For a good portion (probably a little too long, if we’re being completely honest) of the summer league in Las Vegas, I and a decent number of guys covering the festivities for SBNation tried to figure out a Lakers rookie. Not D’Angelo Russell. Not Julius Randle – who may as well be a rookie. Not even Anthony Brown, who impressed many that weekend. I wish I was exaggerating. There we were, in Las Vegas, a city literally built to distract people from their jobs, mired in conversation about who a late first-round pick reminds them of.
The rookie in question: Larry Nance, Jr. And the worst part: We never actually found an answer. Ah, to be an NBA nerd.
First, you have to figure out what Nance brings to the table. He’s a power forward in a large small forward’s body. He is decently skilled offensively but who hopes to earn his way through hustle, rebounding and defense. He doesn’t have three-point range and it’s hard to really envision him developing that aspect of his game with his shooting form. If that is the case, it’s hard to consider Nance a modern-day, NBA wing.
In many ways, he’s what a player from the 90’s and early 2000’s would look like if dropped into today’s NBA.
Yes, Nance has the physical tools guys like Trevor Ariza, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or even Al-Farouq Aminu (probably Nance’s closest modern comp), but as of right now, he lacks their skill defensively. Offensively, he has a little more to offer than those guys early in their careers, but not enough to make up for the considerable gap on the other side of the ball.
If Nance is more of a throwback player, who might he be?
As mentioned earlier, the 90s focused much more on plays at the rim, either by way of drives or back-to-the-basket post plays. Nance might have enjoyed some success in college with both kinds of plays, but again, the defense, size and athleticism pales in comparison to what he’ll see this season. Chances are, he’ll have to rely much more on midrange scoring via spot up jumpers as defenses rotate from helping on other threats the Lakers have on the court. So, who from that era entered the season a fairly-finished product, could defend multiple positions and scored sparingly in the midrange and any way his teams needed?
Credit again to Darius, but the Lakers actually previously employed Nance’s perfect comp: The Iron Man himself, AC Green. My mom will be absolutely stoked.
Green – also a four-year college player – flourished in the open court on the receiving end of Magic Johnson’s no-look passes early in his (Green’s) career and most of his points in the half-court came by way of hustle plays. Green never needed to develop a long-range shot because much of the era he played in never really demanded it. His set shot didn’t exactly lend itself to that range, either, but he was able to develop a consistent 18-20-foot jumper to provide some spacing before the league implemented the defensive three second in the key call. Green was able to play so many games in a row and for so many teams because of his health (obviously) and versatility.
Nance brings much of that to the table. Like Green, Nance understands his role and what will keep him on the court. Nance actually hit the shot I mentioned above fairly consistently in college. Oddly enough, I don’t recall him making very many of that shot during the summer league, but that can be attributed to several aspects of playing against NBA-quality defense. Your window to shoot is much smaller and as such, the tendency is to rush the shot, which won’t lend itself to much success. One can imagine as he gets more comfortable at this level, his consistency should return to form, or close to it.
Unlike Green, though, the league Nance plays in will probably demand that he develops at least a decent mid-to-long range shot. Byron Scott may utter quote after quote about how he feels about threes and championships, but I’m sure he or any other coach would welcome the corner three should Nance add that to his game.
The issue with comps is that people tend to take them a little too seriously. When Chad Ford compared Joel Embiid to Hakeem Olajuwon, he was setting the former up for failure. Embiid was never going to fill those shoes properly (no pun intended, I swear). So, in no way am I saying Nance will come anywhere near Green’s incredible games-played streak.
For now, though, let’s take the bar we set for what it is, and enjoy where these conversations take us. I mean, I found an AC Green highlight mix. Hello, childhood.
Craig W. says
Actually I did mention that he filled an A.C. Green role on today’s Lakers in an earlier thread. Where I think both he and A. Brown will surprise people over the next two years is with their wingspan. They can guard larger players than expected and have a lower center of gravity. They both should be able to successfully guard the perimeter, thus driving down opponent’s 3pt percentage.
As an aside, these types of players don’t tend to show well in summer league because of the chaotic nature of the game and lack of familiarity with teammates. For the same reason, Russell’s skills don’t translate to summer league very well.
Anthony: Nice post – Love the AC reference. I will leave it there as my views on Nance are known, and I knew exactly who he was on draft night : )
Myles: It’s all good. Glad you are writing for the site. Perhaps you might allow me to form an alternate opinion. On some things : )
In the recent FO thread, I mentioned that Nance strikes me as the kind of guy you take at 27 if you have a strong roster–like the Lakers did when they took AC Green. So we will see. Normally, there is not much pressure on a team to score with the 27th pick, but given where Nance was on most boards, and some of the guys they didn’t take, I think it is important that Nance shows that he was the right pick.
Golden State has picked up Jason Thompson for Gerald Wallace.
‘Who is Larry Nance, Jr.?’ Is the Jeaprody answer to the following question: ‘The player the Lakers took in the 2015 NBA draft instead of perennial All Star, Kevon Looney, of the Golden State Warriors.’
Baylor Fan says
Looney has an issue with one of his hips and that is why he fell to 30. What would you say if the Lakers did take him and he decided that he needs surgery? What if he decided to play anyway and then needed surgery part way through the season? The gamble makes sense for the Warriors since they do not need him this year and can bring him along slowly to see if he really is okay.
Although George is one of my favorite posters, I agree that it is too early to be bagging on the Nance pick. I think it is fine to go on record as being for/against a draft pick, but we need to see guys play, too. However, I think it is just as easy to argue that the Lakers, who are not going anywhere this year anyway, should have taken a higher upside guy at 27, whether you think that is Looney or someone else.
Ryan P says
So I tend to trust Mitch and the FO with drafting. I did an alliance of the all the draft chooses that Mitch has done since he take over as GM. I looked at total win shares produced and ranked each draft class by them. If the draft pick produced the 9th most win shares and was drafted 10th, then it was plus 1 (Andrew Bynum) or the draft pick never contributed. On average the lakers draft picks have preformed 3 spots better in that time frame. I did not look at the other teams. Maybe when I have more free time I will look at them and do a comparison of all teams and GMs.
So I trust Nance will do about as good if not better than his draft unless he gets hurt.
Ryan P says
Why are my posts always awaiting moderation?
Damn, that sounds like it was a lot of work. Kudos.
Would have liked to have seen more of Nance Jr. in the Summer League, but from what I did see, I was impressed with his energy and athleticsm. Sticking with the 90’s theme, based off Jr’s size, body type and said athleticsm, he reminds me of former Knick, and Slam Dunk Champion, Kenny ‘Sky’ Walker. There games are even similar if one was to view there suspect midrange games and lack of ball handling/dribbling ability. They’re, what I would consider to be, ‘Open Court Players’. I’m also of the belief that if Walker played in today’s NBA, he would be a ‘Tweener’. Of course I’m making the comparison on what I remember of Walker and what I’ve seen thus far of Jr. in College/limited SL.
Being that the current roster is so unbalanced – no *real* Small Forwards and too many Power Forwards – it’ll be interesting to see how and where Jr. will accumulate minutes. With converted 2 guards, Kobe and Young, manning the 3 position and with the depth chart of Bass, Randle, Kelly and, to a certain extent, Black, at the 4, I can’t envision Jr. seeing much, if any, light on the floor. Maybe the majority of his growth this season, along with fellow rookies Upshaw and Brown, will take place in the D-League.
J C says
Ryan, love to see your findings posted year-by-year.
I like Nance’s athleticism and hustle.
I think the FO wanted some seniors or older players to balance the roster.
I confess I haven’t even seen Kevin Looney play, which renders my opinion at least 50% worthless, about par for me. Haha
Craig W. says
Welcome to the club.
I too trust Mitch. While I knew nothing about Nance Jr. when he was drafted, I quickly researched him and decided this was a pick I could accept Mitch’s judgment about. 1) Mitch had said, before the draft, there were too many rookies to work with properly. Therefore, I wasn’t too surprised he drafted two seniors with the 2nd & 3rd picks (perhaps lower upside, but also higher downside and more maturity for the NBA). 2) One player was 6’7″ and the other 6’9″ with athleticism (the type of player that is becoming more desirable in today’s NBA), but the thing that jumped out at me was they both had noticeably longer wingspans, allowing them to possibly guard more positions.
Nance had a history with more defensive chops than A. Brown, was apparently quickly climbing the draft board, and possibly could be used to guard every position (if the opponent went ‘small ball’). A. Brown, of course, was drafted to fill a 3 & D slot on the team at a wing position – a glaring need for us.
Craig W. says
Oh yes! 3) Jim Nance Jr. has NBA bloodlines and had gotten decent tutoring from his father. That is not an insignificant thing in today’s NBA.
Excellent point. The bloodlines and the tutoring some players are fortunate enough to receive from their former NBA dads is not insignificant. See: Stephen Curry / Del Curry and Klay Thompson / Mychal Thompson.
Who knows? Maybe this will pay off for our own Larry Nance, Jr.
He may not play much this year, however. But he could get more burn the following year. That’s what I’m thinking. Anyway, let’s hope Larry-Larry pans out.
Sorry, I get a little acerbic, every now and then.
Bottom line, for me, is that Nance’s ceiling is a rotational player and Looney’s is as a solid starter.
Baylor Fan says
I was hoping more that Nance could become the Lakers version of Shawn Marion. With time, he should be able to hit corner three’s and he can work on his defense. He has a good motor and terrific athleticism. The AC Green analogy works for his potential overall effectiveness but I see him as being more athletic and less physical.
Thanks for the column on Nance, he needs to be part of the solution.
Nance Jr. reminds me a bit of his father is his Cavalier days. Nance Sr. used to hit that mid-range jumper with regularity. He definitely has nice offensive rebounding instincts. The way he is built, he could play the small forward spot too. He is rather lean, not heavy or slow.
Nice piece Anthony, & great posts everyone –
When I saw Jr. was chosen the very first thing I thought of was his bloodlines; I imagined he´d gotten some serious tutoring form his talented father; man, the dude was explosive & could sky! & I seem to recall that whenever we faced the Suns, Nance was a player Chick would mention as one the Lakers had to keep their collective eyes on.
I too am of the camp that trusts Mitch when it comes to drafting. Definitely.
I, too, remember Larry Nance, Sr. He was 6-10, very lean, had amazing hops, as was simply a damned good ball player. As I recall, he won (or placed very highly in) one of the slam dunk contests.
So, Larry Nance, Jr. has some very good genes in him. I’m a big believer in bloodlines. We’ve already seen how it works with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Hopefully, Larry-Larry will benefit similarly.
One other note: Nance was the defensive player of the year in his conference last year. I find that very encouraging. Even if he evolves into nothing more than a role player, you always need those guys who can come off a bench, provide energy, and lock someone down.
Could that be Larry Nance, Jr.? Only time will tell. Let’s hope so.
Mid – senior won the first NBA dunk comp in ’84.
Many good comments so far, I’m leveraging some.
The front office clearly had a plan in the draft for the later rounds, toward putting together the 2015 roster. Getting 4-yr players of solid character and maturity (being added to the young core of 19-19-22), athleticism, long arms, commitment to defence, who embrace their respective roles of hustle or D+3. Mitch found two with the #27 and #34. If both pan out as rotational players of an exciting playoff team (probably their ceiling), Mitch will have shown his genius once again. In that positive scenario, we’ll be at 5-6 of the future 8-9 rotation of the team of the future, will enough money to max out two stars while keeping the Bass/LWill type players on too.
I found the AC Green comparisons interesting, and largely correct. My struggle is with LNJr being a pogo stick type player, since he plays a different game, at least visually, than AC. I had not seen his dad play much, but perhaps he is an even better comparison. Mitch does not give into bravado, but there was a tint of it when he replied to a journalist about LNJr, “we’ll see in 3-4 years”.
I will make a bold guess that he’ll be getting real minutes by mid-season, eclipsing Black/Kelly/Sacre and on some matchups/nights, Randle. Nance will be the least likely youngster to hurt the team on the floor, even if he won’t be able to help the team as much as others.
Hibbert/Bass/Randle should have an even minute post distribution in the 28-32mpg and I can see Nance getting 10mpg. Should that happen, one of our two late rounders could be on his way into the rotation after a year. If ABrown gets minutes over Swaggy at the 3, maybe both will.
Nance Jr showed his defensive prowess against Okafor’s team and then disappeared in the succeeding games. Is that the trend of the rookie? I thought he was a good midline jump shooter, how come he could not buy a shot? He looks tense and shy in delivering the ball to the hoop unlike the earlier games. It could be Maddog instruction to pass the ball to the shinning stars like Russell and Randle while he remains in the background. They all got afraid when his name was called by the fans Larry, Larry, Larry. Oh-oh cut! cut! he is supposedly be the minor role player only.
Geoge S. says
I think you will be pleasantly surprised at Nance’s mid-range shooting. He shot a decent percentage from the 3-point range in college but that was not his role on the Wyoming team. He is still growing and I suspect did not back to full strength of due to a bout with mono which caused him to miss several weeks of play and 15 lbs. of weight until after the season ended. One thing I can tell you he is a high character guy on and off the court, I bet even Kobe will love him because he gives great effort and is willing to sacrifice his game for the team.