Dwight Howard is the Lakers’ first (and second and third) priority in free agency. They’ll meet with the big man on Tuesday with the hope that their pitch seals the deal on his return to Los Angeles where he will anchor their franchise and lead them into the post Kobe Bryant era.
However, as the Lakers wait to make their pitch, they’ve been very active in putting out feelers to free agents who will improve their team next season. At the open of free agency and through Monday, the Lakers were quite busy reaching out to multiple players all of which seem to have the same traits in common.
They’re all perimeter oriented players who are capable outside shooters.
From former Lakers Jordan Farmar and Matt Barnes to Knicks restricted free agent Chris Copeland to Timberwolves swing man Chase Budinger to Cavaliers sharpshooter Wayne Ellington to former Rockets Carlos Delfino and Francisco Garcia to the Sixers shooter Nick Young to the Bobcats’ Power Forward/Center Byron Mullens, the Lakers haven’t been shy about expressing interest in guys who can stretch the defense and help provide the spacing the team sorely lacked last season.
As we were reminded during the NBA Finals when the Spurs and Heat relied heavily on hitting shots from behind the arc, having capable shooters is a necessity in today’s NBA. And with the Lakers’ clearly deficient in that area, it makes sense for them to try and sign as many of these guys as possible. However, there’s more to trying to sign them than simply trying to keep up with the Joneses.
First off, if you’re going to build a team around Dwight Howard (not to mention Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol), having an excess of shooters should be a top priority. Howard’s most successful teams in Orlando all featured multiple players capable of knocking down the three-ball and the space those shooters provided allowed him the room he needed to operate in the paint. When Howard doesn’t have that space, he can be turnover prone and be fouled quickly to be put on the foul line where he struggles mightily.
The other key point, however, is that these players signal that the Lakers are very much in support of trying to build a roster that fits into Mike D’Antoni’s system. D’Antoni prefers to run a spread pick and roll attack that punishes defenses with made three pointers off kick and swing passes when too much help is provided in the paint on dives by the big man or the ball handler penetrating. But too often last season, the ball was being passed to Metta World Peace, Jodie Meeks, Earl Clark or Antawn Jamison — all capable shooters, but all also very inconsistent in how often they knocked down open shots.
If the Lakers could get better shooters on the floor consistently it would guarantee that the offense would run smoother. Adding one or more of the players listed above would be a nice start in accomplishing this goal and would help kick start D’Antoni’s attack from the inconsistent one that too often fell flat in Los Angeles to one closer to what he had in Phoenix.
Of course, if some of these shooters could also play some defense, that would be even better and could maybe help D’Antoni’s reputation on the other side of the ball. Or maybe they’ll just use Dwight for that. At least they hope.