With the NBA regular season set to tip-off on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Lakers needed to make their final roster cut today in order to get down to 15 players.
Several reports surfaced of the last spot being between Jabari Brown and Metta World Peace. Today, the Lakers made it official, by electing to keep World Peace on the roster and waive Brown.
At the end of last season, Brown looked to be a lock to be retained by the Lakers and given a roster spot this season. Instead, the team decided to keep World Peace around to continue his mentorship of the young players, primarily Julius Randle.
Why keep an aging veteran who will play limited minutes over a young prospect like Brown? It is actually pretty simple.
Somewhere along the way during the offseason, Brown lost sight of what made him successful right out of the gate when he was called up from the NBA Developmental League last season: Scoring within the flow of the offense.
Brown is a natural scorer, and it showed right away last season. But it wasn’t necessarily about that. It was about how he was scoring, which was by taking good shots, and not forcing things on offense. When he played that way, he was an efficient scorer and generated excitement about his potential.
During summer league play in Las Vegas back in July, it was clearly evident that something had changed. All of a sudden, he began forcing everything. In transition, he would consistently have a terrible case of tunnel vision. In half-court sets, he would often put his head down and go to the basket, which is good, but he would not see the floor in the process, often leading to a difficult, contested shot in traffic. His lack of size at the shooting guard position often escalated that degree of difficulty.
Far too often, he was a ball-movement killer this summer. Once the ball touched his hands, it became a one-on-one, isolation play, disrupting any type of flow the offense. This led to his efficiency as a scorer to plummet.
Unfortunately, these tendencies carried over into the preseason as well.
Brown can certainly fill it up, and I would be surprised if he isn’t claimed off waivers by someone, because there is some promise there. If he can get back to taking good shots, staying within the flow of the offense and allowing the game to come to him, instead of forcing the action, he can definitely have success as an NBA player. As of right now, though, he seems to be pretty well removed from that mentality.
Another possible concern among fans is the depth at guard with Brown gone. The Lakers are fine at point guard, with D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Marcelo Huertas. Clarkson, of course, can play both guard positions, so that in itself provides some flexibility. Obviously Kobe Bryant can still play the two, along with Lou Williams and Nick Young, although Bryant and Young would be best-served at small forward. Either way, they have different guys they can filter in to multiple positions.
As for those saying that Metta should have just been given a spot on the coaching staff, the Lakers would be running the risk of losing him altogether. There have been several rumblings of him wanting to go back overseas if he was left off the roster. And whether you value mentorship and veteran leadership or not, it has already shown its effects on Randle, especially on the defensive side of the basketball.
Randle, a notoriously bad defender coming into the league last year, has displayed tremendous strides on defense. I mean, we all saw him bull-rush Trey Burke — a point guard — and pick his pocket, leading to a breakaway dunk on the other end. Some may attribute that to hard work, while some credit Metta’s presence for that. It is probably a combination of both, but shows how important having a mentor like World Peace can be.
I am a firm believer in the fact that you can never have enough young talent in the NBA. With that being said, you need the right coaches and veteran players to help shape and develop them. That’s why World Peace will don a purple and gold jersey this season, and it was absolutely the right choice by the Lakers.