Despite his horrid playoffs, some Laker fans still feel like Demar DeRozan is the player we need.. I’m here to tell you we already have that player.
The 2016 summer off-season has the potential to be the biggest in the the Franchise’s historic history. The Lakers have a solid young core and a potential top 3 draft pick depending how the ping pong balls fall on May 17th. They also have gobs of money, enough to sign 2-3 max free agents this summer. With quite a few max players available this season the Lakers need to make sure they choose the right Free Agent, not one that is going to command as much but perform much less.
One free agent that has been rumored just about all season long to go to the Lakers this season is DeMar DeRozan. Coming out of USC, DeRozan was a a top 10 draft pick for the Toronto Raptors, being selected #9 in the 2009 NBA draft. DeRozan’s athleticism was one of his best traits coming out of college. He could put on a show driving to the basket at will and was a human highlight reel. Over the years he has gone from solid roll player to his first all start selection in 2014. After getting through his rookie contract and contract extention in 2012, he is now going to be a free agent. Throughout the 2015-16 season many outlets such as Bleacher report and Fox Sports have the 6’7 guard going to the Purple and Gold next season. Stephen A., in his usual hot take manner, even told Ryan Ward of Lakers Nation:
Stephen A. Smith of ESPN’s First Take claimed DeRozan wants to be a Laker.
“He’s made it very, very clear that he wants to be in L.A,”
With Gobs of available money, the Lakers have a great chance to sign him for the max that he will certainly command this summer. Should the lakers take that chance and sign the guard to a 4 year max deal? This LakersPulse writer says no for 2 reasons.
DeMar is a great player, there is no disputing that. He is a high flying act and he is so great at getting to the basket. His one glaring weakness on offense is his jump shooting beyond the 3 point line. With a career shooting percentage of .283% behind the arch, it’s safe to say that this “wing” player can’t make a 3 on a consistent basis. With the NBA, and most importnantly the Western Conference, you have to be able to shoot the 3 pointer much better as a 2 guard in the NBA. His FG% below the arch is much better than that, however, but .459% is not that great either. His best trait is his ability to get to the hoop, and he is very good at that. As you can see here most of his highlights, if not all, are at or near the basket:
Averaging about 18.1 points per game in his career is pretty solid, especially considering most of his points are 2’s. That said, as seen in these playoffs, teams have started drifting off of him when he is behind the 3 point line. Instead of guarding him at his weakest point, they are giving him the space to shoot, but once he gets under the 3 point line, the defenders are hounding him. This has greatly affected his offensive ability. His playoff numbers alone are absolutely atrocious. Beyond the arch he is at a whopping .167% and below the arch he is shooting .376%. Both numbers are truly awful and alarming to say the least. You can say, “well he is great during the season” and you would be somewhat right. That said, from what it looks like, the defenders have figured out how to guard him. Courtesy of BBALL BREAKDOWN
Low key travel before shot. https://t.co/CJTGiFsDyt
— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) May 10, 2016
Winslow, a rookie, gives him space at the 3 point line but closes on him when he tries to drive to the base line. This play is essentially how most defenders are guarding him now because he can’t shoot the 3 pointer at a consistent enough basis to justify closing out on him at that line; very similar to what Kobe did to shut Rondo down during the 2010 NBA finals. If he wants to take the 3… let him take the 3. With a Luke Walton system and the dominant Western Conference, DeRozan just doesn’t fit unfortunately. There is, however, a player that can fit, who is young, cheap, and can shoot the ball. Best part, he is a Restricted Free Agent for the Lakers.
Despite two seasons under an awful coach including one full season with Kobe Bryant taking the majority of the shots, Jordan Clarkson has turned himself into a really solid player. The steal of the 2014 draft Clarkson was a 2nd round pick out of Missouri and was sold to the Lakers for cash. Clarkson is coming off another solid season where he averaged 15.5 points per game shooting .338% from behind the arch and .433% overall. Clarkson often times was asked to differ to Kobe and if that wasn’t possible most possessions it came down to him having to ISO since the shot clock was so low. Byron’s offense of “find Kobe” was a detriment to most players last season. On a normal possession, any player at any time was asked to find Kobe give him the ball and get out of his way. That or wait for Kobe to get loose, then give him the ball. Clarkson showed excellent ability in getting himself loose, also showing solid ball handling skills. So why do I bring this up you ask?
Clarkson and DeRozan are very similar players. Both rely heavily on their athleticism to get to the basket. Both are horrid defenders that constantly over play their assignments and end up letting them go by them a lot. Of course Derozan is slightly better with a 2.4 DWS compared to Clarkson’s .4. You can attribute some of Clarkson’s woes to Byron and his terrible defensive schemes. Dwayne Casey being a much better coach in that aspect. Both are set to be free agents this summer, though Clarkson is a restricted free agent meaning the Lakers can match any offer. DeRozan is going to be 27 next season and it is safe to say that he has developed into the player that he is going to be for the rest of his career. Clarkson on the other hand, will be 23/24 and still has time and age to develop.
Now before you go into the “this is a dumb comparison DeMar is an All-star”. DeMar was an All-star in the eastern conference. We can all be real with ourselves and say that DeMar would not have even sniffed an All-star birth in the Guard heavy western conference. Damian Lilliard who is far and away better than DeRozan wasn’t able to make it so DeRozan wouldn’t be close. Next you’ll argue “well DeMar averaged 23.5 points per game”, and you would be correct. DeMar is the 2nd option sometimes 1st on the Toronto Raptors. Clarkson was the 4th or 5th option on the Lakers and Kobe was the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd sometimes the way Byron allowed things to go. Also DeMar has also been in the league for 7 years compared to 1 ½ for Clarkson. So lets compare the 2 at similar ages. Since Clarkson was 23 last year we’ll compare the 2 at that age. Also we will compare via the per 36 stat since its a better way to gage the 2 considering DeMar did’nt have Kobe taking all his shots. Clarkson’s numbers at the same age look very similar per 36 to DeMar’s at the same age Courtesy of Basketball reference:
CLARKSON at 23
DEROZAN at 23
As you can see they are almost identical per 36. This was Demar’s 4th year in the league compared to Clarkson’s 2nd year though 1st year as a full time starter. The glaring stat that sticks out to me is the 3 point percentage. .347% for JC compared to .283% for Demar. That is a huge difference especially considering that Clarkson shoots almost 4 more per game than Derozan. Points per game are tenths of a point off though Clarkson has the edge in feild goals attempted at this point in their respective careers.
Save the Money develop the young
The point in all of this is that Clarkson is such a similar player all around compared to Derozan, that it would be foolish to go after DeRozan. Since Clarkson was a 2nd round player he qualifies for the Arenas Provision, and his early bird rights as described by Eric Pincus of the L.A. Times:
After Clarkson’s second season in the league, the Lakers will hold his early bird rights, which enable the team to spend up to $6 million, and $26.7 million over four seasons, to retain him.
That figure is presumably below Clarkson’s market value, but because he is restricted and the Lakers only hold his early bird rights, the Arenas rule applies — limiting what other teams can offer Clarkson to just $5.6 million for the 2016-17 season.
So essentially we could have a developing Clarkson for 6 million a year for the next 4 years. For a player with the potential that Jordan Clarkson has that could be a huge asset for the Lakers. Sure, DeRozan right now is a better player without a doubt. The glaring holes in his game behind the arch are a major issue. Both are defensively atrocious, but Clarkson can still become a better defender by continuing to work on that while he is young. He has stated that defense will be his main focus this off season via Mark Medina or L.A Daily News.
“I’ll put my hard hat on and get after it this summer. To be honest, I never worked on defense,” Clarkson said. “It’s one of those things you have to set your mind to do.”
So my question to all my Laker fans is this. Why spend max money on a player that is who he is, a poor shooter, a poor defender, but an All-Star in the Eastern Conference. When you can spend that money elsewhere while retaining a younger player who is a better shooter, just as bad if not worse on defense, but he is younger with room to grow? Also ask yourself, since DeRozan is such a poor 3 point shooter, is he going to work with the Luke Walton system?
Please note that by no means am I saying that Clarkson is or will be a better player than DeRozan. All I’m saying is that Clarkson is a better asset at 5.6-6 Million per year than 25 million a year that a max player would receive such as DeRozan.
Here are some highlights via MambaDontFear of Clarkson’s 2015-16 campaign: