4 Role Players Who Need to Step Up for the Lakers

William Van NollContributor IIIOctober 24, 2016

4 Role Players Who Need to Step Up for the Lakers

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    With eight games remaining in the regular season, including three against the conference heavyweight San Antonio Spurs, the Los Angeles Lakers need to start operating at a playoff level.

    The last two games, with The Mamba draped in designer suits instead of his usual purple and gold armor, the Lakers have instead looked like a team searching for answers.

    The rout in Phoenix. The last minute escape in New Orleans.

    You can count on Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum to lead the team—but who else can Mike Brown turn to?

    Who can play a part in making the Lakers click at a Playoff clip?

    Here are four role players the Lakers need to step up now with the second season looming.

4. Devin Ebanks

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    Replacing the irreplaceable Kobe Bryant in the lineup, Devin Ebanks has gotten 29 minutes of burn the last two games—the kind not seen since the beginning of the season.

    With his recent playing time, Ebanks took two steps forward (14 points, four rebs on Saturday) and one step back (six points, two rebs on Tuesday). Still, the insertion of the 6'9'' small forward into the lineup should give Mike Brown the confidence to use Ebanks more down the line.

    Will consistent minutes be there? Ask Coach. Given his reluctance to try anything remotely progressive, Mike Brown's not likely to stray from his veterans.

    But with a second unit constantly struggling for an identity, Ebanks fits the bill as the ideal game-changer to come off the bench and jolt some energy into the hapless second string.

    The lengthy second-year swingman can make things difficult for guards on the perimeter and is a threat with a knock-down, mid-range jumper. 

    Close to carving out a role, this role player can hopefully earn the minutes to make contributions when the Lakers need them.

3. Steve Blake

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    Averaging 4.7 points and three assists per game over his last eight opportunities, Steve Blake has been trending downward for the Lakers since the March 15 trade deadline and his eventual return to the second unit.

    But the scrappy veteran might have turned the corner Tuesday night with a big fourth quarter versus the New Orleans Hornets—hitting a big three, drawing a charge and nailing a critical bank shot in the game's final minutes.

    This assertive play is exactly what the Lakers need from their second-string point guard. 

    With the 17-18 minutes granted him per game since speedster Ramon Sessions was anointed team floor general, Blake needs to become more dependable at the end of the first quarter/beginning of the second quarter to give Sessions the necessary rest to close out games for the Lakeshow.

    You're only as good as your weakest player, and right now, the Lakers' PG position is anything but deep.

    Tuesday might have changed all that.

2. Josh McRoberts

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    McRoberts is slowly overtaking Troy Murphy as Mike Brown's preferred third big man off the bench after seeing scant minutes for the bulk of the season. And in true McRoberts' fashion, he's been running the floor at a breakneck pace, causing all sorts of chaos underneath the basket for opposing big men and contributing with his hustle and activity.

    But with this sort of play, McRoberts regularly finds himself in foul trouble.

    Too often, his motor goes into overdrive, and he commits a careless foul or is caught completely out of position on defense.

    Never one to take a play off, McBobs needs to keep the energy level at its natural max but play under control.

    On the floor with either Ramon Sessions, Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol, the Lakers need McRobert's activity off-the-glass and around-the-rim far more than they need Troy Murphy's outside jumper.

    McRoberts should expect to see his playing time steadily increase as they march toward and into the playoffs.

    And with added trust comes added responsibility. McRoberts must be prepared to handle both.

1. Metta World Peace

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    Once you think you have Metta World Peace figured out, he goes in an entirely different direction.

    With such a short window left in the regular season, we can't have the Two Tales of Metta World Peace told each game.

    Never one to disappoint in big games this year (see Miami Heat, Boston Celtics as case studies), MWP will still brick the open corner three or make a bone-headed play regardless of the opponent (he should be completely stripped of inbounding duties after the Hornets near-miss Tuesday).

    An enigma wrapped in a puzzle pegged as a riddle, Ron Ron needs to play to his strengths and prove why he's still the game's ultimate defensive stopper.

    His team needs his strength. His team needs his aggression. His team needs his defensive dominance.

    And with every game from here on out—playoffs included—considered a big game, who knows? It might be the perfect opportunity for Peace to shine. He's no stranger to big-game heroics.

    This name-changer might ultimately be the Lakers' most important game-changer. And don't test him—he just might be crazy enough to prove you wrong.