It's time, once again, for player grades. Please hold your applause.
These grades aren't based on the players' value relative to the Lakers, but rather the league. After all, you could be the best player on a bad team, but only above-average overall. As always, the grading scale is:
A - elite performers/best of the best; all stars only
B - legit starter on most teams in the league; borderline all star
C - solid top-8 rotation guy; makes any team's shortened playoff bench
D - end of the rotation guy; situational match-up during the playoffs
F - Luol Deng
The grading period will be post-trade deadline. I know it's a small sample size but don't see much sense in grading Westbrook or any other guys who are no longer here. Without further ado:
A - Best of the Best
Lebron James - No surprise here. While injuries and age certainly hobbled him this season, he still performed at an elite level. The Lakers just need to find a way to keep him healthy.
Anthony Davis - Shouldn't be a surprise here. We (yes, I say that inclusively) tend to focus on the things he doesn't do well, but he's still one of the (if not the) best two-way bigs in the league. As with Lebron, the Lakers just need to keep him healthy.
B - Legit Starter on most teams
D'Angelo Russell - May be a bit of a surprise, but Russell played pretty well for the Lakers up until the GS series. We all know what happened after that. Nevertheless, Russell still has an elite offensive bag and there's no reason he won't continue as a starter where ever he ends up this offseason.
C - Solid top-8 rotation guy
Austin Reaves - Probably a surprise on this one, as Reaves took a major leap forward from his rookie year, adding a credible 3 point threat to his already impressive offensive game. He doesn't lock anybody down on defense but makes plays by moving his feet and keeping his hands up. I actually started by giving him a "B", but he was picked on a little too much on the defensive end - despite the effort, his defensive rating is pretty low. And while his 3 point shooting has improved dramatically, the volume was still low for most of the season. Still, he had a great run in the playoffs...if he can do it as a full time starter next season then he'll certainly earn the "B" (or higher?).
Dennis Schröder - Shouldn't be much surprise here. While Dennis had 50 starts during the regular season, that was probably based more on need than skill. Schröder is a quality backup PG...slasher on offense and gnat on defense. Great value for a minimum contract, but not the guy you want starting if you're a contender.
D - End of rotation guy
Rui Hachimura - Probably another surprise. Like Reaves, Hachimura is a tweener. I was going to give him a "C" but he didn't get a lot of PT in the regular season. He had a great playoffs overall, but was pretty ineffective against GS. Also like Reaves, he's earned a chance to compete for more PT, so this grade could jump up next year too.
Jared Vanderbilt - Shouldn't be too much of a surprise. Great defender and energy guy. Liability on offense. Pretty much makes him a situational matchup by definition. Hopefully he can develop a functional 3pt shot.
Troy Brown Jr. - Another not a surprise. Decent defender. Decent shooter. Ineffective in the playoffs, but then he's a league minimum guy.
Lonnie Walker IV - I kinda feel bad about giving him a "D", but, playoff performance notwithstanding, he is what he is: a bench scorer/situational match-up guy. Maybe he can get some more run with a rebuild, but I think he's on the outside looking in when benches shorten during the playoffs.
Malik Beasley - The surprise here is that I almost gave Beasley a "C". Seriously. He had a decent regular season with the Lakers, just couldn't hit the side of a barn during the playoffs. I don't think he's done as a rotation guy in this league, but he is for the Lakers - there's just not enough minutes for him.
F - Luol Deng
Wenyen Gabriel - I like Gabriel's energy and hustle, but he's an inury-replacement/garbage time guy. And that's ok for a minimum contract. Lakers should keep him around.
Max Christie - Intriguing skillset but just too green to be of any real use right now. Should probably get some spot time during the regular season next year with a G-League stint mixed in to stay sharp.
Mo Bamba - My man is a few weeks away from a milk carton. And he makes $10m. Still, he's a young big who can protect the rim and stretch the floor (a little). Might be worth keeping