Free agent profile: T.J. Ford
This is the 22nd post in a series of free-agent profiles that analyze a particular player and how he might fit in with the Lakers.
Indiana Pacers point guard T.J. Ford
Type of free agent: Unrestricted
Positives: The Lakers are forever in this conundrum where they want youth, but they don't want to give up their championship experience to get it. So here's a compromise. The Lakers can address both needs by signing T.J. Ford, a 28-year-old point guard who has been a starter on three playoff teams -- once in Milwaukee and twice in Toronto before getting traded to Indiana.
Ford played in only 41 games last season, averaging 5.4 points and 18.9 minutes per game. But that spoke more to Indiana's logjam in the backcourt after acquiring former UCLA point guard Darren Collison to join Earl Watson and rookie A.J. Price. By all accounts Ford handled the demotion with grace and proved reliable when his name was called, such as when he hit a half-court buzzer beater at the end of the third quarter in Game 2 of the Pacers-Bulls first-round series. He could be a decent bench player, only three years removed from posting 6.1 assists per game in the 2007-08 season with Toronto. He's proven to be a decent mid-range jump shooter when he's deliberate with his shot selection. And his professional and playoff-experienced attitude should bode well for a team that wouldn't grant him a starting spot.
Ford has career averages of 11.4 points and 5.9 assists in seven seasons with Milwaukee, Toronto and the Pacers. He was the Naismith and Wooden national college player of the year after leading Texas to a Final Four appearance.
Ford is mildly intriguing, because it wasn't too long ago that he was a pretty high-level point guard -- in 2008-09 he averaged 14.9 points and 5.3 assists with the Pacers. And while injuries have been a serious question, he's only 28. He's not much of a long-range threat -- 29% on three-point attempts in his career, only 19% last season -- and his shot selection has never been great. Still, someone will take a shot on Ford, and could be rewarded with some decent play. Or, he might simply continue descending.
Negatives: Ford is rarely dependable hitting long-range shots or even driving to the basket. His reduced playing time didn't happen by accident. Plus it would be foolish and unrealistic for the Lakers to pony up anything like his $8-million salary last season.
Verdict: This is more of a product of the weak free-agent market, but Ford could be an attractive option as an insurance policy for Darius Morris in case his rookie season entails an adjustment period. But it'd be wise to make this move if and only if the Lakers sign Ford to the league minimum.
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