As the negativity surrounding the Lakers' 2014-15 season continues to swell and playoff hopes dissipate, the team is reportedly in search of players that could help change up their stagnant roster. Over the last few weeks, the Lakers have looked at the likes of Jordan Hamilton, Tyrus Thomas and Quincy Miller. While adding a player probably won't change the team's fate as a lottery hopeful, fresh faces could help bring some added life to the current roster.
Besides the aforementioned names, there is a bevy of solid prospects who could make a positive impact on the team if they were able to land an opportunity. For a few weeks, I'm going to examine some players, whether they be D-Leaguers or free agents, and see how they could fit on this roster. To start, let's look at sharp-shooting stud Brady Heslip, who has been putting up astronomical numbers with the Reno Bighorns.
Before we look at how Brady Heslip could work with the Lakers, it's necessary to examine the unique system that Heslip currently plays under. During the prior off-season, the Bighorns hired former Grinnell University assistant head coach David Arseneault to be their new head coach. Two seasons ago, Grinnell and "The System" became prominent after guard Jack Taylor set an NCAA record by scoring 138 points in a single game.
"The System" was able to turn Paul Westhead's famed "run and gun" system at Loyola Marymount into an extremely fast-paced system that relies heavily on perimeter shots and looks around the rim. While that particular brand of basketball has become common in today's NBA, Arseneault has been able to change things up by forcing full-court pressure for the entire 48 minutes, while having five-man substitutions every two minutes. That means that while Heslip has become one of the more dominant D-League scorers, he's playing a handful fewer minutes than your typical starter.
As of the time of this writing, Heslip is only averaging 26 minutes per night, while putting up 33.7 PPG, which would mean that he puts up 1.28 points per minute. In comparison, the NBA's current leading scorer, Kobe Bryant, is averaging 26.4 PPG in 36 MPG, which would mean that he only puts up .8 points per minute.
While nobody would dare compare Heslip to Bryant, the Bighorns guard has to shown himself to be a natural scorer. As apparent from the shot chart below, Heslip's main bread and butter would be shooting from the perimeter. Per 36 minutes, he averages 20 three-point attempts, which may sound crazy until you consider that he's currently shooting 58% from beyond the arc.
When it comes to being able to deliver that perimeter shot, it really doesn't matter if Heslip is working around off-ball screens or a simple catch-and-shoot. What separates him from the vast majority of three-point marksmen is how quickly he's able to release his shot. At the split-second that he receives the pass, Heslip is able to crank out a quick, yet effective, shot attempt.
In the rare occurrences where the opposition closes in on Heslip and prevents him from hitting a perimeter jumper, he's shown an ability to work away from his comfort zone and cut to the paint. While his perimeter shot is still his bread and butter, he has a pretty quick first-step which he's able to utilize to work his way towards the rim. During penetration, Heslip can square up and hit a nice penetration floater, which is an underrated part of his offensive repertoire.
As for figuring out how Brady Heslip would transition into the Lakers system, that's difficult to predict. The main reason is that the Lakers been resistant to relying on the perimeter jumper as an offensive tool. Prior to their Wednesday night game against Memphis, the Lakers were 26th in the league in three-point attempts per game (16.8) while shooting an abysmal 29% from beyond the arc.
While that awful shooting percentage may be a good reason why Byron Scott and the coaching staff are hesitant to rely on perimeter shooting as they don't currently have that reliable three-point marksman the team has had in the past with the likes of Jodie Meeks or Steve Blake. The addition of Heslip would give Los Angeles an extremely reliable three-point marksman who would be able to provide a spark off the bench. Even though Lakers guards are utilizing Jordan Hill and Ed Davis as pick-and-roll screeners, Heslip has showcased an ability to create his own shot, whether he's working off screens or not.
Perhaps Heslip's biggest detraction would be the combination of his small 6'1" frame and lack of experience as a distributor. For his entire career, he's been used solely as a scoring threat which has really prevented him from being able to work as a facilitator. While his natural scoring ability will definitely help, Heslip will have to develop a certain level of facilitating ability before he can be looked at as a player the team can totally rely on as a rotational guard. Despite these weaknesses, Heslip would make for a unique and welcome addition to the Lakers. His scoring acumen would have an immediate impact on a Lakers bench that's currently 23rd in the league in points per game (28.8 PPG).
While the question of whether or not the Lakers organization would be able to take a gamble on a player like Brady Heslip is still an open one, there shouldn't be a doubt that he's an extremely special scorer who should be well on his way towards an NBA gig.