One quick glance at the Lakers’ roster and you’ll see the glaring weakness of the side. After trading D’Angelo Russell for big man Brook Lopez, the Lakers have just one point guard and three guards total on the roster, two of those being rookies.
The need for a point guard, a playmaker, is dire.
Even with drafting Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart while still rostering Jordan Clarkson, arguably the Lakers’ biggest need this off-season is finding a back-up point guard or, potentially, a guard to start alongside Ball.
With Clarkson also serving as the lone guard who is familiar with Luke Walton’s offense, there may be no better place to turn than the Golden State Warriors themselves.
In Oakland, the Warriors are about to enter a critical free agency period. Ten players on the Warriors roster are free agents, including Kevin Durant and Steph Curry. Included among them are role players Shaun Livingston and Ian Clark. Both players served as role players off the bench for the Warriors, but each played pretty big roles in the team’s title-winning season.
Livingston has revitalized his career with the Warriors after his horrific injury with the Clippers. Despite playing on the Warriors and their pace-and-space scheme, Livingston has made a living being a mid-range maestro. Last season, 53.2 percent of Livingston’s shots came between 10-16 feet. On those shots, he connected at a 45.8 percent rate.
Despite being 32 years old, Livingston has just over 16,000 minutes of NBA action between regular season and playoffs for his career. To put that into perspective, 26-year old John Wall has just shy of 20,000 minutes in the league.
Signing Livingston would bring with it the chance at landing not only a veteran point guard with a great game but also a player familiar with the type of system Walton wants to run. Livingston has spent the last three years on the Warriors and has mastered what the team is trying to accomplish.
Envisioning Livingston’s path to the Lakers would be interesting. Livingston is pretty entrenched with the Warriors and seems content with his role as a backup for a dynasty and who can blame him? But it may not be Livingston’s decision as to whether he stays or not.
The Warriors are about to go deep, deep, deep into the luxury tax. Currently, the team has ten free agents and that includes Durant, Curry, and Iguodala. The likes of Zaza Pachulia, David Wes,t and Javale McGee will likely either be cheap to re-sign or, more likely, be gone. However, likes of Clark and James Michael McAdoo won’t be so cheap.
Which brings Clark into the mix. It’s entirely plausible, if not likely, that one of Livingston or Clark gets priced out of Golden State. With Patrick McCaw impressing on the team, the Warriors don’t necessarily need five guards on the roster.
Do they choose to go with the veteran in a win-now decision? Or do they move on from Livingston for the future of McCaw and Clark in the backcourt? Or do they ruin the whole premise of the article and pick both?
If they choose to retain Livingston, Clark is an equally enticing free agent. Unlike Livingston, Clark is a more modern NBA guard, hitting 37.4 percent of his 163 threes in 77 games last season. Clark would instantly step in and not only start for the Lakers but would be one of the team’s best players.
Per-36 minutes last season, Clark averaged 16.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists with 1.2 steals. Clark also spent a fair amount of time at point guard last season, giving some versatility that Walton loves in the offense. He may not be as sexy of a signing as Livingston, but he may be more effective.
Clark just turned 26 in March and is on a very similar timeline to the current Lakers core. He brings the similar knowledge of the Warriors’ system after spending two years with the team. Basically, anything you can say about Livingston, you can say about Clark except Clark shoots threes and Livingston doesn’t.
The problem with all of this is that the Lakers don’t seem interested in committing money toward the future. Neither player will likely be a player willing to take a one-year, high-money deal in Los Angeles and instead value long-term deals. Maybe the allure of playing for the Lakers as a starter in a system they’re familiar with is enough to land them.
Probably not, but on my board, Livingston is 1a and Clark is 1b when looking at realistic targets to sign.