Raja Bell. Leandro Barbosa. Boris Diaw. James Jones. Wilson Chandler. Chris Duhon. Raymond Felton. Jeremy Lin. Landry Fields. Bill Walker. Shawne Williams. Toney Douglas. All of these players had their best seasons playing under Mike D’Antoni. They have never matched their production under him, elsewhere.
His system is simple. Shoot when open, move it when not. This is liberating for lesser players who have struggled to make a rotation in the NBA or weren’t heralded lottery picks coming in. Point guards, shooters, and athletes thrive in his offense because they are constantly pushing tempo which leads to layups, dunks, open threes and passing lanes.
For another franchise running a conventional offense, the Lakers’ offseason acquisitions would barely merit a mention. Nick Young and Wesley Johnson are on their third teams in as many years. Jordan Farmar has played well since leaving the Lakers, but has yet to prove he’s a quality starting point guard in the NBA. Ryan Kelly had a very productive career at Duke, but fell till late in the 2nd round with questions about his athleticism and defensive ability.
These four were handpicked by the coaching staff because they have very clear skill sets that fit with the style of play D’Antoni wanted last year but didnt have the personnel for.
For the Lakers to be relevant this season the coaching staff will have to return to its roots of extracting surprising performances from overlooked players.
Nick Young will excel because he is a capable three-point shooter and is an outstanding finisher. He can also get his shot off the dribble in half-court situations. He’s most similar to how Joe Johnson was utilized alongside Steve Nash.
Wesley Johnson has the most to gain by coming to the Lakers. He was a can’t-miss prospect coming out of Syracuse but has been unable to consistently make shots in his young career. Even playing with passing wizard Ricky Rubio didn’t help. He remains, however, one of the best wing athletes in the league. Getting him in the open floor as a finisher and defender will boost his confidence. His versatility on the wing could evoke that of a poor man’s Shawn Marion.
Ryan Kelly is the perfect D’Antoni system player. A 7-footer who can play both the 4 and 5 and is a knockdown shooter. He was clearly one of the best shooters in college basketball the last few years. The player that comes to mind is Channing Frye during his Phoenix years. He will get every opportunity to get significant minutes off the bench.
Last of the new additions is a familiar face in Farmar. Farmar’s quickness and athleticism was stifled in Phil Jackson’s triangle offense but will flourish in this run and gun offense. The two years away from Los Angeles improved Farmar’s skills as a shooter and passer, as well as a practitioner of the pick and roll. An aging Nash will be on minute restrictions and so Farmar is coming into a great opportunity to show the league what he can really do. The expectation is something similar to Leandro Barbosa during his youth.
A skeptic could make this case that this is wishful thinking, but the track record of Mike D’Antoni is that of bringing out the best in overlooked players. It is well documented. The Jeremy Lin phenomena could have only happened with this system.With Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, and Chris Kaman as foundation blocks, these role players will have opportunities to do what it is they do best.
There’s been little discussion of defense. That’s intentional. Any this year will be welcomed but its not necessarily expected.