Nearly 72 hours before their preseason opener against Denver, the Los Angeles Lakers were dealt another extremely unlucky hand as Nick Young suffered a torn ligament in his right thumb that should keep him sidelined until late November or early December.
With Young sidelined for the foreseeable future and a large amount of uncertainty centered around the health of Xavier Henry, there's concern surrounding their lack of depth at the wing position. While there aren't any significant players available for the Lakers to pick up, there's still a variety of different options that are both on and off the team's roster that could temporarily fill the holes that were left by these latest injuries.
When you examine those temporary fits, the first place you'd look would be the Lakers' training camp invites. In most cases, you would probably feel comfortable with overlooking those players, as the vast majority of them either wind up with the team's D-League affiliate or just totally vanish from the face of the earth. However, with the situation the Lakers are currently in, that majority approach will more than likely be ignored.
The most notable and experienced member of that particular class would be Wayne Ellington, who's coming to Los Angeles after some forgettable time with Cleveland, Memphis and Dallas. Despite capturing the "journeyman" label after playing with those three organizations over the past two years, Ellington has been able to linger in the NBA because of one single asset: He's a fantastic perimeter shooter.
Ellington shot a career high 42% from beyond the arc last season with Dallas. While his limited role in the Mavericks rotation could be one of the main factors behind his high percentage, Ellington has been looked at as an efficient shooter during his entire career. Besides his perimeter ability, there really isn't much to say about Ellington's overall game. Because of the limited minutes he's played over the past few seasons, it's hard to judge his performance as a defender.
Aside from Ellington, the Lakers' two other training camp invitees who can immediately fill holes, Roscoe Smith and Jabari Brown, will be coming to Los Angeles without a second of NBA experience.
Of the duo, it would appear Jabari Brown would be the favorite to make the Lakers roster. The main reason rests on the fact that Brown was a solid all-around scorer during his time at Missouri. During the prior season, Brown proved he could score from everywhere on the court, including 41 percent from the perimeter.
Brown is also capable of cutting into the paint and working around the rim. During his final year at Missouri, Brown converted a solid 58 percent of his attempts from inside the restricted area. Another key aspect of Brown's offensive repertoire would be his ability to get to the charity stripe, which is highlighted by him averaging 8.3 free throw attempts per 40 minutes, exceeding the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Adams and Nik Stauskas.
The main factor that has prevented Brown from having anything more than a training camp invite could be his small 6'4" frame. That single flaw has limited his defensive potential, which could be a pretty big deterrent to his ability to defend on the wings. If the Lakers are in pursuit of somebody that can fill a role as a perimeter defender, they're going to have to look outside of the organization. While the majority of those potential players already have gigs with other NBA teams or international organizations, there remains a handful of available names that could fill that role for a short stint.
Perhaps the most promising name could be former D-League All-Star and Heat guard DeAndre Liggins. During his stint with the Sioux Falls Skyforce (Miami's D-League affiliate), Liggins stood out as one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, averaging 2.8 steals per game. Another huge reason to consider Liggins would be his outrageous 98.3 defensive rating, which exceeded the vast majority of both front and backcourt players. While his work on the offensive end has been saddled by continued inconsistent performances, he can cut to the rim and get to the free-throw line.
Some other outside names to consider are Chris Babb and Vander Blue. While the duo aren't at the same defensive level as Liggins, they were still able to hold their own on that end of the court.
During his initial season with the Maine Red Claws (Boston's D-League affiliate), Babb was able to stay under-the-radar on a team that featured current Bucks forward Chris Wright and D-League Rookie of the Year Frank Gaines. With a combination of solid perimeter performance on both offense and defense, Babb was able to make his way onto the Celtics roster, via a 10-day call-up.
While Babb ultimately played a small and insignificant role with the Celtics, he showed brief glimpses of a player that could have a stable NBA career. Standing at 6'5", Babb can effectively guard multiple positions, which is a skill the Lakers are in desperate need of.
For Vander Blue, the 22-year-old athlete is still in pursuit of a home after a year that's been filled with constant movement. While the Lakers might not be the team that would be able to bring stability to his young career, Blue definitely has the skills that the team is in pursuit of. As an extremely athletic 6'5" guard, Blue has slowly continued developing as an all-around guard. While his perimeter shot is still a work in progress (shot 32 percent during his combined stints with three separate D-League teams), Blue's athleticism could make him into a potential terror in the Lakers' fast-paced bench unit. Blue's offensive aggression is clearly shown by him averaging nearly 8 free-throw attempts per game.
On the defensive end, Blue has can be effective by combining the aforementioned athleticism with excellent length, a solid frame and lateral quickness. While he does have some occasional mental lapses, Blue seems to have the skill-set necessary to become a good perimeter defender in the NBA.
As far as the five players profiled in this piece, it would seem that Wayne Ellington would have the best shot to make it onto the Lakers roster because of his prior NBA experience and unquestioned shooting prowess. With that said, Jabari Brown would probably be the best fit for the organization, because of his potential to be a solid reserve scorer for the foreseeable future.
In regard to the D-League trio (Liggins, Blue and Babb) it's probably too late for the Lakers to pick them up, but they still have the specific abilities that could have a positive impact on the team's battered and beaten rotation. With that in mind, there will probably be a need for additional help at the wing position during the course of the long NBA season. At the very least, Los Angeles could have a few options to consider.