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.
The Los Angeles Lakers have been great this season. In-fact, they have been leading the Western Conference comfortably and sustaining the second best record in the league, throughout.
However, not all has been a success for the Lakers. In marquee match-ups against the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Clippers, some issues were highlighted.
Aside from superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the purple and gold struggle to find any offensive identity at times, which could prove problematic in any future playoff match-ups. To address these issues, the Lakers are rumoured to be exploring the trade market. Although, if a few players can evolve their games and step-up, no trades will be required.
Here are 3 players that need to step up for the Lakers to get to that next level, in the pursuit of a Championship.
This is Rajon Rondo‘s second season as a member of the Lakers. To date, it’s probably fair to say that he’s had a relatively disappointing season. Coming into the the 2019/20 campaign, Rondo was expected to be a primary ball handler that could create shots for other players coming off the bench. That hasn’t been the case.
Being a below average defender and shooter, the 33-year-old’s main form of productivity comes through his passing and play-making. However, he’s been struggling with this aspect of his game.
Rondo has been playing 22 minutes per game this season. In those minutes, he holds averages of 7.6 points and 5.4 assists, paired with 2.1 turnovers. Many of these minutes come when LeBron James isn’t on the court, meaning the main play-making responsibilities fall in Rondo’s control. But he’s failed to take advantage of that.
Rondo somehow needs to be able to utilise his minutes better, by shooting the ball consistently, spreading the ball to space, and having a better assist to turnover ratio. If so, then the Lakers’ lack of scoring without James and Anthony Davis can be answered.
Coming into the season, Quinn Cook was a player who was supposed to be a sharpshooter off the bench. Not just a spot-up shooter, but also a player that could create his own shot.
Funnily enough, the description above matches the exact type of player that the Lakers are pursuing with the NBA trade deadline approaching.
Cook has had impressive games this season, there’s no doubting that. With the most recent being in the loss against the Orlando Magic, where he lit up for 22 points, on 9-14 shooting, 4-7 from 3. In that game, he was instrumental in helping the purple and gold cut down a 20 point deficit.
But these games have been few and far between. A lot of this could come down to lack of minutes though. Although, it can be said, that in the minutes he has received, Cook has not become dependable enough to see the court more.
If he can become more productive offensively, on a consistent basis, as well as developing as a play-maker, he can truly be a force in a postseason run.
Kyle Kuzma was one of the few players retained by the Lakers this past off-season. His ability to be a catch-and-shoot, lights-out scorer alongside LeBron James, on a cap friendly contract, earned him a significant spot on the roster for this season.
But.. Kuzma’s campaign has been very polarising so far. There are occasional games where he can light it up and explode for 20+ points, but there are also games where he will fall out of rhythm, and struggle with his shooting. The latter being more frequent.
From a defensive standpoint, he’s not terrible. He’s actually been much improved this season, but it’s unfair to label him an above average defender. He still requires some further development on that side of the ball.
So when he’s struggling to find it offensively, and due to him not being an established lock-down defender, there’s little reason for him to be on the court. Granted, when Kuzma gets plentiful touches and shots, he can be a threat. But when James and Davis are sharing the floor with him, this proves difficult.
In order for Kuzma to turn the Lakers from a great team to a near unstoppable team, he needs to improve as a wing defender, relying on more than athleticism to stop his opponents. He also needs to learn how to do more with less and produce offensively. Even when he doesn’t get the touches he wants.
If this can happen, Kyle Kuzma can become the third scoring threat that everyone saw him as coming into the season.
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In the early hours of July 6, Kawhi Leonard shocked the NBA world and opted to join the Los Angeles Clippers, over the Toronto Raptors and the Los Angeles Lakers. Leonard signed a 3-year, $103 million deal with the Lakers’ cross-city rivals. The Clippers paired him with Paul George, of whom they traded for to secure Leonard’s signature.
The Lakers were holding out in the hope that Leonard would lean towards the purple and gold, instead Pelinka and Co. have been forced to take an alternative route, in an attempt to build a championship contender.
Almost instantly after the Kawhi news, we were bombarded with numerous Laker signings. It’s safe to say, so far, the front office deserve praise. They’ve built a deep, talented roster that is more than capable of pushing for championship honours. Whether they get over the line is another thing, but they should certainly be in the mix.
32-year-old Danny Green was the Lakers’ first signing after being dealt the Kawhi Leonard news. Green has signed a 2-year, $30 million deal. He was the premier ‘3 and D’ player left on the market, and it was expected that the Dallas Mavericks would offer a larger, lengthier deal, but the purple and gold secured their man.
The 6-foot-6 guard won the second NBA Championship of his career last season, whilst at the Toronto Raptors. On his way to championship glory, he posted averages of 10.3 points, 4 rebounds, and 1.6 assists, whilst shooting an incredible .455% from 3-point range. Throughout his career, Green is a .404% shooter from beyond the arc so he does perform at a consistent rate in that category.
Defensively he plays hard too. A solid addition on both ends of the court.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will be returning to the Lakers on a 2-year, $16 million deal. The shooting guard out of Georgia does split opinion within the Laker community, and rightly so. Some days he can be lights out from a scoring standpoint and really hold his own defensively, then other days he can simply disappear and barely contribute.
It is easy to forget that Caldwell-Pope is still only 26-years old. In the past few seasons for the purple and gold, he has been developing as a player and understanding his role on the team. In his first season, the Lakers signed him to a 1-year, $18 million deal, and now he will be returning at a considerably less, more reasonable, rate.
If he can actively contribute off the bench, he can be a useful piece. Knocking down open 3s and locking in defensively at a consistent rate will result in a successful season from KCP.
The 2-time NBA Champion, JaVale McGee, was one of the only bright sparks in an all-but miserable season last time out for the Lakers. He played hard and filled a void at the center position. Suffering pneumonia mid-way through the season slowed him down unfortunately, but overall it really isn’t a surprise to see the 31-year-old return to Los Angeles.
Playing 20+ minutes for the first time since the 2010-11 season, McGee averaged a career-high 12 points per game last season. He offered a strong rebounding game, along with interior defense, where he finished 5th for the most blocked shots in the league.
It may be too much to expect McGee to play considerable minutes in a starting role, but in a sensible center rotation he can definitely be an effective player.
Quinn Cook has quite a remarkable NBA story. From going undrafted in 2015, to learning his trade in the then NBA D-League, before signing a 10-day deal with the New Orleans Pelicans, then earning a spot in the Golden State Warriors‘ rotation, to winning an NBA Championship in 2018.
Last season for the Warriors, Cook featured in 74 regular season games, averaging 6.9 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 1.6 assists. He also featured in 17 playoff games, including the NBA Finals, which will provide further postseason experience to the Lakers’ roster. He has signed a 2-year, $6 million deal.
Throughout his short NBA career so far, Cook has established himself as a solid spot-up shooter. Averaging .418% from 3-point land over 121 games. As a point guard that is just 6-foot-1, he does come with his defensive worries but his offensive game is why he was brought in. After-all, players like Green, Caldwell-Pope, etc, can be moved over to cover his defensive workload.
For many years DeMarcus Cousins has been linked with the Lakers, as a star player. Well, Cousins now joins the purple and gold on a 1-year, $3.5 million deal. Since suffering an Achilles injury in January 2018 whilst at the New Orleans Pelicans, the 28-year-old has been on the long road to recovery. For the 2018-19 season, he opted to join the Golden State Warriors on a $5.3 million, mid-level exception.
It was expected that Cousins would be out until early 2019, at the very least. Cousins did make his comeback ahead of schedule, featuring in his Warriors debut in January 2019. Through the remainder of the campaign the 6-foot-11 center played 30 regular season games, averaging 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.5 blocks. In the 1st round of the NBA Playoffs Cousins tore his quadricep, which ruled him out until game 1 of the Finals.
Before injuring his Achilles, DeMarcus Cousins was undoubtedly an elite talent with the Sacramento Kings, averaging 25+ points, 12 rebounds, along with a host of assists, steals, and blocks. He is a low risk, high reward acquisition. The Lakers getting him for less than the Warriors signed him for is a steal. Plus, an Achilles injury is commonly a 2-year injury, of which Cousins is nearing the end of.
With a full off-season under his belt, Cousins should be nearing 80% healthy. Even a partially fit Cousins should be able to contribute 15-20 points and 10 rebounds per game, you would think. Which would be more than enough for this Lakers team, alongside LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Co. If he nears 100% fitness, he could very well be the 3rd star in the team.
Fingers crossed he can stay healthy!
Returning alongside Caldwell-Pope and McGee, is Rajon Rondo. The 33-year-old point guard has signed a 2-year, minimum deal with the Lakers. Last season he posted averages of 9.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 8 assists, and 1.2 steals.
He endured an up-and-down season last time out, where at times he looked a solid piece within the Lakers roster. Namely in the Christmas Day win at Golden State, and with his buzzer-beater winner at his former home, TD Garden. But for the majority of, he was underwhelming. Defensively he was a liability and he appeared to simply lack effort in the latter part of the season.
Nonetheless, the Lakers have opted to bring Rondo back. The point guard pool in this free agency period was sparse, so he does fill a void. Additionally, a recent report from Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports suggests that the Lakers have intentions of starting LeBron James at point guard for the upcoming season. As a result, Rondo could feature off the bench under limited minutes.
Much like Quinn Cook, Alex Caruso‘s NBA journey is a feel-good story. After going undrafted in 2016, Caruso hit the then D-League with the Oklahoma City Blue, before securing the Lakers’ first ever 2-way contract, splitting his time between the NBA team and the G-League affiliate team, the South Bay Lakers.
After lighting up the G-League during the 2017-18 season, but failing to impress in the NBA, Caruso was handed another 2-way deal for the 2018-19 campaign. It was in this season where the 6-foot-4 guard impressed. In 25 games he averaged 9.2 points, 2.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1 steal, on .455% shooting. From 3-point range, Caruso shot at a blistering .480% rate. On April 5, 2019, he recorded a career-high 32 points in a victory against the Clippers.
In his short time with the Lakers, Caruso has become a fan favourite and rightly so. He plays hard, and is clearly talented. For the upcoming 2019-20 season, Alex Caruso has signed a 2-year, $5.5 million contract. With it comes another opportunity to shine, this time on what is expected to be a winning team.
After playing the first part of last season with the Clippers, and the second with the Memphis Grizzlies, Avery Bradley was recently waived and hit the free agent market. Almost instantly, the Lakers snapped Bradley up to a 2-year, $9.7 million deal.
Being highly regarding as a top-level ‘3 and D’ player throughout the majority of his career, Bradley has experienced a decline in recent years. After excelling with the Boston Celtics between 2010-2017, he was traded to the Detroit Pistons, where he continued his impressive play. But then injuries hit and he was moved onto the Clippers. This stalled the 28-year-old guard’s progress.
However, in the latter part of last season, with the Grizzlies, Bradley appeared to regain some form. In 14 games, he averaged 16.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 2 assists, on .463% shooting (.384% from 3). Even through the last few years where his play has dropped, his defense hasn’t. Through his 11-year career so far, Avery Bradley has built a reputation for being one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. The Lakers were in clear need of a defensive wing, and they have their man. If Bradley can regain his offensive spark, the Lakers may have grabbed a steal.
Troy Daniels was the 1st player that the Lakers signed this off-season, as they were waiting on Kawhi Leonard’s free agency decision. The general consensus through the last decade-and-a-half has been to surround LeBron James with shooters. With that, Daniels fits the bill.
The 27-year-old guard is a .400% career 3-point shooter. He will most likely see limited minutes behind a deep, talent Lakers roster, but when called upon, Daniels should do a job. He has signed a 1-year, $2.1 million deal.
33-year-old Jared Dudley was the 2nd player that the Lakers turned towards, whilst waiting for Leonard. Signing a 1-year, $2.6 million deal, Dudley adds a smart, veteran presence to the locker room.
He may not be the flashiest of players, but veterans like Dudley are a pivotal to the success of any NBA team. He will provide a calm head to a team that includes many strong personalities, who could clash from time-to-time.
On the court, Dudley is capable of contributing. In 20 minutes with the Brooklyn Nets last season, he posted averages of 4.9 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.4 assists. Defensively he is tough, and can certainly hold his own.
The Lakers’ roster so far:
Rajon Rondo (G), Alex Caruso (G), Quinn Cook (G), Danny Green (G), Avery Bradley (G), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (G), Troy Daniels (G), Talen Horton-Tucker (G/F), LeBron James (F), Kyle Kuzma (F), Jared Dudley (F), Anthony Davis (F/C), DeMarcus Cousins (C), JaVale McGee (C).