Los Angeles Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers: L.A. Has a Small Forward Crisis on Their Hands

LOS ANGELES - DECEMBER 25:  Head coach Mike Brown talks with Devin Ebanks #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the game against the Chicago Bulls at Staples Center on December 25, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  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 Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
Grant TaylorCorrespondent IIJanuary 7, 2012

This isn't the first year the Los Angeles Lakers have been weak at the small forward position.

It started with Luke Walton and Vladimir Radmanovic (say that three times fast), died down with Trevor Ariza and then Ron Artest, and it's flaring back up again with Matt Barnes, Devin Ebanks and Metta World Peace.

World Peace started by accepting his sixth-man role and played strong in the opening games, but it seems he's left his low-post prowess to become a fadeaway wannabe.

Barnes and Ebanks is where it gets interesting.

Both, in my opinion, deserve the spot, but MIke Brown can't seem to make a decision.

And who can blame him? With both putting up fairly disappointing numbers so far, it's hard to choose between who's bad, and who's worse than bad.

Ebanks is averaging five points, 3.4 rebounds and an assist per game, while Barnes is averaging 5.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and still, a single assist.

These numbers don't exactly jump out at you.

Ebanks started the first games, but in the three before the last, didn't play at all. Barnes took his spot and was almost more disappointing because of his experience and veteran approach to the game.

Barnes has earned his ranks in the NBA, but his experience isn't showing here.

I've been pushing for the Lakers to start Ebanks, the younger (much younger) of the two. The reasons being:

1. He provides much needed youth.

2. He provides much needed athleticism.

3. The Lakers, in terms of the small forward position, were best when Ariza was in the three spot, and Ebanks is the closest thing we've seen since Ariza.

But I also recognize what Barnes brings to the table:

1. He might be the Lakers' best wing defender.

2. He's a better shooter than Ebanks (understatement).

3. He's more experienced and performs better in must-win situations.

Now, what I've been hiding from you is the fact that earlier, during camp, Brown announced that the third and final candidate for the starting small forward spot is Luke Walton.

Here are the reasons:

1. Bill Walton's his dad.

2. Bill Walton's his dad.

3. Bill Walton's his dad.

Yet another twist in the puzzling, small-forward dilemma.

EL SEGUNDO, CA - DECEMBER 11:  Matt Barnes #9 is seen on the screen of a video camera during Los Angeles Lakers Media Day at Toyota Sports Center on December 11, 2011 in El Segundo, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Now, you can never count out the formerly fan-beating, newly-developed hippie Metta World Peace. He's the best small forward on the Lakers, but Brown has firmly developed Mr. World Peace into the Lakers' new Lamar Odom. In other words, the Lakers' sixth man, but again, you can never count out World Peace. Reasons being:

1. He too might be the Lakers best perimeter defender.

2. He provides a post presence rarely found at the three spot.

3. He might be a better shooter (from distance) than any of the other Lakers' threes.

But the reason he doesn't start is because when he posts-up, he just crowds the paint that is home to Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.

Walton doesn't start because he's Walton (he just can't help it).

It really comes down to Barnes or Ebanks. Defense or better defense. Athleticism or shooting.

The Lakers have already flip-flopped on this decision, and they're only nine games into the season.

They have a big decision to make.

Ebanks,

Barnes,

or a trade.

Take your pick, Lakers.

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