The Lakers signed Lou Williams, Marcelo Huertas, and Brandon Bass in free agency this year but their acquisitions are proving to be questionable at best.
The signings, which seemed ill-advised at the time, are proving to have been even worse decisions than most people expected. None of the three free agent players have lived up to the expectations the Lakers had, and have played fairly poorly, or not much at all, to start the season.
However, the problem may not be their play, but the fact that they were signed in the first place. The players signed in free agency have become direct road-blocks in the development of the Lakers young core, and the Lakers should have seen that coming long before signing them.
The problems start with the positions played by the free agents. Brandon Bass is a career power-forward, who has been a solid role-player at best. In the Lakers last three drafts, they have spent three separate picks, two in the first-round, on power-forwards. Why then, would the Lakers draft a player who could only take minutes from those players?
In Bass’ case, he has actually been moved to the center to avoid the logjam at power-forward. However, not only has Bass struggled playing out of position, he has also taken minutes from another talented young player in Tarik Black. This issue further calls into question the logic behind signing him in the first place, if there is so little need at his position that he is forced to play elsewhere.
The problems only grow when examining the two guards the Lakers signed in the off-season. The Lakers already had two promising young guards in Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell, both of whom are at their best with the ball in their hands. This was already an issue with ball dominant players like Kobe Bryant and Nick Young.
With the addition of Williams and Huertas, the young guards’ opportunities have been decreased even further, leading to Russell’s usage rate being far behind that of his peers. Both of these players need the ball in their hands to be effective, and the ball being in their hands costs the Lakers valuable reps for their young talent.
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On the defensive end the signings look even stranger. With a coach who espouses tough defense, and a young core needing strong defenders to surround them, the Lakers signed two guards notorious for their poor defense.
Huertas and Williams have been so poor on defense that playing them together has been disastrous, making it necessary for Williams to either lose minutes or play the point guard, where he has been quite ineffective.
Bass is a slightly better defender than the other two, but placed at the center he becomes a liability as well. His lack of size and athleticism makes him a non-factor at the rim, and bigger centers are able to get position in the post against him effortlessly.
Perhaps the strangest thing about these acquisitions is the fact that their age makes it almost impossible that they will contribute in any way to the Lakers future. Lou Williams is the youngest of the bunch, and at twenty-nine years old he is a whopping ten years older than D’Angelo Russell. Bass and Huertas are thirty and thirty-two, respectively, closer to the end of their basketball careers than the beginning.
By the time the Lakers young core has developed enough to be seriously contending, these players will be long gone. When Russell is in his prime, Huertas and Bass will be nearing their forties. The fact that the Lakers forwent adding or retaining young talent for their core, in favor of adding veterans, demonstrates the problematic nature of the organization’s priorities.
The Lakers opted to sign veterans in order to be a more competitive team this year. However, even this misguided goal has been an abject failure. The Lakers look terrible this year, and they gave up young talent to do so. Players like Kendall Marshall, Jabari Brown, and Ed Davis are younger players, who most-likely would easily outplay their counterparts on the Lakers current roster.
The players the Lakers signed in free agency this year have not only hurt the team on the court, but in other ways as well. Taking roster spots from potential young players, and minutes and touches from the young talent on the team currently, signings like this could set the Lakers rebuild back significantly.
Congratulations Byron, you’re not the only culprit in this Lakers’ mess.
If the Lakers are to right the ship, they must learn from their mistakes and focus their future efforts towards building a cohesive core of talented, young players.