With Nash and and Kendall Marshall returning next year, the point guard slots for the roster seems set. While Nash may not play on a consistent basis, Marshall has proven more than competent to take his place. It would help if the Lakers had a 3rd point guard who that could start playing consistently. Marshall seems best utilized coming off the bench. The Laker guards as a whole, may not return.
Both Jodie Meeks and Xavier Henry have interest in coming back next year, indicated here and here. Jodie Meeks showed tremendous improvement, to the point of being clearly evident to the rest of the league that he’s one of the most improved players. He would be an excellent complementary role player next to a ball-dominant point guard. The way he hits the corners in transition, uses the backdoor cut within the halfcourt set, and improved finishing ability around the rim suits him perfectly around a natural playmaker. Defensively, he always brings the energy. Honestly, who predicted that he would get career highs across the board? Field goal percentage (45.6%), 3-point percentage (39.8%), assists per game (1.8), steals per game (1.4) and points per game (15.3) are all career highs. More importantly, they are large improvements compared to his previous best year of 42.5% from the field, 39.8% behind the arc, 1.1 assists per game, and 10.5 points per game in just five fewer minutes per game. Across the board, Meeks has proven to be a more dynamic player as a finisher and passer in the half-court set.
Xavier Henry had a more natural progression statistically in terms of playing time. Compared to his previous best year, on just four more minutes per game, he nearly doubled his scoring output, from 5.3 points per game to a full 10 points per game. Across the board, steals, assists, rebounds, and field goal percentage are relatively the same. What is most evident is, he is more aggressive attacking the basket and showing more effort in breaking down the defense. In previous years, he would be thought of as a 3rd or 4th option, relegated to jump shots as a bail out option. This year, he has had the chance to lead offensively. He was out to a hot start early in the season, but injuries slowed him down tremendously. Now that he’s back, his shooting touch and timing on the jumpshot look more refined. It’s clear though, that he wants a full season under his belt to prove he can be a starter in the league.
Kendall Marshall himself had a transformation. On double the playing time, he more than doubled his scoring from 3 points per game to 8.0. His assists more than doubled, from 3 assists per game, to 8.9. His field goal percentage is just above 40%, but behind the arc, is 41.6%
All three players have shown tremendous improvement with their personal development. Playing time allowed them to get more comfortable on the floor. Coming under veteran minimum contracts, all of them deserve a more respectable contract given their output for the season. It has been a rough season, but the way these guys came in and played is an example of what it is to be a Laker.
Unfortunately, with their valiant efforts, contract extensions and raises get in the way of team cap. The Laker franchise is looking for help in terms of a franchise player, or anyone who can help add 20-30 more wins per season. A guy like Kevin Love could do that with the current roster. The worst case scenario for the Laker unit, is to retain the players they have, and end the possibility of acquiring an elite player through free agency, because the max contract extension isn’t available. That would set the roster back for years of improvement, and doom Laker fans for mediocre seasons.
The best year for free agency is 2015 and later, indicated here. The best case scenario for the team next year, would be to have a healthy Kobe Bryant, retain Marshall, Meeks, and Henry for deserved raises available, and have a more competitive team with the current roster. The Laker front office can determine who to keep with bird rights, once a player is found through the 2015 free agency period. It wouldn’t hurt to develop a rookie for another year with some veteran leadership.
It just doesn’t seem likely that any of the upcoming Laker free agents, will sign for just one more year. They deserve more than that.