The Lakers have grabbed headlines this offseason as a result of who they added, but now it appears someone might be on their way out.
"Sources with knowledge of the Lakers' thinking say that the team is already trying to create a backcourt opening, having made it clear to the rest of the league that Chris Duhon and Steve Blake are available via trade to any interested party willing to absorb one of those contracts."
Let me start by saying that Duhon and Blake would both be better than purported target Derek Fisher. Like, much better. Did Mitch Kupchak even watch the Playoffs last year? Or did he just recoil into hibernation after the Lakers were eliminated? Fisher was awful! Saying he's over the hill is a massive understatement: He's so far past the hill, he can't even see the hill. The hill is a dot to him!
But I'll digress. The more pressing issue is whether Steve Blake or Chris Duhon will be traded, and if so, which one it will be. There are two questions to ask here:
1. Does It Even Matter?
Why do we care? The Lakers have Steve Nash! He's gonna be playing all the important minutes; why does it matter who defers to Kobe while Nash is on the bench?
Well, not so fast. Having Nash actually makes the backup point guard positions more paramount than they already were. Although his stats don't reflect it, Nash is 38 years old, and has been suffering from chronic back problems for years. The Suns, and their notoriously good training staff, gave him regimented in-game rest during his Phoenix tenure, giving rise to super-subs like Goran Dragic.
So, yeah. Nash's backup does matter. And although Darius Morris is also in the mix for minutes, whomever doesn't get traded will be looked at as a ballast of veteran stability should Morris be too raw. This argument does actually matter. Which brings us to....
2. Which Player Should Stay?
There doesn't appear to be much of a prima facie difference between Blake and Duhon. Both are middling, replacement-level NBA backups, capable of coming off the bench and, hopefully, not messing anything up. Both have had seasons where they've been more than that, but over time, it's clear that this is all they are.
But they don't play the same way. Duhon likes to dominate the ball, like a "traditional" point guard, and find open teammates. His best seasons as a pro both came in New York, where Mike D'Antoni's offense allowed, and even relied on him to do just that. Blake, on the other hand, is a deadly three-point shooter––a shooting guard in a point guard's body. He's capable of running an offense, but he's better playing off the ball.
Which is precisely why he's the stronger fit in LA than Duhon is. Sorting out the proper rotations will be a season-long process for the Lakers, but one has to assume Kobe will be playing more minutes than the more-fatigued Nash. And with Nash off the court, the Lakers' best chance to score will be to let Kobe dominate the ball.
Between the threat of Kobe driving, and all the attention that will be paid to Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol down low, the Lakers need as many off-the-ball shooters as humanly possible. The things Chris Duhon provides could be of use for another team, but in LA he's effectively useless. Blake, however, could thrive off the bench if he's having a hot shooting night.
Ultimately, the decision might not be Los Angeles' to make. They've made both available and, according to Stein, are willing to part with either should someone agree to absorb their contract. But they would be wiser to pull Blake's name, keep him on the bench, and try to part with Duhon; he simply doesn't fit with the 2012-13 Lakers.
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