Positional Breakdown: Point Guard
Other Positions: Small Forward | Power Forward | Center
Who will man the helm for the Lakers at point guard is a hotly-contested debate as the team opens up the 2007-2008 season. With veteran Derek Fisher returning and expected to start, Jordan Farmar ready for his second season of action, Sasha Vujacic showing signs last year and Javaris Crittenton preparing to make his NBA debut, the Lakers are loaded with several promising options at the position. Whoever earns minutes will be required to play solid perimeter defense, guide the team through the triangle and hit the open jumpers. Who will serve as court generals for the Lakers this year? Lakers.com breaks down the point guard spot.
What We Already Know: The return of Derek Fisher to the Lakers after spending two seasons with the Warriors and one with the Jazz was as much a boon for the Lakers as any this offseason. Fisher’s impact cannot simply be measured on the court as the veteran garners instant respect from teammates—most importantly perhaps, that of Kobe Bryant’s. While Fisher may not be able to fly down the court like he did in 1996 when he was drafted by the Lakers, he still excels at draining long three’s and taking charges. His addition should mark a noticeable upgrade in the point guard spot for the Lakers after two years of inconsistency from Smush Parker.
Last Season: Last season marked an up-and-down affair for Fisher as he was forced to balance life at home with the rigors of an 82-game season. The results were mixed as Fisher assumed control of the shooting guard spot for the Jazz, registering just over 10 points and three assists per game. However, most will remember Fisher’s 2006-2007 season for his Willis Reed-like moment in the playoffs versus the Warriors. After arriving in the third quarter of Game 2 against the Warriors from a cross-country flight to care for his daughter, Fisher nailed a pivotal three-pointer in overtime sending the Delta Center crowd into pandemonium. That same heart will prove to be a great asset in his new role with the Lakers.
Moving Forward: While Fisher may have over a decade of experience behind him, he is anything but washed up. With his off-the-court issues facing his daughter hopefully resting lower on his shoulders this year, look for Fisher to provide much-needed veteran savvy and an air of toughness that has been missing from the team. More importantly, perhaps, Fisher is more than willing to lend an ear for Kobe to vent during the course of the season which should help alleviate any potential chemistry issues. Even though Phil Jackson has yet to declare Fisher his starter at the one spot, it is widely assumed that the position will be his.
What We Already Know: Farmar brings tenacity, toughness and superior ball-handling skills to the court. While leading the UCLA Bruins to the cusp of a title in the NCAA Championship Game two years ago, Farmar repeatedly proved his leadership abilities. While his stroke from outside is still inconsistent, Farmar has a knack for driving the ball deep into the lane—one facet of his game that he will need to expand upon this year. However, the point guard is one of the hardest workers on the team so it is safe to assume that Farmar returns for his sophomore season as confident as ever, ready to showcase his improved skill set.
Last Season: Farmar’s rookie campaign was a tale of two seasons as he began the year opening eyes throughout the league before fizzling after hitting the proverbial “rookie wall” toward the second half of the season. Still, Farmar’s efforts provided plenty of justification for why the Lakers selected the former Bruin standout with their first round pick in 2006. While Farmar has yet to emulate the talent of Jason Kidd and Steve Nash, he has displayed a competitive spirit and a strong desire to learn—two characteristics that should bode well for the guard. Additionally, Farmar drew praise from Lakers coaches for his ever-improving perimeter defense—a skill that could give the guard an edge in the battle for the coveted backup point guard spot.
Moving Forward: Farmar spent the offseason working feverishly on his outside shot, his ability to stay in front of defenders and playmaking skills. If Farmar hopes to secure the backup point guard spot, he will need to maintain his stellar work ethic as Crittenton will likely be nipping at his heels all season long. One enormous advantage Farmar already has over Crittenton is the invaluable experience he gained starting down the stretch and during the first round of the playoffs last year. How well he puts that experience to use will ultimately determine his impact on this year’s team.
What We Already Know: Crittenton was a star player for Georgia Tech, leading the Yellow Jackets with his athletic prowess, excellent playmaking abilities and advanced ball-handling skills. Many consider the Lakers drafting of Crittenton at 19 in this year’s NBA Draft one of the steals of this draft season. While he may not have the college resume of some of the players drafted before him, the Lakers coaching staff is confident that the versatile guard’s height and tenacity, along with his experience playing under the triangle offense in high school, will make him a perfect fit for the team.
Last Season: Despite his freshmen standing, Crittenton’s poised attack and outspoken leadership skills led his team to a rapid turnaround and a birth in the NCAA Tournament. Crittenton tied for the team lead in scoring at just over 14 points and finished second in the ACC with nearly six assists per game. In time, he will be asked to fill a similar role for the Lakers.
Moving Forward: Although Coach Jackson is notorious for not playing rookies, he surprised some by naming Farmar his starter at the one spot down the stretch for the Lakers. If Crittenton hopes to see a similar amount of playing time, he must prove to the team that he is mature enough to handle a more prominent role and provide consistent results on both ends of the court. Expect Javaris to have some shining moments and plenty of learning opportunities as the season progresses.
What We Already Know: Touted as a gifted shooter, Vujacic has spent much of his first three years with the Lakers at the end of the bench. Aside from brief glimpses showcasing his potential, the 6’ 7” Slovenian guard has largely fallen short of the expectations that come with being a first round pick. However, the Lakers coaching staff likes the size and energy Vujacic brings while spending his limited time on the court backing up the point guard or shooting guard spot.
Last Season: Last season brought much of the same for Vujacic, as he struggled to solidify his status as a regular contributor off the bench. While many NBA players begin to prove their worth around their third season of play, Vujacic failed to build on his previous two seasons with the Lakers. However, the guard displayed flashes of why the team remains enamored with his ability, highlighted by a 16 point effort versus the Dallas Mavericks last January.
Moving Forward: Vujacic looked solid during the Lakers training camp, showing an increased willingness to drive into the lane instead of settling for outside shots. Although several of his teammates and coaches have praised Vujacic for his outstanding shooting during practice, carrying his main strength into live game play will ultimately decide the guard’s playing time this season. If he is successful, Vujacic could be a key spark off the bench for the Lakers this year.