Sunday morning, I passed along thoughts on Roy Hibbert.
To summarize, in a vacuum the trade is solid. He’ll be a significant help defensively, and Hibbert is more valuable than the (presumed) second rounder they’ll eventually send Indiana. Unfortunately, the Lakers don’t exist in a vacuum, and this trade is another in a stretch of moves adding no clarity to the rebuild.
Later Sunday afternoon, the Lakers agreed to a deal with Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams, reportedly snatching him up from the Raptors for three years and $21 million. On its face, the Lakers have spent money on a guy duplicating much of what they get from Kobe Bryant and Nick Young. All three are high volume shooters/scorers, and in the case of Young particularly the Lakers have paid for a role they already have — a guy who comes off the bench and puts points. Williams is a better version, no question, but it’s still basically the same gig.
I was critical of the Hibbert trade because it feels aimed at 2015-16 when 2016-17 is more important. The Williams deal is the opposite. Given the need to remove as much weight from Kobe’s shoulders as possible and broader questions about Young’s play, Williams will surely come in handy, but he doesn’t address any glaring needs for this season. Except the Lakers need to answer the question every high end free agent is going to ask: If I join your squad, who am I playing with?
In two seasons, Kobe will likely be gone, and if the Lakers have their way, so will Young. At that point, Williams slides into the same sixth man role he’s played effectively throughout his career, still young enough to do it at a high level. If all goes well, the Lakers can tell free agents next summer they have a thriving core of young up-and-comers in D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and Jordan Clarkson (made even stronger should guys like Larry Nance, Anthony Brown, or — assuming he makes the team — Robert Upshaw show promise). To that, add one of the best sixth men in the league.
It’s not a huge step, but it’s a step, and a positive one. One of many the Lakers will need to convince elite players on the quality of the roster going forward.