A Possible Solution To The Lakers' Point-Guard Dilemma

(Editor's Note: We're pleased today to welcome a guest columnist to Silver Screen and Roll. Emile Avanessian is a Lakers fan based in New York City who writes the excellent blog Hardwood Hype. He's generously contributed the piece below, which follows up nicely on the point-guard discussion we kicked off yesterday. Please give him a warm SS&R welcome, and be sure to follow him on Twitter @hardwoodhype. ~DF)

To borrow a Yankees analogy (a stretch, I know), if Kobe Bryant is the Lakers' Derek Jeter, Derek Fisher is Jorge Posada. The steadying influence for five title winners, Fisher has provided the kind of toughness, leadership and timely play a franchise is lucky to find once in generation. He's done it twice - first bridging the chasm between Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, and later, the only guy in shorts who dared challenge Kobe, helping to link the Lakers' monomaniacal great with his teammates.

Twelve seasons. Six three-pointers in the 2001 title clincher in Philly. "0.4." A pair of massive triples (one to force overtime, another to secure victory) in Game Four of the 2009 Finals in Orlando. Eleven fourth-quarter points, including a coast-to-coast three-point play that was nothing short of miraculous, in Game Three of the 2010 Finals in Boston, capped off by the greatest postgame interview you've ever seen. Fisher is the Lakers' rock. He has secured his place in Laker lore and, in my eyes, a roster spot for as long as he wants one.

Alas, however, Fisher's days as a frontline NBA player are behind him. He is, as Dex observed yesterday, a "lion in winter." While this revelation comes as a shock to no one, the shortcomings of Jordan Farmar, Steve Blake and Shannon Brown (who's opted out of his contract with the team), along with the inexperience of the team's talented 2011 second-rounder, Darius Morris, have kept the matter of finding a replacement at the point high on the Lakers' to-do list.

Now, it's easy to assume the Lakers could jump into the free agent pool in search of a young, able-bodied replacement. This, however, presents a pair of problems. First, the Lakers have more than $91 million in salary committed for 2011-12, well above last season's cap of $58 million and more than double the owners' $45 million pipe-dream figure. It's a safe bet that any resolution to the lockout, whenever it arrives, will not make it easier to boost the payroll. The other significant drawback to banking on free agency is the sorry state of the 2011 free agent point guard crop. Even if simply flinging money at the problem were a viable option, Mario Chalmers, Carlos Arroyo or whatever is left of Mike Bibby doesn't inspire a great deal of optimism.

Thus, the Lakers will likely have to try their luck in the trade market.

Let me direct your attention to a 25-year-old point guard whose 2010-11 Adjusted PER of 21.05 (all statistics via HoopData) dwarfed the average for both the league (14.17) and his position (15.71), was good for 23rd in the NBA (minimum 40 games played) and seventh among lead guards, trailing only Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Steve Nash and Tony Parker. The 4.54 Adjusted Win Shares he contributed were also well above average (3.44 for the league, 3.72 for point guards), and better than the totals for Jameer Nelson or Jason Terry.

Meanwhile, his 24.21 usage rate was 49th in the league. In 26.3 minutes per game, he averaged 13.3 points and 5.2 assists (a Tony Parker-esque 18.1 and 7.3 per 36 minutes played) and shot 46.6% from the field. His 55.9% True Shooting Percentage trumped the league and point guard averages (54.5% and 53.6%, respectively) and he got to the free-throw line more than your average NBA'er (0.55 free-throw attempts per field-goal attempt, vs. the league average of 0.298). Was he able to get his own shot? You bet: just 28.5% of field goals were "assisted," compared with 36.9% for point guards leaguewide.

As a playmaker, he was a catalyst for his team's (admittedly limited) success, with assist (29.09) and turnover rates (10.74), assists per game (the aforementioned 5.2), "assists+" (adjusted for 3-pointers; 5.8), assists on shots "at the rim" (1.8) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.35) all at or above the point guard average (in the case of Turnover Rate, below).

So let's get this straight: a 25 year-old lead guard that can score efficiently, gets his own shot, gets teammates involved, doesn't dominate the ball, gets to the line and isn't turnover-prone. All this and, with the exception of fresh-off-of-ACL-surgery Al Jefferson in 2009-10, he's yet to take the floor for an entire season alongside a top-flight talent. Wherever their ideological differences on the future of the Laker offense lie, Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum both approve of that message.

I'm speaking, of course, of longtime Hardwood Hype favorite Ramon Sessions, of the suddenly point guard-laden Cleveland Cavaliers. And as of draft night, he and his rather palatable contract, with two years and about $9 million remaining, were officially available.

Now, again, there may be a bit of a hangup. Unfortunately, as Dex also pointed out yesterday, outside of their talented quartet of Kobe, Bynum, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol, the Lakers do not have a great deal with which to entice a prospective trade partner. With that said, however, perhaps by involving a third team or, assuming certain aspects of the current system live to see a new CBA, creatively leveraging their considerable financial means (this, a future first-rounder and the ever-popular $3 million in cash at least warrants consideration, right?) the Lakers would do well to explore Sessions as a potential remedy to their point guard woes.

Wishful thinking? Perhaps. But here, in the endless desert of labor gridlock, amid the oppressive heat (ironically most everyplace except Southern California), what more do we have?

Enjoy the weekend.

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