In the annals of NBA history, no franchise has more persistently, or more successfully, taken a Babe Ruthian approach to personnel decisions than the Lakers. Sure, Mikan, West, Baylor, Goodrich, Magic, Worthy, Cooper, A.C. Green and, for all intents and purposes, Byron Scott and Kobe Bryant, head a mind-blowing assembly of talent for whom every meaningful NBA moment has unfolded in Laker garb, but every era of Laker glory has hinged upon management’s ability to swing for the fences.
In 1968, with Elgin Baylor and Jerry West approaching their still-ringless twilights, the most dominant big man in NBA history was added to the mix. Three conference titles and Los Angeles’ first banner later, and the legendary trio having departed the Association, the Lakers’ brass once again took to the market and returned with, get this, the NBA’s most dominant big man. Despite kicking off with a few (by Lakers standards) lean years, it’s probably fair to state that Kareem’s tenure in forum blue and gold was a relative success. In the 90s, what ought to have been a smooth transition out of Showtime and into Magic Johnson’s twilight was preempted, when the HIV virus forced the GLoAT from the game. A few more “lean” years (the worst of times still saw the Lakers nearly become the first #8 seed to upset a #1, the selections of Nick Van Exel and Eddie Jones and a playoff series victory over Payton-Kemp Sonics), and…
Blah, blah, blah, most dominant big man of his (and perhaps all-) time, yeah, yeah.
ALL of that, and there is a case to be made that last summer’s (Seriously. How. The. Hell. has it not even been a year?) additions of Steve Nash and (at least at the time) the NBA’s most dominant big man represented the most euphoric offseason Lakerland has ever seen.
Amid competing tidal waves of upheaval, in-fighting and injury, the 2012-13 Lakers found themselves adrift. Unlike its splashy predecessors throughout franchise history, last season neither achieved the instant success for which they’d been united, nor did it feel like a unpleasant-yet-constructive element of a broader process.
From Jordan Hill starting the season on the shelf, to Steve Nash suffering a broken leg midway through the season’s second outing, to Mike Brown’s ouster just three and a half games later, to the bizarre non-courtship of Phil Jackson that delivered Mike D’Antoni, to R.I.P. Dr. Buss, to Dwight Howard valiantly battling through serious injury – though not without frequently looking disengaged – to Pau’s planar fascia, to this generation’s touchstone both enjoying one of the best campaigns of an utterly brilliant career and suffering the most debilitating of his myriad injuries, to Andrew Goulock, Playoff Catalyst, to Dwight’s Game 4 walk of shame, 2012-13 for the Lakers was a riddle, inside an enigma, wrapped in a conundrum, floating in a heaping bowl of suck.
Given the transactional machinations through which this iteration of the Lakers was assembled and the drastically more punitive financial guidelines within which the organization must operate, these days the Laker Way has been placed on hold. With a shade over $78 million committed to nine players for 2013-14 – two of those players are Chris Duhon and Robert Sacre, none of them are Dwight Howard – virtually no cap flexibility, few (any?) trade chips of value, no first-round draft pick and a brutal “repeater tax” (a $3-for-every-$1 tax on teams whose payrolls exceed the league’s luxury tax threshold three times in four years) looming on the horizon and a desperate need for young talent, and the 48th overall pick in Thursday’s draft as their only means to upgrade the roster, the Lakers, more so than at any time in their history, will be looking to simply reach base.
On second thought, forget reaching base! Even at #48, home runs are there to be hit. The Lakers, the aging, hamstrung and shorthanded Lakers, will do quite well to take pause before desecrating another second rounder with the likes of Chukwudiebere Maduabum, Ater Majok, Cheikh Samb or Sun Yue, and consider the extent to which the bottom third of the draft has impacted the NBA in recent years:
- 2003: Zaza Pachulia, James Jones, Mo Williams and Kyle Korver all go between picks 42 and 51
- 2005: Not only is Monta Ellis selected #40 overall, picks #45-60 yield Lou Williams (45), Andray Blatche (49) Amir Johnson (56) and Marcin Gortat (57)
- 2006: Paul Millsap is nabbed at #47
- 2007: Ramon Sessions is drafted #56 overall and, sitting in the identical position in which they will find themselves on Thursday, Lakers selected Marc Gasol
- 2008: Goran Dragic is selected #45 overall
- 2009: The eight selections between #39 and #46 yield Jonas Jerebko, Jodie Meeks, Patrick Beverley (by the Lakers!), Marcus Thornton, Chase Budinger and Danny Green
- 2011: Chandler Parsons is selected at #38, and Isaiah Thomas slips to the 60th and final pick
- All that, and not a word about Michael Redd falling to #40 in 2000, and Luis Scola and Manu Ginobili lasting until after TNT’s last commercial break in 2002 and 1999, respectively.
Some 2013 options, perhaps?
Bojan Dubljevic – This guy smacks of a low-risk Andrea Bargnani. An intelligent Euro big who thrives in the pick and roll, can shoot (47.4% 3-point percentage in the Spanish League), doesn’t turn 22 until late October, apparently has a great attitude and is deemed to be very coachable.
Revives Steve Nash
Though neither particularly fast nor athletic, and a subpar rebounder for a someone standing 6’9”, 235, Dubljevic is at the very least capable in the post, and possesses the physical and mental tools necessary to carve out a niche in the NBA.
Carrick Felix – Felix improved markedly in his time at Arizona State (14.6 points and 8.1 rebounds per game as a senior, v. 10.5 and 4.0 in similar minutes as a junior), registering 13 double-doubles (the only ones of his college career) and, after barely hitting one out of every five 3-pointers he attempted as a sophomore, raised his percentage to 31.4% and 37.4% the past two years. Additionally, the All-Pac 12 defender is a workhorse (32.9 minutes per game as a junior, 35.3 as a senior), has got NBA size (6’6”, 203), is a ball hawk (50 steals as a senior) and sufficiently athletic to defend either the 2 or the 3. Hurting his stock are questions about his ceiling (he’s almost 23) and an inability to create offensively, though if he’s successful in impacting both ends of the floor in NBA anywhere near as much as he did in college, no one will regret burning a #2 on this guy. Strikes me as a bargain bin Battier.
Archie Goodwin – If there is a fence to be swung for, it may be right here. Goodwin is a good-sized wing (6’5”, 189 and, DRAFT ALERT, a 6’10” wingspan) with fantastic quickness and ball-handling, as well as the ability finish at the cup. He’s been a solid defender thus far in his development, and has the physical tools to become a stopper in the NBA. As one might imagine, however, young Mr. Goodwin is accompanied by some significant question marks as he enters the league: his shooting motion is neither fluid nor consistent, a 64% free throw percentage is subpar for a guy who’ll earn his early NBA paychecks attacking the paint, he can’t hit the 3-ball (26.6% in his one season at Kentucky), he’s got to learn how to play off of the ball and his affinity for hero ball led Coach Cal to declare “I can’t coach you.”
Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the theater?
Thing is, this is pick #48. This guy entered his freshman season at Kentucky as a presumed one-and-done lottery pick. Had he stuck around Lexington another year, there’s a decent chance he’d have made it as a soph. Again, this is pick #48. Not a lot of John Calipari-recruited sub-drinking-age talent ‘round these parts.
Whether any of the above trio is a viable option come the Lakers’ selection remains to be seen. Whether any of the above trio is a viable option for the NBA team that secures his services also remains to be seen. There is, however, a case (however optimistic) to be made for these and numerous other underappreciated newcomers, because if recent drafts have taught us anything, it’s that, well, it’s going to be someone.
What about Alex Abrines? I also like Lucas Nogueira, but a 7 footer is not lasting that late in the draft.
P. Ami says
I like that Goodwin idea. Length, athleticism and youth are traits the Lakers NEED. It’s always talked about how shooting is the last skill to leave a player. It’s may also be the most teachable skill. Plus, we Lakers fans know a little something about a guy who may be a little too confident in his heroism then we might like him to be.
Have little hope that low in the draft, especially with how D’Antoni uses his players. Remember he really didn’t ‘discover’ Lin until he was forced to.
P. Ami says
Seems DraftXpress has us taking Deshaun Thomas. Any thoughts?
Warren Wee Lim says
At this point where even the #1 overall is of no guarantee, its pointless to assess “options” this late. Be prepared with names you like and just go from there.
Thats if there are no draft day deals for us.
Like I said earlier, with teams trying to pawn off their 20s picks to avoid the guaranteed 4-year rookie contract, it would seem that one of those picks could be had at a bargain. I’d love to see us move up to grab Reggie Bullock if possible. I think he’ll be an excellent 6th man if used correctly, with a team running him off screens and using his movement and shooting ability to shift defenses like an Anakin Korver or Allen.
Tony Snell might be a reach in the 1st round, but if we moved up to an earlier 2nd round pick, he’d be worth taking a shot at. I was big on him because of his shooting and length/frame, but the thing that bothers me – and that separates him from a Kawhi, for example – is his apparent absence of a motor. But in the 2nd round, a good value pick. And the fact that he’s a dead-eye shooter with the frame and instincts to become a good defender makes him an excellent alternative to Bullock. These 3-and-D guys aren’t as easy to find as people think, and are desperately needed on this Lakers team.
The Other Stephen also mentioned James Ennis, who’s another guy I like at 48. I don’t think he’ll end up panning out as an NBA player, but he at least has the physical tools and the potential, and that’s all you can ask for at the end of the 2nd round. I don’t know much about Felix at all.
I didn’t watch a ton of Baylor last year. Anyone have thoughts on Pierre Jackson? I’m a little surprised at how – with the game so perimeter oriented and tilted to favor athletic, speedy little guards – at how Jackson seems to be flying under the radar. I loved him 2 years ago when I saw a lot more of Baylor. I think he’ll be an excellent sparkplug off the bench. DraftExpress has him at 30 which seems appropriate; NBADraft’s board has him way too low in my opinion.
Warren Wee Lim says
Alvin Gentry is headed to LA. Just a matter of which.
I hope he chooses us. The offensive abilities of MDA + him combined make it a very good team. Add in Nate McMillan perhaps? Now that would be just amazing.
we are competing with the clippers with a real possibility of losing. not in my lifetime, i once thought.
Harold: I remember the Clips finishing ahead of the Lakers a couple of seasons in the early 90’s – coincidentally a decade where the Lakers did not see an NBA final – but look at the next decade to see just how this franchise bounced back.
Like it or not, the new CBA (and likely, CBAs to come) is aimed at “parity” and with “parity” one would assume we will see a more competitive field of teams vying for a top stop. The Clips are doing very well right now. Some of it is luck (Griffin) and some of it is a change in the way they do business (i.e. paying players max deals and allowing Rivers to have a say in bb operations).
Even if the Clips win a title in the next year or two, that will not erase a 40+ year history of failures, just like one bad decade in the 90s did not erase the Laker reputation. It would take a catastrophic fall for the Lakers legacy to be erased, much like it would take a lot of back-to-back-to-back conference final appearances for the Clips to be considered “winners” by most basketball fans.
I for one welcome a challenge by the Clips. It puts pressure on the Laker FO to make changes that will maintain this team as one of the greatest sport franchises in the world. It also forces the Lakers to think outside of the box.
I do not know what the future will bring, but I have faith in Mitch, Jeannie, Jim and Kobe, all proven winners – even if they have each made mistakes in the past [well, except for Jeannie – she’s an angel 🙂 ].
Warren – I’m still debating whether Alvin Gentry is a good thing (if it means better defense) or a bad thing (if it means more of a “run and gun” style that this old team is not built for). What are your thoughts as to how he could help out D’Antoni?
As far as Nate McMillan, I agree that would be a great add if he’s willing to take an assistant position. I like him because he has experience as an assistant to Coach K with the US National Team, and since that means he worked with Mike D in the FIBA 2006 Worlds, hopefully there is some trust/synergies that could help this team. I know he ended up being fired in Portland, but I think he did well for them given their roster during those years. The big issue here is whether he is open to taking a step back in salary and responsibility and take a an assistant role.
Anyway, all of this talk makes you wish we kept Bickerstaff, doesn’t it?
If we got goodwin it would be a steal – the kid is only 19 as well so his upside is tremendous
D,Antoni/Gentry/Old Nash: Well the Suns would not be my first choice of teams to model after. How did that work out for them?
Coaches: Basically, there has been a bunch of available talent this year. Every time someone is hired – there is less talent. It appears we are going to go with MD, and he will hire his bench coaches from the pool of guys who do not win head coaching jobs (in other words – the left overs). This is not getting me excited and certainly will not excite DH. The Clippers turned thier whole org upside down to appease Chris Paul. We have not.
MannyP: ” I have faith in Mitch, Jeannie, Jim and Kobe” I notice you left someone off the list. Intentional? : )
Chris J says
MannyP — You forgot the Lakers were on the receiving end of Jordan’s first title in 1991, the Showtime era’s final Finals appearance before that sad November day that fall.
And while I support your point that it would take a lot for the Lakers’ legacy to be erased, we’re not trying to live on legacy here — fans would still like to win in the present (and future) too. The Clippers have, since 1999 when they got a decent arena, been a sleeping giant held back by one of the worst owners pro sports has ever seen.
Thanks to Stern and his league-altering Veto, the Clippers are now relevant despite the Donald, and going forward we can’t assume the Lakers will regain their superiority based on past merit. It took action to bounce back before, and it will take appropriate action to do that again. What’s discouraging so far is there isn’t the old West/Buss consensus that will guide the organization’s next steps, which is why the natives are more restless than usual in Lakerland.
Darius Soriano says
We get it. You want D’Antoni fired. It’d be nice if we didn’t read about it in every single thread. And that’s not just me talking considering the emails I’ve been getting on the subject.
Chris- My point was that we cant analyze where we are headed in the vacuum of a single year or even two year. I imagine that in 1995, people had the same issues we are bringing up now with regards to where the franchise is heading. Some folks were probably were calling for Dr Buss to sell the team back then. We certainly can’t rely only on legacy and assume everything is going to be great in the future, but we also can’t assume that this team will never see better days until we re-hire Phil Jackson or Jim Buss steps aside.
We need to realize we have limited options next year for player moves and our options going forward will be determined in large part on whether Dwight decides to come back (and what his demands are) and get in the mind set that it may take 2 or 3 more years to right this ship. I know. It sucks, but its the reality.
Hi Robert: I did not include Mike D for the same reason I did not include Gasol and Dwight: I do not view any of them as a certainty in the Laker’s long term plans. Mike D will be gone if he does not produce next year (or sooner, if we believe the unconfirmed rumors we all hear) and, at any rate, outside of Pop or Sloan, coaches come and go in the NBA nowadays. Dwight may or may not re-sign. Gasol may also stay or go. Who knows.
I included Kobe in the list because I have a feeling this kid will remain involved in the organization many years after his playing days are over (Kobe would make a great FO guy) and still has a lot of playing days (and hopefully championships) left in the tank.
JustinVerrier Justin Verrier
Lakers pick up Jodie Meeks’ option for next season, team announces.
Good posts. However, I think unless MDA gets the axe in the next couple of weeks, he will get more time than just next year.
As far as coaches, Hollins is still out there, and has said that he would be willing to work as an asst.
Good post. I have said many times that we need to remember that Jim Buss is not his dad, and that Ronnie Lester and many old scouts are gone, as well as of course The Logo, so it is therefore unwise to assume that this group will succeed since the Lakers have always succeeded. Those in the FO now are a different group of people, and they are dealing with an enivronment that is both new and complex.
Gentry to join the Clippers instead of us. That was the battle I was alluding to… and we lost.
Chris J says
Coaches picking the Clippers over the Lakers? Damn, that’s just sad.
And love or hate Howard, the fact that the Lakers beleive they need to erect billboards asking him to stay just reeks of desperation. That’s like Kate Upton or Mila Kunis wearing a T-shirt that says “I need a date” — never thought I would see the day the Lakers had to beg a player to sign on.
And MannyP — totally agree there is no quick fix. Next season could be awful depending upon how the waves break.
With regard to Archie Goodwin, I think (and hope) that the Lakers will pass on him. He’s athletic and has excellent length but his shooting mechanics are askew. It may take him years to iron out his stroke. If the Lakers want someone who can contribute right away, they may have to draft someone who has greater maturity and has played in the college ranks for at least 3 years.
I suspect that the Lakers might even go for a small forward who can defend the perimeter and spell MWP. Candidates that come to mind are Robert Covington, 6-7, 209 from Tennessee State and an outstanding rebounder (8 rpg each of his last 3 years) and a good scorer (17 ppg), Carrick Felix, 6-6, 203 out of Arizona State who’s improved each of his last 2 years in college by leaps and bounds and is a ferocious on-ball defender (he could be a sleeper), or Solomon Hill, 6-7, 226 out of Arizona (and a Los Angeles native). Hill is less athletic than the other 2, less of a high-fly act, but more polished, less mistake prone, and more mature. He could actually come in and contribute right away. He’s an excellent rebounder, a fine passer, a good slasher, and shot 38% from deep last year.
But these things are difficult to predict. We shall see.