After the second worst season in the Lakers’ franchise history, with a win-loss record of 27-55, there’s no doubt that the Lakers need to make changes to their roster. With the recent resignation of head coach Mike D’Antoni, the Lakers need to figure out a way to get back on track.
Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers’ superstar who was out for most of the regular season, appears to be the only one with a guaranteed job with the team next season. Steve Nash and Robert Sacre are signed through next season as well, but the team has to decide if they want to keep them on or not.
In this article, I will discuss players who the Lakers should sign and keep on their roster for next season.
Let’s start with Kendall Marshall. He signed with the Lakers after the regular season began on December 20, 2013. With only one season of experience under his belt, he quickly took over the starting point guard position for the Lakers. In the 54 appearances he made for the Los Angeles Lakers this past season, he averaged 8.0 points, 8.8 assists, 2.9 rebounds and was 39.9% from the three-point line. The Lakers have a team option of signing Marshall for the 2014-2015 season and should definitely consider bringing this young talent back.
Ryan Kelly is another player who should come back next season. He is a 6-foot-11 power forward who was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers last season with the 48th overall pick. He appeared in 59 games with the Lakers and averaged 8.0 points, 1.6 assists and 3.7 rebounds. Additionally, he was 33.8% from behind the arc.
At the end of the season, Kelly said, “For my growth, I showed I can do a lot of things. The big thing is doing it consistently. Most rookies have their ups and downs and I did too. There were times I shot the ball better than others, there were times I was moving better than others. If I can grow in those ways and then be consistent with it, I feel I can be a pretty darn good player in this league and a starter”.
I agree with Kelly. As a rookie, on a struggling team, Kelly did an excellent job of showing knowledge of the game and being a team player. He has a lot of potential and would be an asset to the Lakers moving forward.
Wesley Johnson. In 2010, Wesley Johnson was the 4th overall pick in the NBA Draft, which means there are high expectations of him to succeed. The Lakers had the same mindset when they signed him last season.
The Lakers hoped that Johnson will be a leader on both ends of the floor and put his athleticism to good use. He had a slow start and definitely didn’t live up to his expectations. However, as his playing time increased due to his teammates’ injuries, we began to see what Johnson was all about. He played with high energy on both ends of the floor and ended up having one of the best seasons of his career thus far.
He played the small forward and power forward position, but struggled with consistency. He finished the season averaging a career-best 9.1 points and 3.9 rebounds. He also had career high averages in blocks per game, steals per game, free-throw percentage, field-goal percentage and a 36.7 three-point percentage. Johnson has a lot of upside and will improve if he has the opportunity to play with Kobe Bryant and other top notch players who will make him better. Even if he doesn’t earn a starting role next season, Johnson would help the second unit off the bench and potentially move himself up to the starting lineup.
One of my personal favorite players on the Los Angeles Lakers’ roster this season was Xavier Henry (until he was injured and sat out the rest of the season). Henry barely made the Lakers’ roster in the beginning of the season, but he worked very hard and impressed the coaches and fans and eventually had a prominent role on the squad.
I remember writing an article late last year stating that Henry should be placed on the starting five to replace Meeks in the shooting guard position. However, Henry didn’t have the chance to finish the year and prove his worth to the team. He averaged 10.0 points, 1.2 assists, 2.7 rebounds and shot 34.6% from the 3-point line. But, on December 29, he suffered a bone bruise in his right knee.
Overall, Henry missed nearly two months, experiencing multiple setbacks trying to get back onto the court. When he tore a ligament in his wrist, he was forced to sit out the rest of the season.
With Kobe Bryant returning to the team next season, it’s a good idea for the Lakers to bring back Henry and have him learn from one of the greatest shooting guards the league has ever seen. With a new coaching staff (yet to be determined), we don’t know if Henry will be back, but he has the skill and potential to be a great shooter and lead the second unit.
Lastly, the Lakers should bring back Pau Gasol. Next season, Gasol will be entering his 15th year in the league. He is an established superstar and not much needs to be said about his resume. This season, he was one of the only veterans on the team since Bryant and Nash were both out for most of the season. He had a difficult time leading the young Lakers’ squad, but I’m not pointing any fingers at him.
With Kobe’s return next season, Gasol will look more like the Pau Gasol we have grown to watch. As a free agent this off-season, Gasol said, “I look at this as an opportunity probably for the first and last time I’ll be a free agent where I can choose. It’s nothing like I’ve experienced before in the NBA”.
Gasol is expected to play another 4-5 years in the NBA and this summer he will choose where he most likely ends his career. D’Antoni’s system wasn’t right for Gasol, but that’s no longer an issue. If Gasol likes the new coaching hire and receives an offer from the Lakers, I don’t see a reason for him to turn it down. With the right player additions and the return of the hopefully healthy Black Mamba, Gasol’s best chance to win another title is in the purple and gold uniform.
It’s going to be an exciting off-season for the Los Angeles Lakers and I can’t wait to see what happens.