The Lakers have been a nice surprise this season. When you looked at the roster going into the season, there wasn’t much hope for them. Now, they are 9-9 through 18 games, and they have shown some promise.
There has been some bad news come their way lately, though, as Jordan Farmar is out for 4 weeks with a torn hamstring, and Steve Blake has an elbow injury. So, if you do the math, the Lakers don’t have one healthy point guard to run a system that relies on a guy who can use a high usage rate to create for others, and get the ball moving.
Steve Nash is out indefinitely with nerve damage, so they can’t turn to him, so who do they turn too? There are some options out there, albeit limited. In Sunday night’s game against Portland, Xavier Henry took some ball handling duties after Farmar went down, and he did a decent job. There is also Jodie Meeks, who has had small stretches initiating the offense, and he has looked improved overall this season.
When you look at the numbers, all signs point to Xavier Henry as the Lakers’ guy for a few games. Henry is an offensive bonus when he is on the floor, as he boosts their offensive efficiency, and he showed some skills in sparking a run in Sunday night’s game. The Lakers’ offensive efficiency goes up five points when Henry is on the floor, as it is 106.6 points per 100 possessions, compared to their average of 101.4. His ability to get to the rim, and his shooting percentage has increased this season, including a 45% mark from beyond the arc.
Jodie Meeks and Xavier Henry will split the back up point guard minutes in LA, but I think Henry is their best option. They are off until Friday, so that will give time for Steve Blake to heal his elbow, and he should take the bulk of the minutes. Oh yeah, there is a chance that Kobe Bryant guy could come back on Friday, and if so, there’s your point guard.
In D’Antoni’s system, the guy who has the highest usage rate will typically initiate the offense, and it showed last season. Bryant led the Lakers with a 31.9% usage rate, and his assists went up as a result. A lot of times, you saw Bryant handle the ball, and Steve Nash was playing off of it. Kobe tied his career high with 6 assists per game (he led the team in assists to Dwight Howard, so enough of this “he didn’t pass to Howard nonsense), and he doesn’t get enough credit for playing in the flow of the offense last season. If Bryant comes back, expect him to run the offense when he’s on the court.
Steve Nash also returned to practice, so there options could increase soon. The Lakers lead the league in bench points, and they will need those guys to step up even more until the cavalry returns.