If you watched any semblance of basketball this past year, you can point to the Lakers bench as the weak link in what is considered by many as a championship-level starting lineup.
There's Kobe Bryant on the wing, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum (or possibly Dwight Howard, soon) upfront, and the recent addition, Steve Nash, at point. Let's not also forget about Metta World Peace, formerly known as Ron Artest, and his encouraging play during the late stretches of last season.
While the Lakers have added some punch with their acquisition of Antawan Jamison, there is little depth on this bench unit, especially at the wing.The Lakers have no reliable backup to either Kobe Bryant or Steve Nash, and both players are entering the season at age 34 and 38, respectively.
Steve Blake is not a stable option behind Nash, though his play last season was somewhat encouraging. In addition, Kobe Bryant hasn't had a reliable backup since Sasha "The Machine" Vujacic donned a Lakers jersey.
I'm joking, but you get my drift. Why haven't the Lakers fixed this issue over the years? Here are three reasons: Money, Money, and...Money.
The Lakers have a ton of money tied up in their so-called 'Big Three' and with parts of the new CBA kicking in soon, it will be even more difficult for owner Jerry Buss to balance such a huge payroll.
But, to receive talent, the Lakers will have to spend. Not every player will take the veteran's minimum, as Antawan Jamison did in his attempt to win that elusive championship.
Laker fans have witnessed Jordan Famar, Josh Powell, and even Shannon Brown depart in free agency for greener pastures or better opportunities for playing time. The consistency with this unit hasn't been there, and still the Lakers have been in the thick of things the last few years.
Is it absolutely necessary for the Lakers to have a strong bench if they intend to chase a ring? No, but it sure wouldn't hurt.
The standout bench players currently on the squad? Steve Blake, Jordan Hill, and Antawan Jamison. With the exception of Jamison, who is more of a four but can also play the three, the Lakers have no depth on the wing. Ebanks was solid in fill-in duty last year, but his inconsistencies as a shooter have hurt him in Mike Brown's rotation.
If I had to pick a player from the bench, I would say Jamison will make the most impact. He can score in a variety of ways, including inside and from the perimeter. Jamison should give the Lakers a consistent scorer off the pine, but he offers little else.
Hill is an energy bunny, but his offense is limited to just that. While Hill has shown to be a solid rebounder, he doesn't really impact the game on the defensive end.
Steve Blake doesn't deserve mention simply because you don't know what he'll consistently bring on a game-to-game basis.
Antawan Jamison takes the cake, but this is a contest with no winners, especially if the Lakers decide to stay pat with this unit.
The options aren't great, but at least Laker fans can take comfort in knowing that this year's bench will likely trump whatever zombies came off the pine in 2011.
More pieces need to be added, but Antawan Jamison was a good first step in fixing one of the worst bench units in basketball.