Before the Lakers could even start free agency, the phone rang with a bunch of no thank-you’s, we are not interested. The players the Lakers had their eye on, who they wanted to bring in to fill the Kobe Bryant (Mamba) hole were DeMar DeRozan, the local kid, Mike Conley, the tough defensive point guard, and Hassan Whiteside, the big man who blocks shots . All three said no. No way in hell. We have other things to do than join that circus. But in hindsight, now that we see the vast improvement in the Lakers culture and their play- 2nd in scoring, 5th in 3-point defense-did free agents make a mistake?
The Compton native turned his favorite team down and it wasn’t that hard to do. He spent his May in the Eastern Conference Finals, and even though he has been unimpressive in his career in the post-season- 39.3%, 25.0% from three- he is part of a veteran team and a highly skilled backcourt that demonstrated their ability to win in the playoffs. The Raptors gave him the second highest payday of the off-season, $139 million. It didn’t matter how much love DeRozan had for his hometown team and how much he looked up to his idol Kobe Bryant, he wasn’t turning that money down.
- Minutes: DeMar DeRozan, 4th. Nick Young, 117th.
- Steals: DeMar DeRozan, 21st. Nick Young, 246th.
- Free Throws Made: DeMar DeRozan, 5th. Nick Young 79th.
As a Laker….It was a blessing in disguise the Lakers didn’t have to deal with the DeRozan iso game even if it meant turning to Nick Young. Yes, DeRozan is the NBA’s leading scorer but the Lakers had plenty of that to last a lifetime with Kobe Bryant who DeRozan patterns his game after. DeRozan has the full Bryant education of jumpers and iso plays and used Bryant as an excuse as to why he turned the Lakers down. He never would be able to escape the Kobe haze, always compared to the iconic shooting guard, always judged by the Kobe ethic. In Toronto, DeRozan could craft his own legacy.
DeRozan is shooting the rock 26 times a game. Luke Walton has installed an offense where no one plays more than 30 minutes and no one takes more than 14 shots a game. DeRozan just would not have fit. He would have impeded the growth and development of the Lakers young players.
|Kobe-Lite||Points||FG%||FG Attempts||Salary||2016-17 Win %|
|DeMar DeRozan, Raptors||33.0||50.3%||24.0||$26,540,100,||66.6%|
|Nick Young, Lakers||14.1||46.2%||10.2||$5,443,918||53.8%|
There was no interest by Conley in joining the purple and gold. The fact that the Lakers called at all when they already had a point guard in D’Angelo Russell makes you wonder of their commitment to Russell. Russell is more innately suited for a shooting guard and I see the Lakers working on selling that to the #2 pick if Conley had come to L.A.. But really, why would he? He is on a team with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. The Grizzlies toughness make them a viable playoff threat every year. Plus, Conley wants to continue what he started in Memphis, not go backwards.
League Rankings 2016-17
- Assists: Mike Conley, 16th. D’Angelo Russell, 29th.
- 3-Pointers Made: Mike Conley 19th. D’Angelo Russell 14th.
- Steals: Mike Conley, 41st. D’Angelo Russell, 52nd.
As a Laker….He would have interjected some toughness into the Lakers back court. D’Angelo Russell and NIck Young are below average, okay pathetic defenders, who are not gritty and physical ala Conley. Instead, they skew towards finesse. Conley would have orchestrated the team as well as Russell who is averaging 4.7 assists and Russell would have been open for a lot of threes and mid-range jumpers off of Conley’s lane penetration. Conley’s personality would have rubbed off on a team that is mostly out there to have fun and often is missing someone to make them accountable for their mistakes. He plays hard on every possession. Conley would have fit into Walton’s offense because Conley is a point guard that can play for any coach. But he would have impeded the development of Julius Randle who plays the point forward position and is as much a playmaker as Russell. Conley would have taken the ball out of Randle’s hands.
|Magic Johnson- Lite||Points||3-Point %||Assists||Contract||2016-17 Win%|
|Mike Conley, Grizzlies||18.3||47.5%||5.9||$26,540,100||61.5%|
|D’Angelo Russell, Lakers||16.8||39.0%||4.7||$5,332,800||53.8%|
He’s not a franchise player but he is a dominant rebounder and shot blocker who can score. He’s never going to average 20 a game but after the Roy Hibbert disaster of last year, the Lakers were just looking for someone to plug in the rim protector hole. It was a fantasy you dream about, Whiteside in the middle for the next decade. Even though the Lakers play a version of Warriors ball, always on the move, passing dominant, they need a big man to do some things at the rim.
League Rankings 2016-17
- Points: Hassan Whiteside, 39th. Timofey Mozgov, 156th.
- Offensive Rebounds: Hassan Whiteside, 1st. Timofey Mosgov, 26th.
- Blocks: Hassan Whiteside, 2nd. Timofey Mozgov, 69th.
As a Laker….It was a dream and this one really hurt Walton, Whiteside going back to Miami. The opportunity to get a player of his ability protecting the rim, scoring, providing extra possessions and doing that next to a free roaming Julius Randle was a huge disappointment. Out of all the free agents, Whiteside was the one to get. There just aren’t many big men coming down the pipeline with his skill set. Guards come and go. But athletic centers are a rare commodity. Whiteside would have fit in perfectly with Luke ball. He runs the floor and controls the paint and the way Luke plays his guys, Whiteside’s habit of mentally nodding off while he is on the court would have worked because Julius Randle plays hard on every play. The Lakers only consolation is that they have a better record than the Heat even if they don’t have a player as dominant as Whiteside.
|Hassan Whiteside, Heat||17.7||16.2||2.7||$22,116,750||33.3%|
|Timofey Mozgov, Lakers||8.2||5.1||0.7||$16,000,000||53.8%|