Should the Lakers take a gamble on Delonte West?

Ronald Martinez

Despite a troubled past and several burned bridges, West would bring a crucial element to the Lakers' bench.

Just about the only thing that you can criticize Mitch Kupchak for during his tenure with the Lakers is his tendency to fill out his roster with conservative additions rather than taking risks. This is no blemish on his immaculate track record, but it's the reason that the Lakers had Jason Kapono on their roster last season instead of Gerald Green and the reason why he drafted Ater Majok with the 58th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft instead of Isaiah Thomas. Finances certainly play a part in these decisions, but I think Laker fans can agree that they are getting tired of veteran fodder like Chris Duhon filling out out the roster.

To reiterate: Kupchak just had one of the best off-seasons in NBA history, so this is not a criticism, but I think there is one move out there that he can still make in order to improve the team. That would be signing Delonte West.

West was just recently cut by the Dallas Mavericks following two pre-season suspensions for conduct detrimental to the team. The team is painting West in a negative light, but no specific information about the suspensions have come out and his (former) Mavs' teammates have nothing bad to say about him. West also went on a pretty convincing Twitter rant following his suspension in which he suggests no wrong doing on his part and sulks about the damage what the Mavs have said will do the reputation he has tried to rebuild.

The off-the-court issues are not going to go away for West, but that doesn't mean that his on-the-court game isn't worth the trouble. While I do worry about a lockerroom with West and Metta World Peace in it, West would be the absolute perfect back-up point guard for the Lakers, and that is the only part of the roster that looks weak as we kick off the 2012-13 season.

As an aside: I spent a few days with Delonte while covering the Mavericks last season and he seemed like a nice guy.

West has a very complete game and he can play either guard position effectively without sacrificing anything on the defensive end. In fact, one of the strengths of West's game is his perimeter defense, which would give the Lakers at least one plus defender on the perimeter this season, as well as a potential solution to the problems players like Russell Westbrook and Ty Lawson will create for the Lakers. West's off-the-dribble game is about as good as it gets for back-up guards, especially since West combines good playmaking (he's posted an assist rate above 20% in every season of his career; for perspective, LeBron had an assist rate of 19.4% assist rate last season) with a great mid-range game (since 2009, West has shot a well above average 43% from 16-23 feet).

West is exactly the kind of player that the Lakers need to lead their second unit. We know what Steve Blake and Chris Duhon can do and neither of them brings anything that even vaguely resembles an off-the-dribble game to the table. West can get into the lane, hit mid-range shots and find open teammates, making him an ideal pick-and-roll partner for whatever big men he would be on the floor with and his ability to defend both guard spots could make him a crunchtime option as well (replacing MWP, of course).

The Lakers are in a financial bind, so adding a player of West's caliber via free agency would normally be impossible at this point of the off-season. But because of the baggage West carries with him, virtually the only contract offers he is going to get around the league are veteran minimum contracts, and that's something that the Lakers can match. Los Angeles would have to trim down their roster in order to sign West, which means either cutting Darius Johnson-Odom or Duhon or trading Steve Blake for a trade exception, a pick or draft rights foreign player, but I think adding West would be a big enough move to warrant those preemptive changes.

The only risk involved with signing West is potentially hurting team chemistry, but West's pursuit of a sound state of mind seems genuine and the Lakers have some of the most respected players in basketball at the helm of the lockerroom to keep him on his toes.

The season may be just hours away, but I think that Delonte West coming available is big news for contenders and I think the Lakers should pounce on him to deepen their already stellar roster.

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