Lakers Previews: Is Thomas Bryant the Perfect Partner for Anthony Davis?

Welcome to our site Lakers Season Preview Series! Over the next several weeks, we’ll be writing columns each weekday, detailing the biggest questions we have about every player the Lakers added in the off-season. Today, we take a look at Thomas Bryant.

By signing two former Lakers free-agent positions in the mid-20s this season, the Lakers took a mixed approach to filling in a 5-point roster depth than they did last year. Although the difference in age between this year’s crop of 5s and last year’s is probably the most pronounced facial difference between the two groups, the disparity between playing styles may be a larger intrinsic gap.

Instead of a pair of absolute sprinters, the Lakers signed players who could acceptably play the role, but also spent time around the perimeter as virtual ground spacers to give their ball-dominant teammates more room to work on when attacking.

In particular, Thomas Bryant exemplified this typical five-stretch pose, especially compared to Damian Jones’s 43 career three-point attempts, providing resistance at the edge while shooting well enough on enough size of threes to prevent defenses from leaving him empty. guarding. on the ocean. between Damian Jones’ theoretical shooting ability And Bryant’s track record of efficiency, looks as if the Lakers are looking to return to a slightly different version of the massive double rotation they rolled out between 2019 and 2021.

What is his best scenario?

In a perfect world, Bryant would step in as the Lakers’ starting center alongside Davis at 4, extending the floor to open the paint while providing enough rim protection to prevent Davis from exposing himself to injury risk as much as he has in each of the past two seasons. Leaking out shooting at point 5 should give primary Lakers more room to attack the edge and score indoors, a force that was largely neutralized last season by the profusion of no-shooting threats from the team.

If Bryant’s 3-point mark of 35% accurately represents how he will shoot next season, it will be effective enough to make defenses pay the price for over-commitment to star Laker heading over the edge. Even better, he actually shot more than 40% from outside the arc across a total of 56 games in his third and fourth NBA seasons, leaving some reason for optimism that Bryant’s strike will prove better than a pass in his first season with the Lakers.

Although Bryant made a name for itself as a Stretch 5, it was actually as good or better an rim guard than it was as a shooter. Last season, according to the B-Ball Index, Bryant ranked as the elite in nearly every indoor defense category except for deterrence. And while blocking shots on the edge entirely is a valuable skill, smothering experienced scorers when they get there is even better.

Statistics via the Player Profile Tool in the B-Ball Indicator.

Alongside Davis – one of the most dynamic and versatile defenders of this generation when at their peak – the Lakers and Bryant could have rebuild the backbone to defend the championship once again.

What’s his worst case scenario?

Coming out with a torn ACL in January 2021, Bryant barely saw the ground last season, and struggled to recover the stroke he suffered prior to the injury. In 27 games, Bryant has done worse than 27% of his three-pointers in 1.6 attempts per game. That’s a small sample, but he was less accurate than both Russell Westbrook and Tallinn Horton Tucker from Downtown last season. While his absolute worst-case scenario would be a season spent on the shelf due to injuring his knee again, a close second would be not being able to shoot better than he did last season.

Without Bryant establishing himself as a credible threat on the outside, the Lakers’ attack in the middle of the field may look as stagnant as it was last season when it struggled to find anyone capable of destroying the steady stream of open appearances created by LeBron James and Westbrook.

Also, it’s worth noting that while outside of what was and should be his typical defensive role, Bryant is completely unable to slip with opposing guards on the perimeter. As a peripheral defender, Bryant has ranked in the bottom seven percent of the league in every season since the 2019-20 season. Ultimately, his inability to transform into guards on the perimeter could create a weak link in the Lakers’ defensive chain in playoff time, or perhaps force Davis into a more perimeter-oriented defensive role, undermining his usefulness as one of the game’s best shots. blockers; Furthermore, given that Davis has increased his time by 5 in the Lakers’ most recent championship, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Bryant’s role diminished in the postseason if the Lakers go that far this season.

What is his potential role on the team?

Despite his recent retreat from the limits of the arc and defensive limitations, Bryant’s combination of two separate skills – shooting and edge protection – is rare and valuable enough to make him an ideal partner on the position next to Davis. If Davis can cover up some of Bryant’s shortcomings as a perimeter defender, while Bryant’s shot prevents Davis from needing a treble he’s unlikely to do, then at the end of the season his signature on the bottom line could look like one of the best contracts has been made. Free agent deals this summer.

In contrast to some of the Lakers’ other moves recently, Bryant’s fitting around the centerpieces of the roster makes sense on paper. And while he might start splitting minutes with Jones until one of them proves he’s the best performer in purple and gold this season, I expect Bryant to open the season as the team’s mainstay, barring any unforeseen circumstances.

However, given the substance that surrounds the team at the moment and this off-season clown in general, the unthinkable may actually be more likely than what Ockham’s Razor is currently suggesting.

Cooper is a lifelong Laker fan who has also covered Yankees In Pinstripe Alley at SB Nation – no, he’s also not a fan of the Cowboys. You can hear it on Lakers Multiverse Podcast You can find it on Twitter at Tweet embed.

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