Charles Barkley says that after the blockbuster Anthony Davis deal the Lakers need perimeter shooting. But what if Davis is planning on stepping out beyond the arc more often — he has proven very proficient from 3 — and what if LeBron James noticed that Kawhi Leonard‘s exceptional “load management” in Toronto paid off in an NBA title? (King James surely noticed that Leonard, coming off his injury in San Antonio, played only 60 of the 82 regular season games this year.)
One conclusion James might draw from Leonard’s restrictions is that his own workload will be critical this season. But since it’s not James’s style to miss games, how about if he decides — different than Leonard’s move — that James’s restriction won’t be on his minutes but on how those minutes are played. What if he’s not on ball so often. What if James posts up more — a la late career Michael Jordan — and distributes from the post too? And what if James runs off some screens, driving defenses crazy, while somebody else handles the lion’s share of the ball-handling? That ball handler wouldn’t even have to be a particularly good shooter, perhaps.
Enter free agent Ricky Rubio, currently with the Utah Jazz. Rubio is no top-level perimeter threat, knocking down just 31% of his 3-point attempts. But Rubio remains a very strong defender and he is one of the most astute passers in the NBA, a quality that James and Davis surely appreciate. You think Donovan Mitchell came out of nowhere to quickly become elite in Utah? Credit Rubio’s play-making savvy with creating plenty of opportunity for Mitchell’s surge. Also, Rubio is a big point guard at 6’4″/6’5″, which would make the Lakers, with Kyle Kuzma, James and Davis, one of the bigger lineups in the West.
For those who think Magic Johnson‘s relationship with owner Jeannie Buss — despite his abrupt resignation — still gives him influence over the Lakers future, it’s interesting to consider what Magic said about Rubio even before he’d played an NBA game. “Our guys are going to see a dude who can pass it like Rubio and run like hell to the rim. Trust me,” Magic said. Hmm, that’s just what James and Davis like to do…that’s classic Lakers showtime stuff. Running to the rim. “There’s a difference,” Magic said, “between making a pass to somebody and creating a shot for a guy. Rubio creates a shot. He’s got instincts, great instincts.”
Good colors on him too…