The Lakers Made Solid Under-The-Radar Moves To Add Luol Deng and Keep Jordan Clarkson
The Los Angeles Lakers came into this offseason with big dreams, hoping to lure max contract players like Hassan Whiteside or Kevin Durant. Although they struck out with those two, the Lakers have made some strong moves, adding Luol Deng on a 4-year, $72 million deal and re-signing Jordan Clarkson to a 4-year, $50 million deal.
Let's look at what each player brings to the table.
Luol Deng has been a productive player his entire career and spent the last two years with the Miami Heat. Over his two years with the Heat, Deng scored 14.3 points and grabbed 6.1 rebounds per-36 minutes.
Deng played his best basketball over the second half of last season as the Heat went 19-10 over their final 29 games to grab the third seed in the Eastern Conference. Post All-Star break, Deng averaged 16.0 points and 8.7 rebounds per-36 minutes while shooting 48.4% from the field and posting a 56.1% true shooting percentage.
Even though Deng’s usage rate was a career low 17.4% last season, he registered 6.4 win shares, translating to .128 win shares per-48 minutes. Both of those numbers were his best since the 2012 season.
Part of the reason Deng was so productive, specifically post All-Star break, is because he thrived as a “stretch-4” for Miami. Deng played 73% of his minutes at the power forward position last season, by far the most of his career.
He is best used as a slasher to the rim, but he can step out and hit 3-pointers. Deng shot 34.9% from deep, including 39.7% from the corners, over the last two years with the Miami.
Deng should be a great addition to a young Lakers squad. In addition to the offensive boost he'll provide, Deng can still play great perimeter defense, evidenced by his 4.4 total defensive win shares over the last two seasons.
Oh, and he’s also still capable of these athletic finishes on the fast break.
Jordan Clarkson was a second-round pick in the 2014 NBA Draft and has spent the last two seasons with the Lakers. Los Angeles believed Clarkson showed promise at just 23 years old and worked out a deal that will pay him $50 million over the next four years.
The Lakers are clearly in rebuild mode, and as one of their young guys to potentially build around, Clarkson saw his minutes increase from 25.0 per game his rookie season to 32.3 per night last year.
After playing the majority of his minutes at point guard during his rookie year, Clarkson played nearly all of his minutes at shooting guard this season due to the addition of D'Angelo Russell.
Clarkson has scored 17.2 points per-36 minutes with a 52.0% true shooting percentage over his first two seasons, and he raised his 3-point percentage from 31.4% to a respectable 34.7% last year.
It's safe to say he can create his own shot off the dribble:
However, he registered a nERD score of -7.0 last season, which was the seventh worst among all guards in the NBA last season. This means, a league-average team would be seven wins better if Clarkson didn’t play for them at all.
Under the new salary cap, a rebuilding team paying Clarkson just over $12 million per year is a fairly cheap gamble on a young, athletic player. He has improved his shooting stroke, and new Lakers' coach Luke Walton will want his young players to run the floor, meaning Lakers fans might be seeing more dunks like this from Clarkson.
Time will tell, but both the addition of a proven, veteran player like Deng and re-signing a promising shooting guard like Clarkson should prove to be solid, economical moves by the Lakers. Now that Kobe Bryant is retired, Los Angeles can really begin its true rebuild.