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Lakers Rank: Marcelo Huertas could be odd man out in crowded backcourt

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Marcelo Huertas made the leap to the NBA and even earned a second contract with the Lakers, but could have a hard time finding the court in his sophomore season.

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Editor's Note: #LakersRank trucks along, moving from the pair of wings at the bottom to a veteran sophomore point guard in Marcelo Huertas. Without further adieu!

#12. Marcelo Huertas

Average rank: 12

Marcelo Huertas signing with the Los Angeles Lakers last season was something of a coup. A pick-and-roll specialist with significant experience at the international level and in the ACB (widely considered the second-best league in the world), Huertas should have easily found a role as a backup point guard on any number of contending teams. He unexpectedly wound up on one of the worst teams in the NBA and earned outsized affection from the Laker fanbase relative to his on-court production.

Nevertheless, Huertas seemingly enjoyed his time in the purple and gold (or cratered his NBA viability on a terrible team) and returns for nearly a 300 percent raise on his first deal. Amazing what one second-team All-Rookie vote can do for contract negotiations.

For as much as Laker fans seemed to enjoy Huertas’ stylings  last season, he didn’t exactly exceed expectations for a backup point guard in his thirties, which is why he lands near the bottom of our Laker rankings. In his 53 appearances in ’15-16, Huertas averaged 16.4 minutes of second-unit duty, during which he chipped in 4.5 points and 3.4 assists on 42.2 percent shooting from the field. Even though he was an excellent foul shooter in limited opportunities (27-of-29 for the year), Huertas didn’t extend that shooting stroke to the three-point line, where he converted 26.2 percent of his attempts.

Huertas can reasonably run an NBA offense, particularly against opposing backups, but his real deficiency comes on the defensive end. Whether it was getting his ankles broken by Brandon Knight or Tyler Johnson, or likely several others, the videos of Huertas flailing around on defense were omnipresent this past year. Even as the starting point guard for Brazil during the Olympics, Huertas has had his challenges keeping opposing ball-handlers out of the paint, and has often been benched for long stretches in favor of Raul Neto of the Utah Jazz when Brazil has needed stops. When Huertas is on the court, he will need to be surrounded by a great deal of defensive talent to mask his weaknesses, and that is something the Lakers simply do not have.

This leads us to the major reason that Marcelo Huertas likely won't be very valuable for the Lakers this season. Although he can be a delight to watch, he doesn’t fit very well with the pieces the Lakers have. D’Angelo Russell will be the starting point guard for this team and will soak up the majority of the minutes at that position. Jordan Clarkson and Lou Williams are both capable of running the point when Russell sits (although I predict that Williams is not long for this roster), and incoming vet José Calderón is a seasoned point guard as well, although clearly on the decline.

Therefore, Huertas will have to play the majority of his minutes next to another point guard, and he has neither the defensive versatility nor the shooting ability (he only made one corner three all of last season) to play off the ball on a regular basis. Russell, Calderon, and Williams can all reasonably play the two-guard when Huertas is on the floor, but all of those guard pairings would be enflamed by opposing offenses. If Timofey Mozgov can be a solid rim protector, he could cover up for a weak backcourt, but there were similar sentiments about Roy Hibbert last year.

Ultimately, Huertas is an entertaining guard who should make some highlight passes that will liven up the Laker fanbase this season. But he shouldn’t be the primary backup, he will play limited minutes, and thus comes in at no. 12 on our list of most valuable Lakers.