow them to try.
At least until the way this roster is constructed changes.