Fans like to hold basketball players up as heroes, villains, and larger than life figures. Even the most fringe players make far more money on an annual basis then the average person, and are much more blessed athletically. But it's always human nature to want something. So in this vein, let's take a semi-serious look at what each member of the Lakers roster might want during this holiday season.
Jordan Clarkson: More Playing Time
Let's start with the Lakers player young enough that he might still believe in Santa Claus. This youth is actually the crux of why he has to wish for more playing time rather than just receiving it, as most young players on a rebuilding squad would. The problem for Clarkson is that unfortunately his coach, Byron Scott, believes in a myth less probable than Santa (and with far more direct evidence against it): the Lakers playoff chances. Even with that caveat, it is still difficult to see why Price is getting so much more playing time than the rookie for a few reasons.
Despite averaging almost double the minutes of Clarkson, Price is actually averaging less points per game (4.2 to Clarkson's 4.5). Clarkson is also shooting higher percentages from the field (38.6) and from (50) than Price (31.6 FG% and 26.7 3P%). Price is playing against superior competition, but even allowing for that fact and that Price is probably a better defender to Clarkson, as rookies (especially second-round picks) are rarely even average defenders; it isn't like Price is leading the Lakers to being some sort of defensive power house either. We are still talking about a team that is last in defensive efficiency as of this writing, with opposing point guards regularly dropping monster performances on the team. Fixing this defense, Ronnie Price is not.
Finally, Clarkson actually has a chance to be a part of the Lakers future, whereas it would be a shock if Price was not gone after this year. Let's hope Byron Claus can make this wish come true in the second half of the season.
Julius Randle: Better Injury Luck/A Healthier New Year
This one is fairly self explanatory. If all had gone as well as the Lakers organization, Julius, and their fans had hoped, a bunch of kids would be excitedly rocking new Julius Randle jerseys they received as gifts over their winter break when they get back to school in a few weeks. Alas, that was not to be. I won't belabor this point or I am just going to get really Grinch-y. Get well soon Julius.
Jordan Hill: A Trade to a Contender
This is of course just speculation, and not some criticism of Hill's effort or mindset, the dude clearly goes hard every time he is on the court. With that being said, I think Hill has to see the writing on the wall. The team gave him an above market value contract to retain him as a trade chip, and essentially kicked the can down the road on making a decision on his future with the organization. While that extra cash has to be nice for Jordan, being on yet another short-term contract cannot be the most enjoyable feeling. And it is not like Hill is some scrub either! He clearly has real, defined skills in certain areas. Hill is a good offensive rebounder (3.5 per game this year, which would be his career-high), ranking 16th in the league in percentage of offensive rebounds grabbed while on the floor among guys who play more than 20 minutes per game with 11.8 percent.
Hill is also a very good finisher around the basket, shooting 58 percent there this year, which is more impressive when you factor in the multiple defenders he often has to account for due to the miserable spacing in the starting lineup. There has to be a playoff team out there that needs a big man that can finish pick-and-rolls and grab some boards. Oklahoma City is a destination that keeps coming to mind, or maybe Cleveland in the wake of Anderson Varejao's Achilles tear, but only time will tell.
Jeremy Lin: Coal
Are you kidding me? NAUGHTY LIST. Have you seen the pranks he's pulled on his poor mom?! It doesn't matter what he wants.
Carlos Boozer: A Buyout
This one is cheating a little bit, as most Lakers fans would also consider it a gift for Carlos to be bought out. It would seem to be an unlikely outcome, unless Boozer is just desperate to get out of this situation and is willing to leave some money on the table. While Carlos certainly has not quit on the team and is playing to about as well as one would expect him to, at the same time it has to be tough to go from contending in the Eastern Conference to joining a team of misfit toys out West. For that reason alone, I could see the two sides agreeing to part ways in time for Boozer to join another playoff team that could use him in a much more limited role.
Xavier Henry: Not to Be Waived
Hey this one got granted! X should send Earl Clark a thank you card for heading to China.
Kobe Bryant: A Vacation
What do you get for the man that has all the money he'll ever need? As has finally started to be much discussed, some well deserved time off. If there was any doubt previously, this season has quashed any serious discussion of whether or not Kobe Bryant can be efficient or effective as a good team's undisputed number one option. This is a fairly reasonable assertion, as few if any 36-year olds in NBA history could do that. What is completely unreasonable is the workload he's shouldering.
To be second in the league in usage rate (35.8%) is ludicrous. Some have argued this is what Kobe wants, and of course he does. All players want to play a lot and get to create everything. The coach's job is to assign roles that fit players' skill sets and ability levels, and it is in that aspect of the job Byron Scott has failed most. His unwavering and bordering on fanatical faith in Kobe to be able to produce at prime levels in a struggling starting lineup is likely going to lead to Bryant getting injured at some point, and something needs to give soon. Hopefully it will be a break from games, which looks like is finally happening.
Wayne Ellington: More Minutes
So this is basically the same as Jordan Clarkson's wish, but for a different reason, and it goes hand-in-hand with Kobe getting rest. One of the nice story lines of this season has been how well Ellington has played. Wayne has undoubtedly had to deal with bigger concerns than basketball this season because of the unexpected, shocking, and saddening murder of his father. In spite of all of this, Ellington has produced like a true professional, quietly second on the team in Net Rating (+10.5). This can be a misleading stat, but his shot chart has been pretty good:
He is shooting 40.8 percent overall from three-point range for this spacing starved squad. The guy deserves to play a little bit more, and Kobe Bryant needs to play a little bit less. This should not be so hard.
Ed Davis: A Contract Reflective of His Value
This wish cannot be granted until the offseason, but with his play this year, Davis has shown he is worth more than the $981,084 that he will be making this year according to ShamSports, and will almost certainly be opting out to become a free agent at the end of the season. Much like his teammate Hill, Davis is a very good offensive rebounder, ranking 13th in OREB percentage among players with 20 mpg or more. This is even higher than Hill, who is making $9 million this season. Offensive rebounding is not everything, and Hill is also on an above-market contract, but Davis still deserves more. The former Raptor and Grizzly is also shooting a phenomenal 64.1 percent around the basket, where he has taken almost all of his shots:
That is knowing your skillset. In addition to these offensive talents, Davis is a gifted defender as well. While the big man will not be racking up many accolades while being overshadowed by the overall ineptitude of the Lakers' defense, Davis is averaging 1.8 blocks per-36 minutes according to Basketball Reference. Even more impressively given the parade to the rim that the Lakers perimeter defense is allowing, opponents have only shot 46.4 percent while being defended by Davis. With the team as bad as it is, it's been fun to watch one young player go out and earn his keep after he bet on himself last offseason.
Wesley Johnson: More Wing Three Pointer Attempts
Wes may not be playing great this year, but he's also not the type of player who should be playing 30.2 minutes per game on an NBA team. This makes it hard to give to harsh of criticism to Johnson, because it's hardly his fault he is being shoehorned into a role he is ill-suited for. One thing the team could potentially do is distribute more of his shots to being either left or right wing three-pointers, where he has shot 19-of-46 on the year for an effective 41.3 percent. This would just be a small thing to help his overall productivity, but ultimately the best thing for Johnson would be for him to play less.
Ryan Kelly: A Hitch Free Rehab Process
This is similar to Randle, with the difference being that Kelly will likely return this season. The spacing that he provides is desperately needed for the Lakers if he can find minutes in a crowded frontcourt rotation (and he should be playing if able, as he is another young player who could have a future in purple and gold). According to this report from Mike Trudell, we could be getting some Kelly-Clarkson pick-and-rolls in as soon as a few weeks:
Ryan Kelly is getting shots up during practice. He's a month into a 6-week minimum recovery from a hamstring tear. pic.twitter.com/wRaSAqUai8— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) December 18, 2014
Ronnie Price: A New Shoe?
Or maybe a starting gig? Oh wait Byron answered that wish. I guess dreams really do come true.
Robert Sacre: Totally Happy/Just Hopes Everyone Else Get's What They Want
I know in the intro I said that even professional athletes who seem to have everything still have wants. Sacre seems to be the exception that proves the rule. I mean look at this guy:
Does he seem like he wants anything other than the success of his teammates and friends? Seems doubtful for potentially the happiest man alive.
Nick Young: A Brand New Car!
Another one answered. One of the perks of having a girlfriend who is a music superstar.
Byron Scott: To Travel Back in Time to the 80's/90's
Given the way he talks about coaching, his open nostalgia for his playing days, and his antiquated offensive philosophies, is there really any doubt that Byron is a coach out of time? Back in his day, his strategies would have been much more effective, and he could have made players practice and run as many windsprints as his heart desired, just like Pat Riley. With the way the team is playing, most fans probably would not object to Byron heading off in a time machine, to the North Pole, or really anywhere else other than the Lakers bench.
Mitch Kupchak: A Desperate Team at the Trade Deadline
No one trade is going to push this team toward contention. The Lakers need to go the other direction. Blow everything up. Let the other teams know if they want a slightly used Ed Davis, Jordan Hill, Jeremy Lin, or basically anyone other than Kobe (would never agree to a trade) or Randle (the young and cheap potential future of the team); they can be had for the low price of a pick or young prospect. Not only would this give the Lakers a chance to acquire a young player to grow with Randle for sustainable future success, it would also help the team get worse this year and give it a better chance to keep its own first-rounder. Maybe the holidays have some team in a giving mood? Make it happen Mitch.