In the aftermath of the Los Angeles Lakers’ new signing of Dion Waiters, we look into what his skill-set brings, and what that means for players like Quinn Cook.
Does this spell the end of any potential minutes for Cook? Does this make the Lakers a more potent team? What’s the difference between them? All will be explained momentarily.
Waiters vs. Cook
Waiters and Cook are shooters through and through, but what is concerning is the playoffs. Looking at the relatively small sample size as well as what these players have done this year, there isn’t much to say.
Behind the arc that is supposed to be the great equalizer, both players have shot well throughout their careers. Cook at 41.2% and Waiters at 34.8%. Waiters has no rings, Cook has one, and Waiters has played about half the playoff games that Cook has.
In addition, Waiters holds 2 inches over Cook in height, as well as about 30 pounds in weight.
The question here is who do you trust with the ball in their hands come crunch time?
This is where players like Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Alex Caruso all come into play. While Rondo has been inconsistent, there is the phenomenon known as “Playoff Rondo”. Who, a few years ago, was able to help Anthony Davis run right over and sweep the Portland Trail Blazers in the postseason.
Is that something the Lakers can expect for a whole playoff run? Time will tell.
Alex Caruso has become a fan favorite and holds a +23 rating playing besides LeBron James. That holds a lot of weight. Plus, the savviness and toughness he brings both offensively and defensively does make up for his average of 5 points per game.
But will he be able to up his offensive production and hold it all together when the lights come on and the dial is turned up 100 levels in the playoffs? With this being the first time he will play in the postseason, all that’s available is hope and speculation. However, if this season is anything of an indicator, it is more likely than not going to be the exact same Alex Caruso.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the long name may sound odd off the tongue, but quietly he has been an integral piece of the Lakers’ rotation. His 10 points per game and nearly 40% shooting from behind the arc is essential.
You could make the case that he deserves to start. But it is working at the moment with him coming off the bench, receiving staggered minutes between units. Although his 1 steal per game is measly, he is 9 out of 10 times playing good man defense and more often than not in the right place at the right time.
Kyle Kuzma and Markieff Morris are the last bench pieces that jump into consideration also. They both do different things but the eye test is most important.
While both are still trying to really get their roles set on solid ground, they definitely do some good things. Morris a 6-foot-9, “3 and D” type of player. Whereas Kuzma is a scorer at heart, with inconsistent defense.
Kuzma is averaging career lows but the defensive effort has been acceptable. Morris can rebound just as good. if not better, than Kuzma and can hit the 3 more consistently.
Back to Waiters, What Version of Do the Lakers Get?
The Lakers are in need of a competent scorer and a consistent defensive player. Not great but good enough to make people uncomfortable leaving him open and/or exploiting defensively.
Dion Waiters, on paper, checks all the boxes. He’s a guard, can shoot, from within and beyond the 3-point line, and can convert broken players. Some important additions include that he can ball-handle and create for others too. All of this is good, again on paper, but his behaviour of the court has lacked for quite some time now.
Waiters presents a lot of offensive potential should he keep his head in the game. Will the Lakers’ culture prevail and keep him in check? or will the Los Angeles culture have him relapse into bad habits?
While all is yet to be seen, the playoffs are just around the corner. The organisation, as well as Laker Nation, are hoping to receive the lights out walking bucket that Waiters is, with the defensive effort to assist the Lakers bring home championship number 17. Thus, tying the Boston Celtics‘ record in the process.
Cross your fingers, the postseason is almost upon us.
Let’s face it Lakers Nation, we’re spoiled. Our team this season has spoiled us.
We’ve grown used to 10-game winning streaks. We’ve grown used to dominating opposing teams on the road to the tune of the best road record in the NBA. We’ve grown used to having the best record in the Western Conference. We’ve grown used to watching the best duo in the NBA doing whatever they want to opposing defenses night-in and night-out. However, with all of this said, I’ll be one of the first people to say it, we’ve taken all of this for granted.
We should pause relishing in the euphoria that is this 2019-20 Los Angeles Lakers team and ask ourselves — why is this team so good? Is it our All-Star duo, LeBrow? Is it the steady presence of our veteran players? Is it our role players? How about team chemistry — could it be that? Ladies and gentlemen, I think it is all the aforementioned with special emphasis on team chemistry.
What Laker fan hasn’t noticed how much our players genuinely enjoy one another? How much fun they seem to have during each game? The pre-game team rituals, the custom handshakes. Best of all, there is no obvious locker-room drama outside of Kyle Kuzma’s idiot trainer’s remarks about LeBron James after the loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Christmas Day.
Meanwhile, confirmed reports have recently surfaced of ongoing locker-room rancor with our frenemies at the other end of the Staples Center “hallway” but that overrated, load-managing, “preferential treatment” locker-room is a discussion we’ll save for another day.
This all brings us back to why the Lakers should keep Kuzma — his cost control, his high ceiling, and team chemistry. Kuzma is in the third year of his 4-year, $8.65 million rookie contract. This season he is making a paltry base salary of $1.974 million. In the final year of his rookie deal, he is scheduled to get a bump in salary to $3.562 million since his option was picked up.
As the 27th overall pick in the 2017 draft, he has clearly outperformed his contract and best yet, he hasn’t even begun to enter his prime. Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka knows this type of cheap, cost-controlled, high-ceiling production is not something you simply trade away unless it is for a high-level, impact player and, unfortunately, those types of players frequently just do not become available for trade.
Kuzma’s value to the Lakers championship run is vital whether fans choose to admit it or not. LeBron James acknowledged as much after the win in Brooklyn in January, when asked about the makeup of our team for a deep playoff run. Not to mention, we still control Kuzma for one more season, then restricted free-agency opens-up. Although, some believe Pelinka will lock the 24-year-old up long term before that.
It’s understandable why a large percentage of Lakers Nation is down on Kuzma. Fans all have eyes, they recognize what they have witnessed. His play has been inconsistent and his basketball IQ leaves a whole heap to be desired. He takes bad shots, makes some bad defensive decisions, his on-court positioning is off, and so forth.
Further, others complain he is too caught up in Hollywood. He is too interested in dating the next Hollywood celebrity, and he is too interested in modeling his next outfit for his Instagram account. These are all valid points, but what we must remember is in all these off-the-court concerns, the kid is 24-years-old, lives in Los Angeles, is single, is handsome, and is a millionaire! He is supposed to be doing what he is doing and that is maintaining a work-life balance.
Kuzma is the Lakers’ 3rd offensive option, essentially the 6th man off the bench. What he needs to help advance his consistency and development is a play-making point guard to run the offense, set him to up, and probably a veteran wing defender to help him out on the second unit. That play-making point guard could be Darren Collison.
Envision a core second unit of Collison, Caruso, Kuzma, Dwight, and a to be named, impact wing defender. Good, right?!
Chemistry is essential to a team’s success in this league unless you are the Golden State Warriors and have four superstars in your starting five. Look at the run the Clippers made last season. Most of their success was based on chemistry and excellent coaching. It is no surprise they are having chemistry issues this season, but again, this is a topic for another day.
To bring in Collison, who leaves — Cook or Daniels? Does bringing in Collison mess up our team chemistry? That will all come to the forefront with the trade deadline fast-approaching.
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The 2019 NBA Draft is fast approaching and speculation is widespread with many giving their input on who the Lakers should draft with the #4 pick, come June 20.
It is very much a toss up between Darius Garland, Jarrett Culver, De’Andre Hunter, and Cam Reddish, it seems. Either would definitely be a solid addition to the roster. However, does it even matter? After all the Lakers will be trading the pick, won’t they? This is where it gets interesting!
We have gathered the opinions of four UK-based Laker fans (one is from Germany, but he’s now an adopted Brit!) on the franchise landing another high draft pick, the Lakers’ plans moving forward, how the draft will unfold, among other topics.
Q: First of all, what was your reaction when the Lakers jumped up 7 places in the Draft Lottery to secure the #4 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft?
Matt:“I didn’t stay up for it like I have done in previous years because I thought we were a dead set for #11. Upon waking up I was elated, it was a massive boost for the franchise and some much-needed positivity in what was a relatively bleak period with all of the front office drama.”
Steve: “I was pretty happy. It‘s a top heavy draft so it’s nice to be able to pick at #4. It’s also an end to an otherwise forgettable season.”
Mohamoud: “Shocked would be an understatement. I never expected the Lakers to sneak into the top 5. However, once it was announced that the Lakers had jumped ahead, I had a sneaky feeling that the number 1 or 2 pick would fall in our lap. Either way, I am extremely happy.”
Ryan: “My initial thoughts were ones of happiness just like I’m sure all Laker fans’ were, jumping up that many allows us to draft a better player arguably. My other thoughts were that it gives us a lot better collateral for trading.”
Q: As well as giving the Lakers the opportunity to draft a talented young player to add to the core, the pick gives the franchise another asset to potentially place in a trade. Do you think the Lakers will use the pick or trade it?
Matt: “I think the Lakers will actively look to trade the pick in the hope of acquiring some star talent to the roster. Whether they are actually able to do it though, is a different question.”
Steve:“As much as I‘d like to see a new young player, I think the Lakers will use the pick as a trade chip.”
Mohamoud: “For the Lakers, the ideal situation would be to trade the pick. This draft is top heavy. I don’t envision anyone outside the top 3 to be good enough to entice other teams *ahem ahem* *Pelicans* to trade for that pick.”
Ryan: “Personally I think it depends on a few things. LeBron is the key player in all of this, if he decides to go and help run the Lakers which from what we’ve seen on the surface and from what Magic has told us, we could really do with him turning his hand to running the front office like everyone has said he’s done at every organisation he’s been at. If LeBron gets involved I can see it being used as collateral in a trade, LeBron has a few years left and wants to win now, he’s got enough kids on the roster, I highly doubt he’d want another. I could also see the front office trying to get back at LeBron after the whole AD thing and draft another kid and make LeBron work with it.”
Q: Obviously, what the Lakers do and what the fans want appear to differ at present time, what do YOU want the Lakers to do with the pick?
Matt:“I’m pretty torn between the two really, if we get the option of acquiring Anthony Davis, I’m all for it. But the thought of gutting the roster to do so frightens me to be honest. If a reasonable offer for Beal got accepted I wouldn’t be against that either. The front office just needs to be smart, for once.”
Steve: “I‘d like to use the pick on a player like Hunter, Garland or Reddish.”
Mohamoud: “The Lakers want to win now. That’s why they signed LeBron James. So trading the pick would be a priority for me.”
Ryan:“I’m not sure AD is worth giving up what we will have to. If I was in the front office I’d be targeting Beal with the pick, I don’t know what other collateral you’d have to give Washington to get him but I highly doubt it would be what Pelicans are demanding for Davis.”
Q: There seems to be a fair few interesting options available at #4, who would you like to see the Lakers draft and why? This is should they decide to keep the pick.
Matt:“I would go with Darius Garland. I think he looks a fantastic player, and could really fit into the modern NBA with flashy guards. He looks a threat from range, can get to the rim and can distribute. Oh, and he has that Klutch Sports link..”
Steve:“Hunter would be my obvious choice. He’s a great defender who could have an immediate impact on the team. He can defend guards, forwards and would be great alongside Lonzo.”
Mohamoud: “For the Lakers, they have to pick the best player available. If the projected top 3 remains as it is, Culver would be a great pick. I am also extremely high on Garland and considering that we will most likely push to trade Lonzo for something better, Garland would be a good pick up. I am also high on Hunter. With his size and skill set, he could help out immediately.”
Ryan:“Ideally I’d like Ja (Morant) to still be on the board although that has as much of a chance of happening as the Suns do of going unbeaten next season. Personally I like Cam Reddish, he’d be a good fit at #4.”
Q: There have been reports suggesting that the New York Knicks may pass on RJ Barrett and select Jarrett Culver with the #3 pick. That surely won’t happen, will it? I mean, it is the Knicks that we are talking about.
Matt: “In the past, the Knicks have been as dysfunctional as any but surely they don’t pass on Barrett. I can’t see it happening. I don’t think there’s a huge difference between the top-3 and the rest of the draft like many are saying. But there is still some difference. The Knicks will play it safe and so they should.”
Steve:“If you‘d asked me that a year ago I’d have agreed on him, no doubt. However his year at Duke wasn’t convincing. Barrett wasn’t able to carry the team without Zion. Even with Zion he seemed more like a complementary player.”
Mohamoud: “The Knicks cannot be that stupid, can they? Pass up on, potentially the best player in the draft? If Barrett falls on our lap, we might have to rename the draft to the Lakers Christmas gift. Don’t get me wrong, I am not excited about the prospect of playing him, rather that he would have great trade value. We could flip him for something more productive for our timeline.”
Ryan: “I think this is a non starter because not even the Knicks would be that stupid. But also because I think that’s where AD will end up as the change of having the 1+3 pick might see the Pelicans give AD to NY.”
Q: The Lakers have drafted very well over the past few years, especially late in the 1st round and in the 2nd. Who has been your favourite pick in recent years, it doesn’t necessarily have to be who you think is the best, but it could be a steal for the position in which a player was drafted. Is there one that stands out for you?
Matt:“There has been quite a few over recent years; Nance, Clarkson, Zubac, etc. But Kuzma stands out for me, to snatch him as a late-1st rounder was a steal. He’s had such a strong impact and should get better and better. On his day he can be a devastating scorer.”
Steve:“Kuz is my favorite pick in recent years. To get a player with his skill set at #27 was amazing. Ingram and Lonzo were good picks too, but that’s what you expect when you draft a player at #2.”
Mohamoud: “Kuzma should come to everyone’s mind as a late draft pick steal. So does Josh Hart. I can also remember the Lakers selecting Marc Gasol late in the second round, although nothing materialised from that. I also really like Zubac. The front office made a terrible mistake trading him out of sheer panic.”
Ryan:“This would have been a straight forward one and I’d have gone with Zubac until, idiotically, we traded him for some ridiculous reason. So I’m going to bend the question a bit and go for Kuzma, although technically we didn’t select him. He’s still my favourite player we’ve gotten in the process in recent years. I love watching him play.”
Thank you to Steve, Mohamoud, and Ryan for taking part and providing their views, it is much appreciated. Over the past week we ran a poll over on Lakers Fanclub UK’s Twitter page on who our followers think the Lakers should draft with the #4 pick, should they decide to use it. The results were:
Darius Garland – 32%
Jarrett Culver – 21%
De’Andre Hunter – 16%
Cam Reddish – 31%
Speculation will undoubtedly run wild between now and June 20, that’s for sure. Come draft night who honestly knows what’s going to happen, but that’s the fun of it all, we wouldn’t have it any other way!