Thursday, July 31, 2014

There's a lot to be excited about next year

As bad as the Lakers were last year (and they were terrible last year, finishing with the second worst
Win/Loss percentage in franchise history with an awful 32.9%), there were still flashes of excitement here and there, mostly in the beginning of the season, where they were 13-13 at one point, believe it or not. The team had a horrific run of injuries; only 3 players played over 70 games last year, and the team's most important player only played 6 largely ineffective games due to an Achilles tear the year before. The Lakers had Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar and Pau Gasol miss significant time with injuries, which really helped derail last year. The run of injuries was so bad, the Lakers had 19 total players suit up for the team last year; most teams have around 15 players suit up, as they have 12 active players ready to play, and 3 waiting on the bench in case of injury. The Lakers way surpassed that limit and quickly had to put together a team full of sub-par players who wouldn't have cracked the team otherwise. The injuries to the starters did have one positive effect, however, as it made other players step up.

Last season, we saw the likes of Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson, Ryan Kelly and (especially) Jodie Meeks really step it up last year and carry the Lakers' for long periods of time. The bench unit was particularly good, as they were second in points per game last year with an astonishing 42.3 points per game. The bench usually helped keep the team in the game, and they really made the most of the opportunities they got with the massive amount of injuries the team had last year.

Why am I excited about a team who was the second worst in franchise history last year? Because of the return of the Great One. Because of the cost effective, and really smart moves Mitch Kupchak has done this off-season. Because Mike D'Antoni's reign of terror is over and Byron Scott gets to take over in his place. Because Byron Scott will probably give Jordan Hill the minutes he deserves. Because there's no possible way the team could be as bad as they were last year.

It might be a bit delusional on my part, but I'm excited because I really like what this team had done so far. They went out and traded for Jeremy Lin (and a first rounder, to boot). I'm not a big fan of Lin, but Mitch went out and got a starter caliber point guard for a team that desperately needed a starter caliber point guard who isn't 40 and extremely injury prone. Mitch went and got the freshly amnestied Carlos Boozer for a cool 3.2 million (yes, Boozer is definitely worth that) to help replace the departed Pau Gasol. The Lakers also signed the young Ed Davis for 2 years, 1.9 million dollars, which is really cheap for a guy who will probably crack the rotation. Mitch also managed to keep the core of the bench unit by re-signing Nick Young, Wesley Johnson, Ryan Kelly, Jordan Hill and Xavier Henry. All this without mentioning the 7th overall pick in the draft, Julius Randle (more on him later).

I'm not saying this team will make the playoffs, they will be fringe contenders/late season spoilers, at best, or a few games better than they were last year, at worst. There's no possible way this team even comes realistically close to making the playoffs next year, especially not in the loaded Western Conference. And yet, I still get pretty excited to see what this team can do. A healthy Kobe Bryant could really make things difficult for a lot of teams. Maybe Randle becomes a terror on the low-block and maybe Jordan Hill leads the league in rebounding next year. Maybe the bench stays extremely productive, but instead of having broken down Pau Gasol leading an abysmal starting unit, we get a middle of the pack starting unit anchored by Kobe Bryant and we get a playoff push in March?

Whatever happens, this season should be about 1000 times better and more captivating than last year, if not for the return of Kobe, then because Lakers fans finally have a young, talented player to look forward to. It's been nearly 10 years since Lakers fans had a young lottery pick to cheer for and it's hard not to be excited about Randle; the last two lottery pick players the Lakers acquired were pretty successful, for the most part, though Andrew Bynum has had a rough past 2 seasons, but I'd say that gets overlooked because Kobe has been one of the league's best for about 15 years now.

It's still going to be a hard season, but it leaves us a lot to look forward for next year. It will be the end of Steve Nash's terrible contract and it will be a year closer to ending Kobe's albatross deal. The bench is kept together with really cheap, affordable deals and it wouldn't surprise me if most of these guys returned next year on similar deals. Julius Randle may develop into a monster on the low block, and the Lakers will have more money to spend in Free Agency to possibly bring in an impact player in his prime. And, we can always hope the Rockets somehow miss the playoffs, inadvertently giving us a lottery pick. Things are slowly looking up and, with some good luck, it might not be that long before the Lakers can eye the playoffs as a realistic goal to end a season.

Oh, and if we're terrible next year too (it's likely we will be), the Lakers at least do have their own draft pick and could get a Top-5 pick, should we have the worst case scenario happen for us. The situation seems a lot better than it was just one year ago, all things considered.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Lakers are interested in Michael Beasley

Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com has reported that the Lakers have worked out Michael Beasley. It isn't known how much interest either side has shown with each other, but I'm all for giving Beasley a contract; the Lakers only have the minimum to give him, so it wouldn't be damaging at all to the team's finances if he takes a one or two year deal for the minimum. Given Beasley's current stock around the league, the minimum should be enough to sign the former 2nd overall pick.

Beasley has actually been receiving interest from several teams around the league, especially since the Heat do not seem very keen on keeping him. Beasley wasn't a part of the regular rotation for Miami, playing in 55 games for them last year, and playing only 23 minutes in 4 games during the playoff run for the Heat, but he was a lot more efficient last year than in previous years. Beasley shot 49.9% from the floor, 38.9% from three point land and 77.2% from the line, while putting up a 16.8 PER, which is the second highest in his career, behind the 17.2 PER he put up in his rookie season. Beasley's Per 36 numbers also looked pretty good last year, as he would have averaged 18.9 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game. Obviously, these likely would have gone down if he had actually played the 36 minutes per game, but with that said, Beasley might still be a pretty good player, especially if he were brought on with a cheap contract.

Maturity problems have been with Beasley for his whole career, but it seems he's starting to turn it around; on top of his solid efficiency, teams that are interested in him apparently found him to be mature last season as a role player with the Heat, and they hope he can continue to be so with their teams.

The Lakers could benefit from having a guy like Beasley on the team. He's a player who is talented, but because of mental hiccups, could never really put it together. I'm not saying he'll magically reach his potential now, but he is still only 25 years old. He has a solid chance of improving and becoming a pretty good player for most teams. I'm all for giving him a chance on a one or two year deal. What's the worst that could happen? He gets cut and we forget who Michael Beasley was in 10 years? Low risk, high potential is what Mitch Kupchak should be looking for while rounding out the bench, and Beasley is the definition of that.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Lakers are looking at Marcus Smart with the 7th pick

The 7th pick in this years' draft is giving me
a headache. After the top-3 of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid (in no particular order), which is basically chiseled in stone already (though, again, in no particular order), then the draft gets really, really interesting. After that, nobody seems to have any idea who gets selected for the rest of the top-5, let alone of the top-10. So far, the top choices to fill out those remaining 7 slots are: Dante Exum, Noah Vonleh, Julius Randle, Marcus Smart, Zach LaVine, Doug McDermott and Aaron Gordon. And so far, it's looking like Exum and Vonleh will round out the Top-5, leaving the Lakers with two very intriguing options.

Let's ignore McDermott, LaVine, Randle and Gordon, I'll get to them in a later piece. Let's focus on Smart, a guy who was supposed to be sure-fire Top-5 picks until Exum and Vonleh started gaining some traction. Ultimately, Smart is very talented, and there's always the chance that he ends up going in the Top-5, leaving the Lakers with one of Exum or Vonleh (a problem that I'm happy to have). Anyways, here's a quick scouting report on the one of the players who will be strongly considered come draft day:

Smart is such a strangely frustrating and completely exciting player to cover. He is a pretty physically gifted athlete, being, by far, the strongest guard in the draft. He is listed as 6'3'', and weighing in at 227 pounds, so he can easily play both of the guard positions. Despite being such a big guard, he has very good quickness and he uses that and his superior strength to get to the rim and then routinely finishes through contact. He plays hard on the defensive end, and has good lateral quickness that combines well with his massive wingspan of 6'8'' that helped him produce 3 steals per game at the college level, and helped him become one of the better perimeter defenders in the draft.

He has been very aggressive on driving to the rim, and as a result, he usually draws multiple defenders with him on any given drive; he also creates a lot of contact and reaches the free throw line at a very high rate because of his strength. Smart still has the vision to see which teammates were left open as a result of the help defense, and he usually can give a pass that is on target, despite all of the defensive attention. Smart has great offensive awareness and will usually look to involve his teammates.

Most of Smart's negatives are things that can be worked on: his offensive decision making needs some work. For example: Smart only shot 42% from the field last season, despite shooting over 51% from two point range. It was his willingness to take the three point shot (which he shot at a 29% clip) that proved to be his doom. I would hope that is corrected at the pro level, lest he become the guard version of Josh Smith; ultra-talented, and good at a lot of things that aren't three pointers, yet he can't stop jacking up threes. Smart's jump shot isn't very reliable, and he could use some work with his mechanics to help him hit on a more consistent basis. Opponents at the NBA level will find it easier to cover Smart's dribble drives to the rim if they can sag off of him because of his inconsistent jump shot. Smart needs to cut down on the turnovers and take better shot attempts, both of which can be fixed with some experience.

And then, of course, there is the Texas Tech incident, which got him suspended for 3 games. Ugly stuff.




Overall, Smart is a very talented athlete, a very hard nosed, capable defensive player and a player who can penetrate a defense with the best of them. Smart has an inconsistent jumper, and his intensity can sometimes get the best of him, but he easily holds his own against the rest of the Top-7. You could even argue that the Top-4 were set before the Texas Tech incident, with Smart taking that distant fourth place behind the Big 3 of draft prospects this year.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Top 10 Upcoming Free Agents

Greg Monroe needs a new team to showcase his ability
Okay, so we have to set some ground rules for this list, that would have LeBron James as the uncontested number one player 100 times out of 100. This list will contain guys who the Lakers could realistically pursue and acquire. So while guys like LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony would all be pursued by the Lakers, it's highly unlikely we get any of them, especially Miami's Big Three, who look like they will be re-signing as soon as possible. This includes older players, who are legendary on their respective franchises, like Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan. This does not include guys who have restricted contracts, since not all of their teams will match all of the offers that are given to them. Without further ado, your 2014 Free Agency Power Rankings:

1) Kyle Lowry, Unrestricted, Point Guard, Toronto Raptors.
17.9 PPG, 7.4 APG, 3.6 RPG, 20.1 PER.

Kyle Lowry has been absolutely fantastic this past year for the Raptors, and he could be had for less than a max contract; despite being a top five point guard in all advanced statistics, a lot of teams didn't really know how well he was playing, due to playing on the Toronto Raptors. That has changed after his good showing in that first round playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets, as he managed to open some eyes, averaging 19.7 points per game and a 17.5 PER.

I'm sure the Raptors think very highly of Lowry, however because he is an unrestricted free agent, they have no pull over where he might end up signing, save for the power to offer him the most money, which would be irrelevant if he really wanted to play elsewhere.

2) Greg Monroe, Restricted, Power Forward/Center, Detroit Pistons.
15.2 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.1 APG, 18.1 PER.

Greg Monroe has been the most underrated big man of the past three years. Here's a guy who has a complete back-to-the-basket game, is an excellent rebounder, has amazing court vision and passing abilities for his size and puts up consistently good numbers, despite being one of the only good players on his team, and nobody really even knows who he is.

For those who still don't know, Monroe is basically a young, athletic Pau Gasol. Monroe's numbers took a pretty big hit when the Piston's added Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings, and when Andre Drummond returned from injury, yet he was still very close to averaging a double-double and was still worth an 18.1 PER. His assists numbers are way down from last year, where he was fourth among centers with 3.5 assists per game, right behind Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Joakim Noah. He has a career 19.3 PER, and he even put up a 22.0 PER season just two years ago. And he's only 23. The only real knock on Monroe's game is his weak rim protection, as he has never averaged more than 0.7 blocks per game. Thankfully, the Lakers have a chance because the Pistons are so high on Drummond and have nowhere else to put Josh Smith, since he cannot play Small Forward for an extended period of time. All reports, so far, have indicated that Monroe is the odd man out in Detroit.

3) Gordon Hayward, Restricted, Small Forward/Shooting Guard, Utah Jazz.
16.2 PPG, 5.2 APG, 5.1 RPG, 16.2 PER.

Gordon Hayward is another guy who frequently gets overlooked due to being in a small market team, despite being very talented. Hayward is a player who can do just about everything you ask of him. He rebounds well enough, distributes like a natural guard and can score from just about anywhere within 30 feet. Hayward had his worst season last year from an efficiency standpoint, shooting career lows from everywhere except for the free throw line, but I don't blame all of that on Hayward; the Jazz were a horrendous team who have promise on the inside with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, but are completely depleted on the outside, with Hayward being their only good player.

The Jazz are likely to match most offers, however if a team wanted him badly enough, I'm sure the Jazz would rather not overpay for his services. Hayward has shown that he can't be the number one guy on his team, but he would be an excellent complimentary player to someone like, say, Kobe Bryant.

4) Luol Deng, Unrestricted, Small Forward, Cleveland Cavaliers.
16.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.9 APG, 15.2 PER.

Good job, Cleveland. You gave up multiple draft picks for Luol Deng, who was a terrible fit for the team, yet you wouldn't relinquish one first round draft choice for the services of the far superior Pau Gasol. After the Cavaliers lucked into the 1st overall pick (again), Deng is all but certain to leave the team, unless they end up drafting Joel Embiid, and then overpaying for his services, since Deng would be a third wheel on a team he never meshed well with to begin with.

Deng has proven to be adept at defense and scoring in years past, however, thanks to Cleveland's awful spacing and terrible coaching, Deng could never get going with them. If the Lakers end up getting a coach like Lionel Hollins, I can see them pursuing Deng strictly for his defense.

5) Lance Stephenson, Unrestricted, Shooting Guard/Small Forward, Indiana Pacers.
13.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 4.6 APG, 14.7 PER.

I don't even know where to begin with Stephenson. He's a talented guy who plays defense, and rebounds with the best of them for his position. He's also a good passer and a solid playmaker. Or at least, he was before he didn't make the All Star Game this year. Since then, his play style has changed dramatically, as he has focused primarily on scoring. His assist percentage dropped dramatically in the second half, going from 25% in the first half to 19% in the second. As a result, the Pacers have become a discombobulated mess and will need the old Lance Stephenson to advance against Miami.

People have speculated that Stephenson's style of play has changed because he felt not making the All Star Team has hurt his chances at a big free agency payday. The opposite has happened, however, as Stephenson is now slated to get paid in the 6-8 million dollar range, instead of the 10-12 million dollar range it was before the All Star break. All of this is just speculation, but the fact that we're even talking about this makes Stephenson not as desirable as previously thought.

6) Trevor Ariza, Unrestricted, Small Forward, Washington Wizards.
14.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.5 APG, 15.8 PER.

Old friend Trevor Ariza has bounced around a bit since he was traded 5 years ago (has it been that long? Time really does fly), as Ariza has played for (and struggled) with the Houston Rockets, New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans and, most recently, with the Washington Wizards, where he has excelled playing alongside John Wall. Ariza has become a lights out three point shooter, as he finished the year with 40.7% shooting from beyond the arch, and he continues to play excellent defense. It would be great to have him back, though I'm sure he would much rather stay in D.C. with John Wall and friends at this point.

7) Spencer Hawes, Unrestricted, Center, Cleveland Cavaliers
13.2 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 3.0 APG, 15.7 PER.

Hawes is not your typical center. For one, check out those assist totals. And two, he's basically a poor man's Kevin Love, as he actually quite the three point shooter. Last year, Hawes shot an outstanding 41% from downtown. He's not a guy who can carry the load, by any means, but he is a guy who can stretch the floor well, while still being an adept rebounder. He would be great to have to ensure that the lane isn't completely clogged when Kobe Bryant is in the post, however if you're relying on him to be your savior, then you have bigger problems.

8) Ramon Sessions, Unrestricted, Point Guard, Milwaukee Bucks
12.3 PPG, 4.1 APG, 2.4 RPG, 16.0 PER

Another old friend on the list, Ramon Sessions is really good at one thing, and one thing only: attacking the basket. That doesn't bode well for later in his career, but who cares about that, right? Sessions would be a nice guard to have, if he would be okay coming off of the bench; we already saw what happens when you put someone like Kobe Bryant with a guy who can't do anything other than attack the rim. Sessions is a quality guard, but not one who is an amazing fit, though it can be done if you get some viable options to stretch the floor.

9) Danny Granger, Unrestricted, Small Forward, Los Angeles Clippers
8.2 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.0 APG, 10.9 PER

Many would say Granger is over-the-hill, and isn't worth much now-a-days. I, however, say that Granger can still be an important piece on a playoff team. Sure, his days of being the number one guy who averages over 25 points per game are over, but Granger is still a guy who plays tough defense and can stretch the floor, as he is a career 38% three point shooter. Granger could be a quality signing, assuming no team gives him anywhere near the 14 million he made this year.

10) Evan Turner, Restricted, Small Forward, Indiana Pacers
14.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.2 APG, 12.4 PER.

Let's get this out of the way: Evan Turner is a bust. The former 2nd overall pick (who was taken before Paul George) has been worth a career 12 PER, and has been as inefficient as they come, shooting a career 42%, despite being 6'7'' and one of the most physically gifted players in the league. Turner is also not a very good defensive player. Nonetheless, the trade from Philadelphia to Indiana took a huge chunk of his sheer numbers down a notch, costing him millions of dollars in free agency, potentially making him a steal, depending on how he is valued in free agency. There's always the chance that he could still improve, and he would at least give the Lakers a more athletic perimeter player.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Lakers to interview Lionel Hollins

The Lakers will be bringing in Lionel Hollins for an interview on Thursday, and he will also be interviewing with the Cleveland Cavaliers sometime next week.

So far, the Lakers have been slow to address the coaching void left with Mike D'Antoni resigning weeks ago. It's an interesting strategy by the team that can backfire, should the desired coaching candidates sign elsewhere before the Lakers can bring in somebody credible/ready and willing to step into this mess of a team.

Hollins is a major far cry from D'Antoni, being a defensive-minded, grind it out coach, instead of a run and gun, showtime style coach that Jim Buss was looking to build when he hired D'Antoni. The Lakers have already interviewed Mike Dunleavy (ugh) and Byron Scott (okay). Hollins is the first candidate to interview with the team that doesn't have any previous history with the team, as Dunleavy coached the Lakers 24 years ago, when Magic Johnson was still playing, and Scott previously played for the team during the Showtime era and was actually coached by Dunleavy himself.

Hollins has coached for 7 seasons, all with the Memphis Grizzlies. His team won 56 games during his final season, but ultimately lost to the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. I suppose the team is hoping Hollins' defensive, serious style of coaching will help win the approval of aging star Kobe Bryant. They might be right, but the coaching spot won't even matter if Mitch Kupchak doesn't do some seriously positives things with the roster.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Steve Nash Wants to Return to the Lakers

Just retire.
Let's get this out of the way now: Steve Nash has been absolutely terrible in a Lakers uniform. I don't care that Nash had a semi decent first season, in which he only played 50 games, or that he shot well during the first year here; he has still been nothing like the player the Lakers traded for. He hasn't been worth any of the draft picks the Lakers traded for him two years ago; he hasn't been worth the 9 million+ they use on him in cap space; he has barely been worth a roster spot, quite frankly. Injuries have made him more of a burden than anything else.

Now, it's been confirmed that Nash wants to return to the Lakers. Per Mike Bresnahan of the L.A. Times:
"One thing's certain: Nash wants to return next season. "I want to come back for sure," he said."
 I used to be a big fan of Steve Nash and his wonderfully complete offensive skill set. The seamless and smooth pick and rolls that Nash used to run were a thing of beauty; he was one of the most complete offensive players at his position and will likely be in the Hall of Fame when the time comes. However, Nash is a major burden on this team's cap situation and he isn't worth a roster spot anymore. Not when you have Kendall Marshall, Marshon Brooks, Jodie Meeks, Jordan Farmar, and Kent Bazemore to play between the two guard positions. Not when all of those players are under 28 years old and ready to step in to the rotation and provide solid overall play. Nash's defense is worse than all of those players, and his offense is no longer good enough to break even when it comes to Win Shares. And this isn't even taking into account Kobe Bryant, who will probably not return this year, but it leaves even less room for Nash in an improving rotation.

Of course, the real reason I think allowing Nash to come back is a mistake is because of the cap space he takes up. There are only five players under contract for next season (Bryant, Marshall, Robert Sacre, Nick Young and Nash); the Lakers need to fill up the rest of that roster space, hopefully by retaining all of the younger players they have and filling the cracks with a few new players via Free Agency while potentially adding star level talent via a top five pick in the NBA draft and saving their cap space for the next free agency when Kevin Love will be available. Obviously, this could backfire, but the Lakers need to keep their options open, and getting rid of Nash helps them do just that.

Nash cannot be simply cut or waived. Should Nash retire, then the Lakers will still have to pay him the 9.7 million he is owed for next year, including the cap hit. Should Nash decide to stick around for another year, then the Lakers can get rid of him via the stretch provision, saving 3 million this year, and stretching out his cap hit over the next three years. For the sake of the future, just go away, Steve.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

2013-2014 Lakers Mid-Season Review: Back Court

Point Guard: Steve Nash

7.6 PPG, 4.7 APG, 1.7 RPG, -0.1 WS, -0.014 WS/48 on 30.6% shooting and 31.6% shooting from three point range. Grade: (Inc.)

There isn't much to write about a player who has only played 10 games out of the 53 games the team has slogged through this year. And if you're keeping count, Nash has played in 60 games out of 135 total games with the team. Nash has been sidelined for most of the season with nerve root irritation and has played some of the worst basketball possible when he has been on the court. Without his legs, his shooting stroke isn't there and his dribble penetration has suffered as a result. Nash is no longer the player he was; he isn't even a serviceable point guard at this stage of his career. It's sad to see such a dynamic offensive player limp to the finish line of his career like this, but it's a reality for every player. Father Time is undefeated, after all. The two-time MVP will consider retirement at the end of the year. For now, Nash is lucky he has an incomplete; if he played enough games, he would have been awarded a big, fat F.

Point Guard: Steve Blake

9.5 PPG, 7.6 APG, 3.8 RPG, 1.0 WS, .054 WS/48 on 37.8% shooting and 39.7% shooting from three point range. Grade: (B)

Steve Blake has long been a favorite player of mine, even during his disappointing initial seasons early on with the Lakers. Blake is a solid, all-around guard, who may or may not suffer from peer pressure (the noticeable change in play and quality of play whenever Kobe Bryant is on the court is astounding.) Blake has had one of his best seasons so far, averaging a career highs in assists per game (7.6) and rebounds per game (3.8), while putting up his best scoring output with the Lakers (9.5). Unfortunately, Blake has had to miss quite a few games thanks to a torn ligament in his right elbow, which is always bad, but more so whenever a player is putting together one of his finer seasons. We'll see if Blake can keep up this play, and, if he does, if he's willing to take on a smaller deal to stay with the Lakers. 

Point Guard: Jordan Farmar

9.3 PPG, 4.9 APG, 3.2 RPG, 0.5 WS, .050 WS/48 on 41.5% shooting and 38.7% shooting from three point range. Grade: (B+)

Farmar has been unexpectedly good this year. And I really mean unexpectedly. Farmar was playing in Turkey for the past year and it was questionable whether or not he would play in the NBA again because he wanted more money than what teams thought he was worth. Luckily, Farmar, a UCLA product, missed his friends and family enough to take a minimum contract with the Lakers. Farmar has been slashing to the basket relentlessly and shooting well from deep to help compliment his penetration. Overall, he has done an excellent job of leading the second unit and maintaining a Mike D'Antoni approved pace. He wouldn't be a Laker if he didn't tear his hamstring twice, costing him a lot of games this year. 

Point guard: Kendall Marshall

10.3 PPG, 9.5 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.4 WS, .086 WS/48 on 45.1% shooting and 46.5% shooting from three point range. Grade: (A++)

I can't say enough about Kendall Marshall and how big he has been for this team. He has been the best point guard on the team and he started the year without a job, before signing with a D-League team. He has been seriously good on the offensive end and has orchestrated the offense impeccably. There isn't much I can say about Marshall other than this: please come back for more than just next season. 

Shooting guard: Kobe Bryant

13.8 PPG, 6.3 APG, 4.3 RPG, -0.3 WS, -0.082 WS/48 on 42.5% shooting and 18.8% shooting from three point range. Grade: (Inc.)

Six games. The most anticipated return of the Western Conference was up and down, and mired with turnovers. Kobe only played six games before breaking his knee. Take the rest of the year off, Kobe. Please. 

Shooting guard: Nick Young

16.9 PPG, 1.5 APG, 2.7 RPG, 1.6 WS, .057 WS/48 on 42% shooting and 35% shooting from three point range. Grade: (C)

I love watching Nick Young play. He's exciting and infuriating at the same time. He creates his own shot in the most spectacular way this side of Kobe. While you will have your fair share of ugly, ugly moments, but he was still one of the only Lakers who can create his own shot, which was an important attribute down the stretch in games. The reason Young gets such a low grade, despite his 16.9 points per game, is his very poor defense. All of the others (save for Nash) at least try to play defense, while Young hasn't been doing any of that at all. Plus, Young's stat line this year has been roughly what his Per 36 numbers project, so he hasn't been playing any better than usual. 

Shooting guard: Jodie Meeks

14.4 PPG, 1.7 APG, 2.8 RPG, 2.7 WS, .085 WS/48 on 45% shooting and 40.3% shooting from three point range. Grade: (B-)

Meeks is always a double edged sword. He can get hot in a hurry and be the most dangerous player on the court, but then, he can get cold and seriously hurt his team with his shot attempts. Meeks tries to play defense, but is usually not fundamentally sound enough to be good at it. He makes up for it by stretching the floor as good as anybody in the NBA today. Meeks has a career best in field goal percentage and in shooting percentage from three point range and has played well on the offensive end, despite his inconsistency. Hopefully, Meeks will decide to return after this year on the cheap to provide long range shooting.