What you see here is a venn diagram. It is a simple thing you are likely familiar with. You probably used these in elementary school to learn about all types of things.
If you’re not familiar, well, each circle represents a quality and the overlapping portions of those circles means whatever person/place/thing you’re applying the diagram to has more than one of those qualities. The sweet spot is that small triangle looking part in the middle where all three circles overlap.
Got it? Good.
Now, the venn diagram above represents player traits I think are important for any player the Lakers acquire moving forward. Again, this is pretty straight forward, but if you have questions about this, here’s why:
Shooting: Shooting creates spacing which creates more distance for defenses to travel which opens up how a team can play offense and how easily they are defended. Shooting doesn’t just mean creating a math problem for your opponent (3 > 2), but creates logistical problems. How many times can you recover from the paint to the three point line effectively? How easily can you close out without giving up dribble drives against that close out? How disciplined can you be when covering screen actions run for a really good shooter? The answer to these questions is often “not very” over the course of a full game when you’re dealing with a team that has a bunch of really good shooters. Right now, the Lakers are not one of those teams. I would like that to change.
Passing: A talented passer not only delivers passes to an open teammate, he actually passes a teammate open. If you don’t understand the difference, watch a handful of Warriors possessions when Draymond Green or David West is operating at the elbow while Klay Thompson/Steph Curry/Kevin Durant set screens for each other. Also, talented passers operate as natural ball movers — they see the game a beat ahead and, due to this, rarely have the ball stick with them. The Lakers currently have very few players like this. Russell and Ingram stand out, here. Nance is good. Randle shows potential in this area, but his instincts often leave him holding the ball as he explores for an opportunity for himself first. Zubac shows good instincts here, but is an unknown. And..that’s it. The Lakers need more passing. Especially with Luke Walton as their head coach.
Defense: The Lakers are terrible at defense. Defense is half the game. They need more and better defensive players. I’d say more, but it’s really not more complicated than this.
Moving forward, then, I think it’s wise to look at every player the Lakers are even considering through the prism of how they might fit into the diagram above. Ideally, you want a player who is in that sweet spot, even if they don’t do those things at more than a “role player” level. I mean, when the Lakers were winning championships in the early 2000’s, guys like Rick Fox and Robert Horry were only “role players” but they still fit right into that sweet spot of guys who could do all three.
However, if you can’t do all three, that’s fine. Two is still very good and those guys can still be very important contributors. Look at the Warriors and guys like Shaun Livingston or Andre Iguodala. They’re not “shooters” in a traditional sense, but they’re very good/great defenders who are also excellent passers. Even if you only do one of those things well at an elite enough level, you can end up being a contributing player.
And, of course, there is a spectrum within these qualities. In going back to the Iguodala/Livingston examples, the former can hit the open 3 pointer at a good enough level to make defenses pay (on a good day). Livingston doesn’t stretch the floor to the 3 point line, but can hit 16-18 footers and has a strong post game. These skills supplement passing/defense to make a more complete player can contribute to a top team.
So, for the Lakers, I don’t think the diagram should be an end-all, be-all but, rather, more a guide for how they look at players they are interested in. And, considering they lack a lot of guys who check off more than two of those traits (and most of their players don’t hit the “defense” one at all), I hope they do really invest in this trinity of skill sets this summer and beyond.