Having youth is a great thing, but Mitch Kupchak and the Lakers brass recognized that merely acquiring young players isn’t enough to truly rebuild a team. They need examples to follow, mentors who have been in the NBA trenches and know what it takes in order to make it as a pro (which helps explain the re-emergence of MWP).
Enter Lou Williams, Roy Hibbert, Brandon Bass, and Marcelo Huertas. Between them they have 38 years of pro experience, but they are also still young enough to make serious contributions on the court.
Williams, the NBA’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year, was poached from Toronto on a three-year, $21 million deal, which means he essentially received the money that would have been used to retain Ed Davis. Williams’ deal is a real bargain considering his experience and ability to provide flexibility by playing either guard position, and he appears to be well-suited to educate the young guards about the ins and outs of efficient perimeter scoring.
Likewise, Marcelo Huertas comes to Los Angeles with a sparkling resume, albeit in international play. At 32 years old, he isn’t the typical NBA rookie, and will be called upon to run the Lakers second unit and instruct D’Angelo Russell on the finer points of quarterbacking a team. Huertas dazzled in preseason, showing off passing skills that are reminiscent of Steve Nash. While Huertas isn’t the shooter that Nash was, his playmaking skills do look to be a fantastic addition to the second unit, where he has shooters like Kelly, Nick Young, and Williams to spread the floor for him.
With the guards in good hands, the Lakers turned their attention to the post, where a hard-working veteran was needed to replace the departing Carlos Boozer. Brandon Bass got the call on a two-year deal, and promises to bring his blue collar approach as well as a dependable mid-range jumper to the team. Bass, like World Peace, also projects to be an excellent mentor for Randle (as well as Kelly and Nance), and can soak up starters minutes in a pinch should the youngsters struggle.
Defensively, the Lakers ranked 29th in the league last season, and while there were holes everywhere rim protection stood out as a critical area in need of improvement. With that in mind, the Lakers were able to secure a trade with the Indiana Pacers that landed stingy center Roy Hibbert, who is only a season removed from being an All-Star. After struggling last season with the Pacers, both Hibbert and the Lakers are hoping that a change of scenery can snap him out of the funk that led to his departure from Pawnee.
While his plodding pace was vilified in Indy, Hibbert is still one of the top-five rim protectors in the league and at 28, he is also young enough to potentially become part of the Lakers core of the future. His laser-focus on defense and rebounding will set the tone for reserves Tarik Black and Robert Sacre, who will be battling it out back up center minutes.
It has to be noted that the Lakers did strike out on landing a major free agent like LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre Jordan, or Greg Monroe, but Mitch Kupchak did a heck of a job of pivoting swiftly once the aces were off the board. It may not have been the home run that the Lakers were hoping for heading into the offseason, but they have set themselves up nicely with a core of veterans who will not only help them win games now, but can also lead the way for the next generation.
CONTINUE: Lakers 2015-2016 Season Preview