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Is Patrick Beverley’s return to L.A. a blessing or a burden?

Just a season removed from the conclusion of his three-year tenure on Los Angeles’ other basketball team, the Lakers are banking on Patrick Beverley’s ability to be a bulldog, so long as he can help from barking at his own teammates.

Minnesota Timberwolves Travel to Memphis for Game 5 Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to our Lakers Season Preview Series! For the next several weeks, we’ll be writing columns every weekday, breaking down the biggest questions we have about every player the Lakers added this offseason. Today, we take a look at Patrick Beverley.

To call Patrick Beverley a polarizing player would be a preposterous understatement.

For his teammates, Beverley’s ability to irritate and instigate beef with opponents is a boon, directing emotional attention away from them and onto himself. For his opponents, and opposing fans for that matter, the exact opposite is true.

Incredibly, like almost every other free agent the Lakers have gone after in recent history, Beverley is now technically rejoining the Lakers. The team used their 42nd overall pick on the Arkansas guard in 2009 but quickly shipped him off to the Heat, who cut him before the season started, sending him packing to start his professional career in Greece.

After three-and-a-half years in Europe, Beverley finally cracked the NBA with the Rockets. Since then, he’s spent a decade building a reputation as one of the league’s most formidable and pesky perimeter defenders and building a bigger bankroll ($65 million in career earnings) than almost any American who began their pro career outside the confines of the continental United States, including P.J. Tucker.

However, Beverley returns to the Lakers with a preexisting high-profile beef between himself and the team’s second-highest-paid player, Russell Westbrook. Without rehashing the play-by-play of the years-long back and forth between the two iconoclastic guards, it’s safe to say there are fewer relationships between current players that have featured as much public acrimony as this one.

But by embracing each other at Beverley’s introductory press conference, everything seems to be copacetic between the two — at least for now. Although the presumptive tension between Pat Bev and his former foe seems like it might just be water under the bridge, time will only tell if there’s a tsunami coming from the horizon.

What is his best-case scenario?

The best-case scenario for the Lakers is that Beverley’s hard-nosed attitude entirely aligns with that of Darvin Ham’s, kicking the team into a gear they completely lacked last season, and helping them become something greater than the sum of their parts.

Ideally, Beverley slots in as the team’s new starting two-guard, capable of accentuating LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ greatest attributes by holding up defensively at the point of attack, knocking down open jumpers, and providing the team with a boost of secondary playmaking.

Beverley has been a top-of-the-scale defender since he entered the league, and while he has never been an exceptionally high-volume 3-point shooter, he’s maintained above-average accuracy from deep for the majority of his NBA career. However, it’s his playmaking that might be his most underrated asset as a player. Last season, Beverley posted the Timberwolves’ second-highest assist rate amongst players with at least 1000 minutes played, trailing only D’Angelo Russell.

Altogether, impact metrics love Beverley’s on-court contributions, as LEBRON, RPM, RAPTOR, and BPM all placed him within the league’s top 10 percent of qualified players.

If Beverley can keep up the production he showed last season, he might be able to help the Lakers creep back into the group of contenders they traded their way out of in the summer of 2021.

What is his worst-case scenario?

Aside from the potential sh*tstorm that could come from a blowout between sworn enemies turned teammates, there is some potential for Beverley to backslide by losing the battle every player eventually succumbs to. At 34 years old, Pat Bev is a half-decade beyond what would typically be considered his athletic prime, but has shown scarcely a sign of physical regression when he has been on the court.

Still, if Father Time decides to come knocking this season, Beverley’s game could fall apart like a house of cards. If the defense and playmaking regress significantly, Pat Bev would go from major asset to just a guy in a heartbeat.

Additionally, perhaps in part due to a style of play that rides the line between hyperactive and reckless, Beverley’s had as much trouble staying healthy as almost anybody. He’s played fewer than 60 games in all but two seasons in his career and has averaged just 46 games per season over his past three campaigns, though two of those were slightly shortened due to the pandemic.

For a Lakers team short on tried-and-true defensive stalwarts, an injury forcing Beverley to miss a significant chunk of the season could seriously jeopardize the integrity of their defense, especially if it coincides with another injury to one of their recently injury-prone superstars.

And although he’s been an excellent shooter for much of his career, Beverley is coming off of his worst shooting campaign yet. With the Wolves, Beverley shot just 34.3% on some of the highest quality looks in the NBA (83rd percentile 3-point shot quality per the BBall Index). Considering his below-average accuracy came on one of the cleaner shot diets in the game, the same site gave him an F (12th percentile) in terms of 3-point shotmaking, an untenable mark for someone who will be asked to knock down threes in any lineup he plays with.

If he can’t figure out how to play well or play nice with his new teammates, Beverley could become more of a burden than a blessing for the Lakers in short order.

What is his most likely role on the team?

Beverley could become a central figure in the emotional engine of this new team if he can overcome his rocky history with foes-turned-teammates. With his hyper-competitive demeanor, despite never actually having made it past the Conference Finals, Beverley could be the antidote to whatever it was that poisoned the Lakers last season.

He is undeniably a pest, but hopefully, for the Lakers, his presence will pay dividends as for the first time, he’s their pest.

Cooper is a lifelong Laker fan who has also covered the Yankees at SB Nation’s Pinstripe Alley — no, he’s not also a Cowboys fan. You can hear him on the Lakers Multiverse Podcast and find him on Twitter at @cooperhalpern.