Lakers – Moving on Up in the 2014 NBA Draft

We are four games from the midpoint of the 2013-14 NBA season, and the Lakers are 14-23, which is bad enough for the eighth-to-last spot in the league. Or, if you’re a realist, it’s good enough for the 8th pick in the 2014 NBA draft. Please note, this does not take into account where teams will land in the draft lottery. The good news is, is that they are only 2.5 games out of third slot and a higher chance of hitting the jackpot with either the 1st or 2nd overall pick.

It’s no secret that the Lakers are bereft of any real talent or young assets so any selection in the 2014 draft will be a much needed building block into the laying the foundation of the next dynasty. Here’s a look at our top eight prospects that can make a real impact for the Lakers.

1. Andrew Wiggins – Athletic on both ends of the floor. Could score more, but doesn’t need to with such a stellar supporting cast.

2. Jabari Parker – Scores from anywhere on the court and is averaging over seven rebounds.

3. Julius Randle – A solid big averaging a double-double.

4. Marcus Smart – When’s the last time the Lakers had a lightning-quick point guard that could score at will?

5. Joel Embiid – A 7-footer that can move. Embiid is just starting to scratch the surface of his potential. Think Serge Ibaka – but taller.

6. Dante Exum – A long, athletic point guard that is toying with the notion of attending college. He won’t.

7. Aaron Gordon – Size and athleticism. Think of an unrefined Blake Griffin.

8. Zach LaVine – Don’t let his youthful looks and slight frame fool you. LaVine can create his own shot and has range.

Kobe won’t be back in action for at least another 2-3 weeks and even when he is, there’s no guarantee that the Lakers can play consistent winning ball. It’s only a matter of time before the Kings, Celtics and Jazz surpass them in the standings, which is a good thing.

Should Lakers Give Peace a Chance?

MettaIf I told you that there was a 36.5 percent chance that there would ever be actual, world peace, the future would look grim.

Segway to Metta World Peace’s field goal percentage of 36.5. Last year, Kobe Bryant was the shot-cyphon shooting 43 percent, making only 10-23 shots per game. World Peace is not only missing his shots, but he’s taking shots away from his more-efficient teammates. WP has made 31 shots in 85 attempts and is averaging 11.8 points per game – his highest as a Laker.

I like Metta as a teammate, and I like him as human, but I don’t like his shot. He’s shot: 1-8, 4-5, 3-10, 7-11, 3-12, 3-14, 6-11, and 4-14. His shooting percentage has declined every year as a Laker and is currently a career low. In the five losses thus far, WP is shooting 30 percent (15-49).

I must admit, it was oddly amazing to see his slam on an alley-oop dunk against the Kings, and he does appear to be more nimble than this point in the season last year. But that doesn’t excuse the fact that he has taken only three fewer shots than Dwight Howard, who is 55-88, or 62.5 percent from the field. There simply aren’t enough basketballs to go around, and like it was with Kobe last year, WP must defer to more efficient teammates.

Still a capable defender that can disrupt a play or two, MWP isn’t the one-on-one defender he once was. Add Mike D’Antoni’s high-flying offense that encourages quick shots, and lots of threes. That’s like putting a kid in a candy store and telling him that he can’t have any candy. Good luck with that.

You can’t reason with MWP on the court. There’s no way anyone is going to tell him that he needs to shoot less. If Kobe hasn’t hinted it before – it ain’t going to happen. The only way to limit his shots is to limit his minutes. It’s up to D’Antoni to cut MWP’s minutes by at least 10-12, while giving more time to Jodi Meeks, Chris Duhon, Devin Ebanks, Earl Clark, and Jordan Hill.

Hey, I don’t mind World Peace, as long as it’s in moderation.

3 Things Hanley Ramirez Brings to the Dodgers

Hanley Ramirez on Dodgers
Hanley time is going to be a good time

Like finding a hundred dollar bill in your pocket, or waking up next to a super model, the Dodgers acquisition of superstar shortstop Hanley Ramirez was as pleasant of a surprise Dodgers fans could hope for.

Not only did the offensively-challenged Dodgers snatch up one of the most talented players in baseball, they did it in the middle of the night under everyone’s nose. Surprise blockbuster deals seem to happen often in Los Angeles. From Manny Ramirez, to Pau Gasol, Chris Paul, Albert Pujols, Steve Nash, and Hanley, big moves usually come often, and unexpected.

The addition of Hanley is a much-needed shot of offensive firepower to a squad that lacked impact bats in the middle of the lineup. Kudos to Stan Kasten and Ned Colletti for pulling off such a move, because the timing couldn’t have been better. Hanley brings many qualities to the Dodgers, and if you boil them all down and crystallize them, they can be summed up in three parts.

Production 

It’s no secret that the Dodgers have one of, if not the worst offensive infields in all of baseball. James Loney and Juan Uribe have turned the hot corners cold, and Dee Gordon’s poor on base percentage (.280) , resembles more of an off-base percentage.

Mark Ellis and Jerry Hairston Jr. are quality big leaguers, while Luis Cruz, Juan Rivera and Adam Kennedy should be confined to spot starts – not regular at bats. You already know this, but here are the numbers:

Juan Uribe: .196/2/17/.255 (148 AB)
James Loney: .248/2/47/.303 (274 AB)
Jerry Hairston: .299/4/23/.367 (201 AB)
Mark Ellis: .262/3/13/.353 (191 AB)
Dee Gordon: .229/1/17/.280 (301 AB)
Juan Rivera: .256/5/33/.294 (211 AB)
Adam Kennedy: .250/1/15/.331 (144 AB)
TOTAL: .248/18/165/.311 (1,470 AB) / (357) = 4.1

Compare those stats to:

Hanley Ramirez: .249/14/49/.325 (357 AB)

People who focus on what Hanley isn’t are missing the point. They’re not realizing how anemic the Dodgers offense/infield is. So what that his batting average is fifty points lower than his career average. He hits for power, drives in runs, steals bases, scores runs, can play third or short, is only 28 years old, and makes less money than Joe Mauer. Yeah, Mauer still plays professional baseball.

Simply put, Hanley will produce more than all other starting Dodgers infielders combined.

Headaches for opposing pitchers

Hanley Ramirez Dodgers 1
Hanley’s bat will be a welcome addition in the Dodgers lineup. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

When opposing pitchers game plan for the Dodgers, they need only worry about two hitters: Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. Gordon can be meddlesome if he gets on base, and Mark and A.J. Ellis are smart hitters who can work the count. Other than that, the Dodgers lineup is pesky at best.

With Hanley in the fold, the Dodgers can keep pitchers on their toes. Kemp and Ethier will see better pitches, and if Hanley hits in the five-hole, expect more runs for the two and more RBIs for him. Essentially, Hanley gives the Dodgers one of the most formidable trios in all of baseball, and opposing pitchers will have to take note.

Star Power

This is L.A., the home of stars. Magic Johnson is an owner, Jack Nicholson a season ticket holder, and Kobe Bryant is one of the best ever. Hollywood became Mannywood, and most undoubtedly will morph into Hanleywood.

Matt Kemp has a big personality, but this town is bigger. Hanley is an outgoing guy in a community that will rally around a Latino star. Ramirez was coddled by the Marlins, who helped create a diva that relied on his talent and infectious smile, while giving less than 100 percent.

Who knows how he will respond, but let’s keep one thing in mind. This is the Dodgers. This is Kemp’s team. This is a brand new start. A change of scenery (it could be much, much worse than L.A.), a winning culture, and a franchise that’s much bigger than any one player should help keep Ramirez realize his lost potential.

For Dodgers fans, who are still recovering from the dark days of the McCourt era, the Ramirez acquisition is a bright as the shortstop’s big smile.

Jamison brings much needed depth to the Lakers.

Antawn Jamison
Jamison has the opportunity to lead the Lakers bench in scoring. (Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

By Nathan Oliver

Antawn Jamison has agreed to a one-year deal with the Lakers, bringing much needed depth and scoring punch to the Purple and Gold.  The Lakers ranked dead last in bench scoring with a paltry 20.5 points per game.  Jamison nearly matched that by himself, averaging over 17 points in 33 minutes on the lowly Cavs.

Matt Barnes did an admirable job off the bench and was one of the few shining spots of the reserves. While everyone else in the hoops world has been concentrating on Dwight Howard, my interest has been focused on talented role players like Jamison, Jermaine O’Neal and Courtney Lee. As it stands, acquiring Dwight Howard is irrelevant if the Lakers don’t have players that can hold a lead when the starters take a breather. Hopefully the Lakers can resign Jordan Hill, who, along with Devin Ebanks should take big steps forward this year. However, even big steps from those two won’t be enough.

While bench scoring isn’t the only key to bringing home hardware (the Heat finished third-to-last in bench scoring with just under 23 points), being able to rely on your bench to score is extremely important. It’s no secret that the second unit squandered leads into deficits, adding minutes to a group of starters that needed rest. The Lakers are long in the tooth; last year they were the third oldest team in the NBA. Next year, the starters will need more rest, so it becomes critical to have players who can protect leads.

Jamison brings a scorers mentality, and a veteran presence to the locker room, which along with Steve Nash, looks to fill the void left by D-Fish. By signing Jamison, the Lakers make a move that looks small on paper, but might pay huge dividends come playoff time. Getting him for the league’s veteran minimum is pure Buss family maneuvering. It looks like there is hope for Jim Buss yet; he may have learned a thing or two from his old man.

Dwight Howard to the Lakers is the wrong move

Howard’s talents are not needed in L.A.

For those of you who are sick of the Dwight Howard drama, I’ll make this short and sweet. The Lakers should not acquire the exceptionally talented diva for three reasons.

Let’s state the obvious here: Howard doesn’t want to be here, he’s recovering from back surgery, and the Lakers have the second-best young center in basketball. So why does everyone think the Lakers would attempt to make that deal?

First and foremost, as a Lakers fan, I don’t want any player who doesn’t want to be here. This is L.A., the home of Magic, Kareem, Baylor, West, Worthy, Chamberlain, Shaq and Kobe. The Lakers hold the standard for class and winning. Los Angeles is the media capital of the world, where stars are born and images explode.

If Howard would rather take his talents to Brooklyn, by all means, go for it. Apparently winning championships and playing alongside greatness isn’t what Howard wants. That’s cool. We just won’t break our back to get you.

Speaking of breaking backs, how is yours feeling Mr. Howard? Can you guarantee that you’ll be 100 percent healthy by the start of the season? How about one- to two-months into the season, or even by the All-Star break?

Nobody knows what’s up with your back and it would be foolish to trade for a player who is coming off of major surgery. Ankles, knees and backs are career killers and I’d rather not see the Lakers trade for broken players.

When it comes to broken players, Andrew Bynum is no lock to play in all 82 games next year, but at least he’s healthy now. And the last time I checked, Bynum was widely considered the second best center in the NBA behind Howard.

Nobody thinks that the center position is one of weakness on the Lakers, so why risk messing with it? It’s not like the Lakers are going into next season with Joel Pryzbilla or Theo Ratliff at the five.

With the addition of Steve Nash, the Lakers addressed their most glaring need and turned it into a strength. Add some pieces to the bench and this team is a major contender to win the title next year – without Howard.