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The Lakers Add the Wrong Missing Piece


On Tuesday, June 23rd, Lakers guard Avery Bradley decided not to return to the Lakers for the remainder of the 2019-2020 season due to family concerns. He isn’t the first to do so, as multiple players pulled out of the NBA season restart for multiple reasons. Prior to the season suspension, the Lakers were front runners and arguably the best team in basketball. Bradley was a key component for them.


So what happens now? First, let’s take a look at what the Lakers are missing with the absence of Bradley.


Photo Credit: OC Register

Although not the biggest name on the Lakers’ roster, Bradley was a crucial role player who provided valuable minutes every time he checked into the game, he’s a defensive-minded, gritty role player that is valuable to any team in need of his services.

His contributions to this Lakers team aren’t the kind that show up on the stat sheet. He’s arguably a top 10 on-ball, perimeter defender and can be a severe threat to opposing squads. The Lakers minus Bradley’s defensive contributions will not be the same team we saw before COVID19 defensively.

So, without Bradley, the Lakers will be at a disadvantage defensively. But what about offensively?

The offensive attack didn’t heavily involve Bradley, so they won’t be missing him as dearly there. The offense ran through LeBron and Anthony Davis, and everyone else pretty much got in where they fit in. Also, the Lakers signed guard Dion Waiters after the Miami Heat released him before the season suspension. Waiters is a quality offensive-minded, shot-creating guard that will provide scoring where it is needed. Scoring is precisely what the Lakers needed at the time since they struggled with bench points throughout the season.


Because the NBA season restart allows players to opt out of returning, it allows teams to sign free agents to fill those spots. So if the Lakers want to replace Bradley, who should they replace him with?


Who should the Lakers sign?


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On Monday morning, the Lakers decided to sign J.R. Smith to take over Avery Bradley’s roster spot. According to ESPN’s NBA Senior Insider Adrian Wojnarowski, Smith and the Lakers were working through the final details of a contract on Monday in Los Angeles, and there are believed to be no hurdles to a finalized deal.

Smith worked out for the Lakers in February before the team signed guard Dion Waiters. Guard Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will mainly carry the burden after Bradley’s departure, with Waiters expected to provide further depth in the backcourt. Rajon Rondo is another veteran guard on the Lakers’ bench.


Sources say that J.R. Smith had emerged as a front runner for the open slot in L.A. before the COVID-19 outbreak causing the NBA shutdown. J.R. had a rough year last season. He only played in 11 games as he battled with the front office to trade him. The Cavs ended up releasing him, and, until Monday, he had yet to find a new home.

J.R. is a solid scoring guard; he’s an inside-out scorer. He’s a streaky shooter, but a quality finisher and shot creator. However, the problem with J.R. is chemistry. How will he fit in with the team? Is he even the right fit for the team? We all know he has played with LeBron, but how will he fit in with everyone else?

The Lakers also have to take his history into account. Will he stay focused on the game? Would signing J.R. make the team better or worse? These are the questions that Rob Pelinka and his crew are asking themselves right now.

Is J.R. the right fit?

I say no. If the Lakers were going to sign anybody, it should’ve been Jamal Crawford.


It seems to me like teams have forgot that Jamal Crawford exists. Yes, his age is something to take into consideration since he turned 40 during the COVID19 outbreak, but age doesn’t matter for a single season. People are quick to forget that in Dirk Nowitzki’s last game, Jamal dropped 51 points on 60% shooting. People act like Jamal Crawford isn’t a 3x NBA Sixth Man of the Year.


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If you had to choose one word to describe Jamal Crawford’s career up to this point, that word would be versatile. Jamal can do it all, whether it be slashing, shooting, playmaking, or ball-handling. Whatever a team needs, he can do. Without question, he’s top five of all time when it comes to ball handles. He isn’t a selfish or volume scorer, and he can produce at any time.

He can provide valuable minutes as a starter, but he’s better off the bench. But the thing that Crawford is known for is his chemistry with coaches and teammates. He is a respected leader and student of the game. Many players consider Crawford the best PERSON in the NBA, so he would have been a better fit on and off the court for the Lakers.


Jamal Crawford is a 40-year-old Lou Williams. If the Lakers had signed him, he would’ve facilitated the bench unit and gave the Lakers the offensive edge they need off the bench. If or when the Lakers face the Clippers, they could have used Jamal in a similar to the way the Clippers use Sweet Lou.


Crawford is known for making big plays in the biggest moments. He’s clutch.


J.R. also had that infamous choke job in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals that sent LeBron over the edge. Although that happened years ago, a LeBron and J.R. reunion might not be the best thing for the Lakers. Furthermore, Jamal is accustomed to coming off the bench and lighting up the stat sheet, unlike J.R., who is accustomed to starting.


The Lakers Add the Wrong Missing Piece
Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Crawford is more valuable to the team because he won’t negatively affect the team’s chemistry. Jamal is the type of player who fits in any system and flourishes. He only started a third of his career 433 games out of a total of 1326 games, and he was still able to average 14.6 points per game.

Avery Bradley is who the Lakers had, but Jamal Crawford is who the Lakers needed the whole time. They should have signed Crawford over Dion Waiters, in my opinion. It would be great for the Lakers’ defense to have Avery Bradley, but it would be scary to see what the Lakers are capable of doing with Crawford running the show off the bench. Signing Crawford for the season restart over J.R. Smith was the right move to make.


The Dion Waiters factor is deeper than most may think.


Photo Credit: Basketball Forever

When the Lakers signed Waiters before the COVID-19 outbreak, he was supposed to give them a perimeter defender and another scorer off the bench. Like Smith, Waiters also played with James in Cleveland, which is something that a lot of people are understating.

James knows how both Smith and Waiters are wired. He knows how to motivate them, keep them engaged, and their skill sets, but with Crawford, he doesn’t. Unlike Waiters and Smith, the Lakers wouldn’t have to worry about Crawford’s personality or professionalism. Crawford is known as a basketball junkie with a high basketball I.Q. and a person that fits in well with his teammates. But in the case of both Smith and Waiters, they have had issues on various teams which have turned off some folks in NBA.


While Waiters and Smith are younger than Crawford, I can make the case that neither are as good or a better fit for the Lakers. What I can’t argue is that the Lakers would be guard-heavy with Rondo, Caruso, Quinn Cook, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Waiters, and now Smith. I will say that Crawford could play the point or the off-guard, which would be a welcome addition for the Lakers and allow them to use a variety of line-ups for the rest fo the regular season and playoffs.

But Nah. The Lakers didn’t sign Crawford. They went the route that many people expected them to. Some will say LeBron got another one of his guys, others, like Crawford, would point out that Smith is an excellent fit for the Lakers. Any way you slice it up, Jamal Crawford needs to be on an NBA roster and, in my opinion, should be a Laker.


The NBA has a transaction window through July 1 that allows teams to sign free agents prior to traveling to Orlando to restart the season.


-Mike Dancy II – Franchise Sports Media


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