If signing Steve Nash was the first signal of the changes that might occur in the Los Angeles Lakers offense next season, the speculation about the addition of Leandro Barbosa, who was Nash’s backup point guard during the Phoenix Suns best seasons in the previous decade, throws even further in the evolution and reconstruction of the Lakers offense.
Last year, the Lakers were 10th in the NBA in offensive efficiency, scoring 103.3 points per 100 possessions. A bigger problem was the pace of the games, averaging 92.9 possessions per game, ranked 20th in the NBA. Only the Chicago Bulls were ranked below them among title contenders (before the playoffs began, obviously), but the Bulls rely heavily on their defense getting stops, like the Lakers did last year. Both the Thunder and the Spurs out West played quicker and more efficient basketball last season, leading the NBA in that category.
This year, it’s going to be different. Kobe Bryant is still calling the shots, so it won’t be run & gun basketball like it was with the Phoenix Suns up until three-four years ago or the way the Denver Nuggets are doing right now. Still, this is going to be faster basketball, with hopefully less isolation moves and hogging the ball in the post. Pau Gasol isn’t Andrew Bynum. He knows how to move the ball well, and hopefully Dwight Howard will adapt quickly. He’s used to kicking out the ball quickly to three point shooters, although he’ll have to become much more of a pick n’ roll player to make the offense run at its best.
Throwing someone like Leandro Barbosa into the mix is just pushing the change even further. Problem is the money. Barbosa made $7.6 million last season, the final year of his contract, playing half a season for the Indiana Pacers, arriving from the Toronto Raptors via trade. No one will pay him that kind of money next year, although he has said he’ll be willing to accept a veterans minimum to sign for a contender. The Lakers, at the moment, don’t even have that in their cap space to give him.
Barbosa is mayhem kind of basketball, but it fits with the philosophy of running a much quicker game. Not a lot of set moves, but a lot of pick n’ rolls and quick penetrations with balls pushed out to shooters. Doesn’t exactly fit Mike Brown basketball up to this point in his coaching career, but no one really believes he’s the one calling the shots about, well, a lot of things going on with the Lakers. If Bryant is happy that Nash is on board, knowing full well that means handing over control of the ball for the majority of possessions, than everyone will simply join along for a fast and rocky ride.
Barbosa averaged 8.9 points in 22 games for the Pacers last season, averaging 19.8 minutes a night. He scored only 5.7 per game, playing the same amount of time each night, during the postseason.