Since Nick Young left for Golden State, the Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard situation has been anything but secure. In fact, the day Kobe Bryant retired was when the real problems began. Attempting to fill the gap with the likes of Young and Lou Williams, the Lakers went into the 2017 off-season with one clear gap to fill. Free agency saw the team sign an unwanted Kentavious Caldwell-Pope after the former Georgia Bulldog was made an unrestricted free agent by the Detroit Pistons. Signed to a one-year deal, Caldwell-Pope would not be the only newcomer at the shooting guard spot. Rookie Josh Hart was brought in for his defense with the 30th overall pick in this seasons draft.
Missing the last 15 games before the NBA All-Star break through injury, rookie point guard Lonzo Ball is set to return. In Ball’s absence, Hart has been playing regular minutes and contributing along the way. This has created a dilemma, with the Lakers shooting guard spot up for grabs all of a sudden.
The Los Angeles Lakers Shooting Guard Dilemma
The season so far
Averaging career highs in rebounds and steals, Caldwell-Pope has been the Lakers primary shooting guard this season. Starting in every game he has played, Caldwell-Pope has had a solid year so far, but not all fans have been impressed with the former Piston. Averaging 13 points and 2.2 assists per game, the 25-year-old has been consistently average. Set to become an unrestricted free agent this off-season, re-signing the talented guard will be considered. However, the emergence of Hart has changed the landscape in Los Angeles.
The KCP experiment has not worked
It’s fair to say the Lakers and their fans expected more from Caldwell-Pope. Set to earn roughly $18 million this season, fans were sold on the idea of Caldwell-Pope being a lockdown defender. When you analyze his numbers, they do not match up with the price tag. This is where LeBron James comes into play. Some believe the Lakers only signed Caldwell-Pope to appease James and his agent, Rich Paul. The Lakers intend to make a move for James in the off-season. It is unlikely he joins a team projected to win around 35 games, but nothing can stop them from making a run at the King.
It has been an uncomfortable year for Caldwell-Pope. Off-court issues have only added to an already insecure starting role. Despite moving on from those problems, Caldwell-Pope now has a fight on his hands to keep his starting role in Los Angeles.
Josh Hart should be the Lakers shooting guard
When one door closes another one opens. This is one way to describe the situation. Ball’s injury was a major hurdle for a young Lakers team to get over, but with the introduction of Hart to the Lakers shooting guard role, the team flourished. With Ball out, many expected the Lakers to crumble without the talented rookie. This was not the case, as the team went on to win eight out of 15 games. The loss of one rookie would uncover the value of another. Hart would tally three double-doubles in a row, scoring 44 points and grabbing 36 rebounds. The former Villanova star fell just two boards short of what would have been his fourth double-double in successive games.
Hart is a great example of the benefits of staying in college beyond your first and second year. From his polished offensive game to his ability to read the game on defense, all the way to his absurd physicality. Garnering a few nicknames along the way, Hart is now referred to as Hulk by some of his teammates and “Josh Barkley” by the fans. A fan favorite for his hustle and effort on and off the court, Hart looks set to become a permanent member of the Lakers core going forward.
BUFFALO, NY – MARCH 17: Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats addresses the media on practice day between the First and Second Round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament at The KeyBank Center on March 17, 2017 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)