Adding someone like Nick Young on a minimum salary is a great move for the Los Angeles Lakers, giving them a proven scorer off the bench to sub in for Kobe Bryant, but it still doesn’t take care of the biggest issue they have before them: Finding a small forward to start for them (and another one to come off the bench), and creating some kind of defensive identity for next season.
Young averaged 10.6 points per game last season for the Philadelphia 76ers, coming off the bench most of the time. At his size, there’s a chance he can play at the ‘3’ for some minutes, but that is similar to what Kobe Bryant can do. In any case, for a player that is often overpaid by teams desperate for some scoring, Young getting a minimum salary shows just how much the scenario for certain type of players has changed, for the worse if you’re the NBPA.
In any case, while this brings some backcourt scoring for the bench, and more importantly someone who can put points on the board without someone else creating for him, meaning that both Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant can be off the floor when Young is, it doesn’t take care of the Lakers’ biggest problem last season: Defense.
The Lakers were ranked 21st last season (With Dwight Howard on the floor most of the time) in defensive efficiency, allowing 1.034 points per possession. When it came to stopping the fast break, something a team with old legs struggles to do (and the Lakers, with Gasol, Nash, Bryant and Kaman, are old), the Lakers were 27th in the NBA, allowing 1.868 points per possession.
The Lakers were 9th in the NBA in scoring efficiency with 1.037 points per possession, slightly better than what they conceded, but it would be safe to assume that it’s going to be very difficult for them to score 101.4 points per game next year unless everyone’s healthy for an entire season, not to mention the natural degrading in the ability of all their key players. And still, no small forward on the radar.
Who is there to pick up? Stephen Jackson, Corey Maggette, James Johnson, Wesley Johnson, Mickael Pietrus, Josh Howard, Luke Walton and Sam Young. Jackson, Pietrus and Young can play some defense, but being alone on a team isn’t enough, not to mention most of the options on this list are very limited, and not too far from useless when it comes to offense.
While the Lakers are trying to get over Dwight Howard dumping them, not too many sources for optimism are out there. Kobe Bryant should be ready for game 1, with some huge chip on his shoulder, but that isn’t going to be enough against a loaded Western Conference, which the Lakers barely made it into the top 8 of last season. Again, adding scoring off the bench is good, but Jamison and Meeks should have done it last season. Without addressing the real problems, all the great minimum contracts in the world aren’t going to help.