Ex-Lakers Thrive With Sixers, Expose L.A.’s Poor Offseason Decisions

The Danny Green (left) for Dennis Schroder deal worked out for the Sixers, in the end.

Getty The Danny Green (left) for Dennis Schroder (right) deal worked out for the Sixers, in the end.

Back in November, it was a popular opinion. Going by the snap-judgment reviews at the time, one would think Rob Pelinka and the Lakers’ front office must have been putting forth some black magic, taking used-up junk players on the roster and transforming them into hoops gold.

Some examples:

Still going with GOAT, wolf and magician?

Perhaps all those Twitter general managers forgot that last year’s Lakers did, in fact, win an NBA championship and that perhaps more consideration should have been given to that fact, as well as to the benefits of continuity. Because while it is true that the Lakers have been without Anthony Davis for two months and LeBron James for a month on top of that, the team’s current supporting cast is shaky at best—thanks to bad decisions in November.

The big beneficiaries: The Sixers, who scooped up two Lakers castoffs and turned them into critical role players for the team that is currently leading the Eastern Conference at 37-17, third-best in the NBA.

One of those role players, Danny Green, has been among the hottest perimeter shooters in the game since the All-Star break. Another, Dwight Howard, has been the most productive rebounder in the league this season. Both have been huge for Philly.

And both were replaced by players who have thus far been failures in L.A.


Green, Howard Posting Impressive Sixers Numbers

Many in L.A. celebrated when Green was shipped out last offseason, bringing back point guard Dennis Schroder. The Lakers had dumped a weighty salary—Green makes $15 million this year—belonging to a disappointing 33-year old for Dennis Schroder, a 27-year-old point guard coming off a career-best season in Oklahoma City.

Green was a decent defender but just an average regular-season shooter (36.7% from the 3-point line) in 2019-20, as opposed to what he had been the previous year in Toronto—a transcendent outside shooter (45.5% from the 3-point line). That never materialized in L.A. His struggle in the playoffs (34.7% from the field, 33.9% from the 3-point line) was the final nail in the coffin of Green’s Lakers tenure.

After sending off Schroder, the Thunder then flipped Green to the Sixers. Since then, Green is back, nearly, to his old form from 2019, shooting 41.4% from the 3-point line and averaging 9.7 points, up from 8.0 points last year. He is still an excellent and rugged perimeter defender, far more than Schroder or the guy was expected to fill Green’s role, Wes Matthews.

Matthews’ numbers: 4.8 points, 1.6 rebounds, 34.7% shooting, 33.8% 3-point shooting.

Schroder’s numbers: 15.3 points, 5.3 assists, 43.2% shooting, 33.8% 3-point shooting.

Things got so bad on the wing that the Lakers, desperate for help, signed recently released guard Ben McLemore on the buyout market. It could get worse with Schroder, too–he will be a free agent who, according to reports, already turned down an extension worth more than $80 million. The Lakers could have to pay heavily to keep Schroder’s mediocre production.

The Lakers did not fare much better in the middle, Howard’s old spot behind JaVale McGee. The Lakers dumped both Howard and McGee in favor of Montrezl Harrell and Marc Gasol. Harrell has been a poor fit off the bench with the Lakers and Gasol has been benched for Andre Drummond, another buyout guy who has only occasionally been effective for L.A.

Howard, meanwhile? He is, incredibly, averaging 8.3 rebounds in 17.4 minutes. The two guys who began the season as the Lakers’ centers, Gasol and Harrell, average 10.7 rebounds in 44.0 minutes. Howard is grabbing 0.47 rebounds per minute this season, the best in the NBA.


Green Was Nearly Traded–Again

Still, there was a point just before the trade deadline at which Green thought he was going to be traded back to Toronto  (Tampa this season) in a deal from Philly to the Raptors for Kyle Lowry. That ultimately fell through and Green stayed put, colleting his 2020 NBA championship ring (alongside Howard) in Los Angeles late last month.

Oddly enough, the Lakers, too, were in the Lowry hunt, but could not pull off a deal.

“It was kind of comical, just thinking about it, but I don’t panic, I don’t worry, I don’t stress,” Green said when the Sixers went to L.A. last month. “I’ve been around the league long enough to know how the business goes. Whatever happens, happens. I just make the best of it and let the chips fall where they may.”

Letting those chips fall has worked out well for him so far in Philadelphia, so well that folks in Lakerland ought to be missing him—and Howard—quite a bit.

 

 


Read More
,