The 'How Is This Guy Relevant?' All-Stars
Luke Walton — yes, Luke Walton — is playing important NBA minutes. Who else is logging surprising time? Plus: The mess in Detroit and the lies of a Lakers broadcast.
By Zach Lowe on April 2, 2013
A couple of weeks ago, in highlighting the surprising potency of the Luke Walton–Shaun Livingston give-and-go, I noted Walton would be the captain of the "I Can't Believe He's This Relevant" Team. That led to a natural question: Could you build a 15-man roster of such players? Here's a crack at the 2013 Luke Walton All-Stars.
Luke Walton, forward, Cleveland Cavaliers (Captain)
Walton was a broken-down piece of cap fodder the Lakers had to toss into last season's Ramon Sessions trade — or, alternatively, the relatively expensive price Cleveland had to pay in order to acquire a first-round pick from the Lakers and the right to swap picks this summer, a potentially tasty treat the Cavs only get to execute if the Lakers sneak into the no. 8 spot.1 Walton hadn't played even 500 minutes in any season since 2008-09, and he had logged just 65 minutes for the 2011-12 Lakers before the Sessions deal. He was nearly 32 and slow, with a very bad back; the league just assumed he'd take on the role of brainy hoops mentor/nice locker-room guy for the young Cavs.
And then Byron Scott started playing him, to a reaction of astonishment and laughter. Walton can't guard anyone, he barely looks to shoot, and he misses 60 percent of the shots he does take. But, holy cow, his passing transformed the Cavaliers' bench2 into a shockingly entertaining squad. Walton is dishing nearly seven (!) assists per 36 minutes, and the Cavs have played better on both ends when Walton is on the floor, per NBA.com. His chemistry with Livingston has been legitimately entertaining, and the Livingston–Walton–C.J. Miles–Marreese Speights–Wayne Ellington bench mob has poured in better than 107 points per 100 possessions — the equivalent of a top-five overall mark. Opponents have outscored that lineup, but it has been a fantastic watch as the Cavs pop an unusually high number of 3s from the corners behind Walton's smart passing in space. A nice little story.
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