Five things Chris Duhon needs for a successful season
1. Create healthy competition for Steve Blake. Even though he doesn’t determine playing time, Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak strongly suggested after Dwight Howard’s introductory press conference thatwill be ahead of Darius Morris in the point-guard pecking order. But to what degree Blake and Duhon will split time as Steve Nash’s backup remains unclear. It’s likely to be one of those issues Coach Mike Brown will sort out during training camp and as the regular season evolves.
Nonetheless, Duhon needs to play effectively enough to be in the running for Blake’s minutes. My hunch is Blake will still keep his backup spot. There were spurts last season when he hit more outside shots and looked more comfortable in the offense, compared to his first year with the Lakers. Still, Blake was inconsistent and has never reached the balance the Lakers want in having him become a playmaker while also looking for his own shot. When Blake suffered those lapses, Brown stuck with him simply because he wasn’t comfortable giving Morris an enhanced role. Perhaps Duhon’s presence will give Brown more options, or at least indirectly propel Blake into playing more efficiently. Don’t worry about this creating any friction. Blake’s a team guy and accounts suggest Duhon has the same mindset.
2. Duhon needs to shoot more consistently. Even though Duhon shot 42% last season from three-point range, he lacked consistency with shots from 3 to 9 feet (23%) and 16 to 23 feet (38%). In a recent podcast with Lakers Now, veteran Magic beat writer Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel noted that Duhon lost confidence in his shooting last season. While he’s unlikely to have a significant role, opponents will be double-teaming Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash, so players such as Duhon need to be able to knock down open shots when they have them. That might be his only opportunity to contribute.
3. Duhon needs to improve his ball-handling. With a high turnover rate (27.6%) and low assist ratio (19%), Duhon did little to nothing last season in running the Magic offense. That weakness will severely hurt his playing time with the Lakers considering they have plenty of scorers eager to receive crisp passes from their point guards. Perhaps the defense’s attention to the Lakers’ stars will make it easier for Duhon to play without much pressure. But consider that Duhon’s poor ball-handling happened despite rarely attacking the basket. Blake’s inconsistencies aside, this is one area where he’s done well in finding players in open spaces. If Duhon can’t improve in this area, it’s hard to envision him getting much time on the court.
4. Duhon needs to distinguish himself as a superior defensive player. This is actually one area he could help. Nash is 110 years old -- all right, he’s just 38, but he still can’t keep up with quick point guards. Neither can Blake. Relative to those two players, Duhon can provide a much more physical and athletic defensive presence. According to 82games.com, the Magic fared better defensively when Duhon played in the lineup with four other starters (.89 points per possession) than when starting point guard Jameer Nelson took the court with the same teammates (1.04 points per possession). When the Lakers are already generating enough offense, Duhon could provide some balance on the other end.
5. Can Duhon provide more travel dances? This has very little to do with the team’s success. But just for entertainment value, Duhon needs to do funny antics on the bench the same way he performed while signaling a traveling call in a playoff game last year. Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world, would surely appreciate it.
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