When a team has a losing season with a multitude of things going astray, its up to the front office to make some changes to their roster the following season. The Los Angeles Lakers are no different in that department, and this summer, Jim Buss and company are really going to have to think straight to fix this mess. One player who the Lakers should be all in for is current Indiana Pacers combo guard Lance Stephenson.
Kobe Bryant is going to need to be hidden on defense for every single game for the rest of his NBA career, so it is necessary to have a big point guard who can defend multiple positions — the 23-year old Stephenson fits the bill. You can’t put Steve Nash and Bryant on the court at the same time and expect to defend the perimeter — it’s a disaster waiting to happen.
Stephenson, a great defender, along with a defensive-minded small forward (Trevor Ariza anyone?) can support the “Black Mamba” and allow him to defend the weakest offensive perimeter player on a nightly basis. It eliminates him from having to guard the likes of Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Chris Paul ever again — something he is not capable of doing anymore.
It is the only chance the purple and gold has to compete during the rest of Bryant’s career. Stephenson can really handle the basketball, so even though he isn’t the de-facto PG of the Pacers, he is certainly capable of running a team. Not only that, Stephenson can shoot the 3-ball on catch-and-shoot opportunities, which is a must when playing with a player like Kobe who lives on driving and kicking to shooters.
The team can then bring someone like Nash or Jordan Farmar off the bench as a backup PG when Bryant is off the court.
The third year pro out of Cincinnati is a restricted free agent, so Indiana can match any offer; however, they will risk going into the luxury tax if they do, and that is not something that the franchise is interested in. There are some character issues and baggage associated with Stephenson in the past, but it looks like he has turned a corner.
The Lakers should be one of the first teams making a call to him and his agent Alberto Ebanks this summer. If they don’t, they aren’t thinking straight.