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.