Los Angeles Lakers Have a Better Bench This Season Than Last

Zac ChowContributor IIIJanuary 1, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 27:  Metta World Peace #15 of the Los Angeles Lakers directs the offense as he brings the ball upcourt against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center on December 27, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  The Lakers won 96-71.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

So, is anybody missing Lamar Odom so far?

Certainly not the Los Angeles Lakers

Sure, they have some problems (how are those 37-year-old knees holding up, Derek Fisher?), but none related to the loss of the reigning Sixth Man of the Year and backup combo guard Shannon Brown.

In fact, after witnessing Odom's unprofessional behavior and body being reflected by his 0.133 percent shooting in four games so far and Brown's questionable shot selections in Phoenix, the Lakers' bench unit—led by the unmistakable Metta World Peace with support provided by recent acquisitions in Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy among others—suddenly look pretty good. 

This is not just because the departed players are playing badly with their new teams, of course, but rather due to the fact that the new second unit is playing well in its own right. 

Head coach Mike Brown surprised critics everywhere by starting sophomore Devin Ebanks over the more polished and experienced player in World Peace, but for good reason. While no one would deny the fact that the latter is a terrific defender, many have forgotten that the former Ron Artest averages 14.7 points per game for his career. 

Sure, he is no longer the player that made into the 2004 NBA All-Star team, and his three-pointers are unreliable, but a man with his strength can always find a few easy buckets off the low block.

The Lakers needed someone to keep the offense flowing while Kobe Bryant or Pau Gasol needs a breather, and World Peace is capable of doing that. 

With the addition of World Peace to the Lakers' second unit, Steve Blake is all smiles.
With the addition of World Peace to the Lakers' second unit, Steve Blake is all smiles.Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

Indeed, when Bryant and Gasol were resting and World Peace was on the court with the second unit in a game against the Knicks, Brown made use of Metta's physical advantage over weaker and smaller defenders and ran offenses through him. 

That would have never happened if World Peace was starting. He would have been the fourth or fifth option in a five-man lineup.

Then there are McRoberts and Murphy.

Before the two former Pacers arrived, the Lakers had no one to do the little things in the paint. The things big guys off the bench should do—rebounding, hustling and screening.

Odom preferred to be waiting for the ball at the perimeter, while DJ Mbenga, the closest player to fit the definition above for the Lakers the past few seasons, was only on the court when the crowd wanted tacos.    

Unlike Mbenga, Murphy and McRoberts had early opportunities to showcase their abilities when Andrew Bynum was suspended at the start of the season. 

Both showed that they are capable of playing around 20 minutes per game, with Murphy's rebounding efficiency (seven rebounds in 21 minutes per game so far) and McRoberts' crowd-pleasing hustle plays and dunks reasons why the Lakers frontcourt is stronger this season than the last. 

Throw in a sharpshooter in Jason Kapono and two players looking to make up for a poor 2010-2011 campaign in Steve Blake and Matt Barnes, and the Lakers have gained depth.

I haven't even mentioned Derrick Caracter and the rookies, Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock—all players oozing with potential and capable of playing right now.

Sure, the Lakers may not win a championship again unless a certain superhero comes into town, but to place the eventual blame on the loss of Odom and Brown would be ignoring the real issue. This Lakers' bench can compete with any other second unit in the NBA.