The Los Angeles Lakers added some pieces during the 2013 offseason, and they come with their sets of strengths and weaknesses.
Consequently, the new additions will either maximize their talents under Mike D’Antoni or simply flame out from failing to blend their skills within the Lakers’ scheme.
After Dwight Howard’s departure in the 2013 summer, Los Angeles turned to Chris Kaman to fill part of the void at the center position. The former Dallas Maverick will likely enjoy a second-unit role in 2013-14 with Pau Gasol starting at center.
Kaman should thrive in that role since he will be matching up against second-string centers. The big man scores with both hands down on the low block and can punish poor interior defenders.
Kaman combines good footwork with a series of solid head fakes to throw defenders off course and score on them. He will however struggle against tall defenders and has issues converting shots when drifting on his shot attempts.
Have a look at the series of moves he put on J.J. Hickson in a game against the Portland Trail Blazers during the 2012-13 season:
That possession is Kaman's low-post game in a nutshell. Just a great combination of moves executed in one sequence, but Hickson’s body placement forced the offensive player to drift just enough on the shot and miss. This partly explains Kaman low field-goal percentages in this setting.
Synergy Sports tells us Kaman converted 40.8 percent of his shots in post-up situations during the 2012-13 campaign. He does still have value given his pick-and-roll play.
Kaman does an excellent job of catching the ball in traffic and finishing at the rim. Furthermore, he is a good open shooter on long two-point shots. He converted 51 percent of his long-range two-pointers in 2012-13 per Hoopdata.
He has the makings of a solid contributor for the Lakers going into 2013-14, as evidenced by the fact he averages a double-double over his career per 36 minutes.
Mind you, his minutes have been fairly low throughout his time in the league because he is turnover prone and also a poor defender.
Teams exploit him when he switches onto perimeter players by blowing by him for scores. Because he lacks lateral quickness, Kaman will occasionally honor the drive and give up the open jumper and get burned as well.
In addition, opposing big men rarely have issues scoring on him in the post or when he is rotating to contest a shot. Thus, it is not a surprise that his teams have suffered defensively when he is on the floor. According to NBA.com, Kaman’s teams have been outscored throughout his career when he is on the hardwood.
Consequently, the Lakers will follow the blueprint that other teams have used when employing Kaman. They will play him with good defenders and floor spacers to complement his interior game.
Nick Young qualifies as a floor spacer, but not necessarily as a good defender. The former Philadelphia 76er has converted 37.4 percent of his three-pointers during his career, which probably makes the trey-happy D’Antoni grin.
Young has good touch and can get hot in a hurry as the Memphis Grizzlies found out during the 2011 playoffs:
He is also a great ball handler who creates shots with the best of them. There is just one problem: He does not make a lot of them. Young rarely gets to the basket, which also means he does not manufacture free throws.
Instead, he prefers to remain around the three-point line or just a few feet inside it and operates from there. Historically, he has been a good spot-up shooter from long-range.
During five of his six seasons in the league, his conversion rate in those situations has consistently been at 40 percent or better according to Synergy Sports. That figure plummeted to 35.3 percent in 2012-13.
Young had a down year in this respect but that should rectify itself in 2013-14 when he is met with an abundance of open shots courtesy of Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant. The Lakers will use Young as a floor spacer, which will allow their post players to set up shop on the block and score.
The 2-guard is not without his faults though. He is, for lack of a better term, an alternate-dimension version of Bryant. He favors isolations, fadeaway jumpers and dribble-heavy possessions.
Unlike Bryant though, he rarely sets up other players, cannot orchestrate an offense and rarely creates high-percentage shots. In other words, Young is a gunner. Have a look at him doing his best work against the Miami Heat during the 2012-13 campaign:
Although Young converted the jumper, those types of shots typically result in misses and transition opportunities. That is one of the many reasons that his teams have mostly been outscored with him on the floor during his career per NBA.com.
Young is an average defender at best, and his offense will occasionally affect the floor balance (mismatches in transition after his misses) and negatively impact his teams. He is a bad version of Bryant and will be playing alongside the actual prototype for large chunks of the 2013-14 season. Thus, expect a lot of one-man possessions.
Wes Johnson and Jordan Farmar
The Lakers’ remaining additions are mostly third-string players. Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks will get the bulk of the reserve minutes in the backcourt in 2013-14. With that said, between foul trouble and injuries, D’Antoni will eventually turn to Jordan Farmar and Wesley Johnson.
Johnson has demonstrated the ability to slide his feet and stay with perimeter players for the most part during his short NBA stint. He is by no means a stopper, but he is serviceable on that side of the ball.
On offense though, he gives the Lakers very little, quite frankly. He is an average three-point shooter and struggles to create his own shot. In a pinch, he can play a few minutes here and there, but if he is playing more than 10 minutes a night, the Lakers are in trouble.
Farmar, on the other hand, is a speedy ball handler that loves to get out in transition. He fits with D’Antoni’s overall offensive philosophy, but the Purple and Gold do not have the horses to consistently push the pace.
Furthermore, with Farmar buried at the end of the depth chart behind Nash and Blake, it stands to reason he will have very few chances to enter games and speed up the tempo. In the event he does though, one has to assume the coaching staff will play him with Young, Bryant, Jordan Hill and Gasol.
Farmar will thrive with the Lakers’ best athletes in the open court. In the half court though, he will probably get bottled up easily.
The Lakers added some interesting players, and they should produce in 2013-14. Their talents will be on full display provided that the core of Bryant, Gasol and Nash are healthy.
Otherwise, these new acquisitions will be forced into roles they cannot occupy, and it will lead to a disastrous season in Lakerland.
J.M. Poulard is a featured columnist and can be found on Twitter under the handle name @ShyneIV.
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