Things Could Be Better
- By Kyle Kappe, Day 49, 2023
Well, not officially the motto, but based on last year to this year's result, it certainly applies. Wholesale changes happened, where 4 of the most talented 5 players on the roster headed elsewhere. Swayda, Sowder, Clarkson, and the momentarily a Lightning team member, Tarver, all headed out. The lone talented piece to stay was Antoine Hall, and he's had a great season thus far.
Center - Antoine Hall has been given the freedom to do what he would like. He's been given the second most amount of minutes on the season and has rewarded the franchise with a career year in scoring 25.6 PPG and 9.9 RPG. His PER is a respectable 25.66. The backup minutes have been given to Jarrell Harrison, the rookie acquired in the Clarkson trade. He has posted a disappointing 7 PPG and less than 3 RPG, which should have been his strength. One can excuse the lower rebounding numbers from centers with the existence of Sherman at the PF spot. Rounding out any real minutes at the C spot was FA signing OG Odebayo, who has played a lot less minutes than expected, with the arrival of Harrison. He's also made it know he hasn't been pleased with these minutes either, but will need to remain patient.
Power Forward - We flipped Tarver for Wesley Sherman, expecting big things from him. He was touted as a defensive specialist who needed more of a shot to show what he can do. He's been largely a disappointment in the scheme of the Lightning, with numbers down from last year with the Scorpions. He's averaging single digits in rebounds, down by more than 2 from last year, which is also true for scoring. He's still trying to find himself within the team, but it's been a struggle so far. He's a skilled role player, doing worse than what is expected of him. Harrison is getting a lot of the backup minutes at the PF spot, with former starting PF, Ryan Collinson, getting regulated to the third string spot. It's a tough gig for Collinson who started on two teams that went deep into the postseason and won a lot of games. He was essentially a 10 and 10 guy and is now a 13 minutes a game guy, going 4 and 4. He's got some concern and has asked for a trade.
SF - It is a whole new world without Sowder manning the position. In his place is Pace LeGarde, the seasoned veteran. 5 years ago, the replacement value would have been almost minimal, but at age 33, he's slowing down greatly. He's being given plenty of minutes to age gracefully but he's shooting a woeful 39.7%, but managing to put up a 14.5/6.5/4.5 numbers. Backing up LaGarde is second round pick Derrick Poole, who has some potential but is better suited for SG, and 2nd year player Devin Wallace. Neither are lighting the world on fire with their play.
SG - Veteran Swayda was swapped out for Kieran Richardson (with a first round pick coming in and then going out) and it's been a disappointing result. Richardson is in a contract year and the former lottery pick was given a chance to be a scoring threat on his new team and while he has increased his scoring output from 9 to 13, he is doing it with almost twice as many minutes, making him pretty ineffective. He is grabbing 6 rebounds a game, which isn't really needed from this team, and 4 assists, so he's not being properly utilized either. Backing him up at the SG spot is Derrick Poole and DeAndre Buie. Buie is pretty undersized for the position and getting minimal minutes, while Poole is averaging a modest 6.4 PPG, which is unfortunate for the struggles, because it's forcing Richardson to play the most minutes and delivering it with a shooting percentage of just 39% and 29% from 3.
PG - Once the Lighting landed Tarver, people in Houston thought Stephan Hood was going to be let go from the team. Instead, Tarver was soon flipped out and Hood resigned, despite most feeling Tarver was a better fit, especially with Sowder also being moved. But management felt that they liked Hood's play making ability and matched his RFA status. He's scoring 14.8 PPG while also contributing 8.7 APG, which is one of the better marks in the league for PGs. It's curious to note that his scoring is down from last year, while his assist numbers are about the same, showing what a loss both Sowder and Clarkson were in providing more open scoring opportunities for him and an inability to handle the scoring load present to him. 2nd rounder DeAndre Buie has been given a lot of freedom and minutes to show if he can handle it. The Front Office loves his potential and thinks he's the best rookie on the team, but has a long way to go before he becomes a serviceable player in the league. Kendrick Lee is getting token minutes on the team, which is a shame because he's better than the 9 minutes per game he's getting.
Outlook - It's not a great outlook, nor is it terrible, except most fans thought the rebuild would go better. There is an overwhelming feeling throughout the league that they didn't get nearly enough in the trades they made, but here they sit as a team not good enough for the postseason, but not bad enough to where they'll pick near the top of the lottery. They need to decide to improve their team with the first round pick they have, or piece it out whereas their parts are better than their sum. They'll hover a few games under .500 for most of the season and they need to decide a direction to take the franchise, instead of floundering in irrelevancy.