Lakers Previews: Is Thomas Bryant a perfect partner for Anthony Davis?

Welcome to our Lakers Season Preview Series! For the subsequent a number of weeks, we’ll be writing columns each weekday, breaking down the largest questions we’ve got about each participant the Lakers added this offseason. Today, we take a have a look at Thomas Bryant.

By signing two free agent former Lakers facilities of their mid-twenties this offseason, the Lakers have taken a divergent method to filling out the roster depth on the 5-spot than they did final yr. Although the distinction in age between this yr’s crop of 5s and final yr’s might be probably the most evident facial distinction between the 2 teams, the disparity between their types of play is perhaps a fair greater substantive hole.

Instead of a pair of pure rim-runners, the Lakers have inked athletes who can passably fill that function, but in addition have spent a while across the perimeter as hypothetical floor-spacers to present their ball-dominant teammates extra room to function on offense.

In explicit, Thomas Bryant has embodied that archetypical stretch-five place, particularly compared to Damian Jones’ 43 profession 3-point makes an attempt, offering resistance on the rim whereas taking pictures properly sufficient on a adequate quantity of threes to maintain defenses from leaving him unguarded on the perimeter. Between Damian Jones’ theoretical taking pictures skill and Bryant’s monitor file of competence, it appears as if the Lakers need to return to a barely completely different model of the double-big-based rotation they deployed between 2019 and 2021.

What is his best-case state of affairs?

In a perfect world, Bryant steps in because the Lakers beginning middle beside Davis on the 4, stretching the ground to open up the paint whereas offering sufficient rim safety to maintain Davis from exposing himself to as a lot damage threat as he is needed to in every of the previous two seasons. An infusion of outdoor taking pictures on the 5-spot ought to create extra space for the Lakers’ main penetrators to go assault the rim and rating inside, a energy that was neutered far too typically final season by the group’s abundance of non-shooting threats.

If Bryant’s 35% profession 3-point mark precisely represents how he’ll shoot this coming season, that’ll be simply environment friendly sufficient to make defenses pay for overcommitting to a famous person Laker barreling towards the rim. And higher nonetheless, he really shot over 40% from past the arc throughout 56 complete video games in his third and fourth NBA seasons, leaving some purpose to be optimistic that Bryant’s stroke will show higher than satisfactory in his first season again with the Lakers.

Although Bryant’s made a identify for himself as a stretch-5, he is really been nearly as good or higher of a rim protector than he has as a shooter. Last season, in response to The B-Ball Index, Bryant graded out as elite in nearly each inside protection class besides rim deterrence. And whereas stopping photographs on the rim altogether is a beneficial talent, smothering wannabe scorers once they get there may be even higher.

Stats through The B-Ball Index’s Player Profile device.

Paired alongside Davis — one in all this era’s most dynamic and versatile defenders when at peak kind — the Lakers, with Bryant, might have rebuilt the spine of a championship protection, once more.

What is his worst-case state of affairs?

Coming off of a torn ACL in January of 2021, Bryant barely noticed the ground final season, and struggled to recapture the taking pictures stroke he had proven earlier than the damage. In 27 video games, Bryant made worse than 27% of his threes on 1.6 makes an attempt per recreation. That’s a minuscule pattern, however he was much less correct than each Russell Westbrook and Talen Horton-Tucker had been from downtown final season. Although his absolute worst-case state of affairs could be a season spent on the shelf because of a re-injury to his knee, a shut second could be an incapacity to shoot any higher than he did final season.

Without Bryant proving to be a dependable menace from outdoors, the Lakers’ half-court offense might look as stagnant because it did final season once they struggled to seek out anybody able to constantly pulling down the regular stream of open seems created by LeBron James and Westbrook.

Also, it is price mentioning that though it is past the scope of what has been and must be his typical defensive function, Bryant is totally incapable of sliding with opposing guards out on the perimeter. As a perimeter defender, Bryant has ranked within the backside seven p.c of the league in each season since 2019-20. Ultimately, his incapacity to modify out onto guards on the perimeter might current a weak hyperlink within the Lakers’ defensive chain come playoff time, or probably drive Davis into a extra perimeter-oriented defensive function, undermining his utility as one of many recreation’s premier photographs blockers. Furthermore, since Davis did enhance his time on the 5 within the Lakers’ most up-to-date title run, it would not be all that stunning to see Bryant’s function diminished within the postseason if the Lakers even make it that far this season.

What is his almost certainly function on the group?

Despite his current regression from past the arc and defensive limitations, Bryant’s mixture of two discrete abilities — taking pictures and rim safety — is each scarce and beneficial sufficient to make him a perfect partner within the submit subsequent to Davis. If Davis can cowl up a few of Bryant’s deficiencies as a perimeter defender, whereas Bryant’s taking pictures precludes Davis from needing to jack up threes he is not more likely to make, then by season’s finish, his signing on the minimal might seem like top-of-the-line free agent offers made this summer season.

In distinction with a few of the different strikes the Lakers have lately made, Bryant’s match across the roster’s centerpieces makes a ton of sense on paper. And whereas he might begin out splitting minutes with Jones till one proves to be the superior performer within the purple and gold this season, I anticipate Bryant to open up the season because the group’s beginning middle, barring any unexpected circumstances.

However, given the tenor surrounding the group proper now and this zany offseason basically, the unimaginable would possibly really be extra possible than no matter Ockham’s Razor at present suggests.

Cooper is a lifelong Laker fan who has additionally lined the Yankees at SB Nation’s Pinstripe Alley — no, he is not additionally a Cowboys fan. You can hear him on the Lakers Multiverse Podcast and discover him on Twitter at @cooperhalpern.

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