Will LA Lakers' Star Power Disguise Lack of Depth and Deliver NBA Title?
The Los Angeles Lakers had a pretty obvious hole all throughout the course of the 2012 season. Of course, they didn't have a starting point guard who was up to snuff and their starting small forward was always iffy, but the real problem out in LA was the fact that they would be lucky to run seven players deep on any given day.
Now that Steve Nash is in town and they've done a bit of tweaking with the lineup, however, it looks as if they might be able to cover up their obvious lack of depth and make this team deep with a few illusions here and there.
Los Angeles' bench last season was as close to a joke as you can get in the NBA. They were dead last in the league with just over 20 points per game coming from their bench while allowing opposing team's benches to outscore them on a nightly basis.
The Lakers' bench wasn't necessarily inefficient, it's just that nobody was consistently reliable enough for the bench to turn into something more useful.
The starting five this year is going to be effective, there's no doubt about that, but the bench may continue to struggle depending on how it's used.
Now that Steve Nash is on the team the Lakers can use him to sort of bolster the bench at times, which should work especially well if he doesn't fit in well with Kobe Bryant straight away.
It seems Los Angeles is consistently six players deep with Kobe, Andrew Bynum, Nash, Pau Gasol, Antawn Jamison and Jordan Hill (energy/rebounder, but consistent with playing time nonetheless), perhaps seven depending on how much they'll be able to squeeze out of Metta World Peace.
Beyond that, they've got guys who can play well at times (Steve Blake, Josh McRoberts, Devin Ebanks, Andrew Goudelock) and guys who have yet to prove themselves as legitimate NBA players (Christian Eyenga, Darius Morris, Darius Johnson-Odom, Robert Sacre).
The best way for the Lakers to make their bench look like it can help them to an NBA title is to stagger their lineup. By that I mean for them to play Nash for the first eight minutes of the game, let Kobe run the Kobe game until about two minutes into the second quarter and then bring Nash in with the reserves.
At that point, Nash is basically running the 2012 Phoenix Suns. Give him free reign of the offense to do with what he wants and hope the combination of him and Jamison on the pick-and-pop with Hill there to grab boards and everyone else to cross their fingers after shooting threes works out.
With Nash running the point for the second unit for a few minutes while the starters rest, you've got the chance to keep the offense primed, even if the defense might turn in some ugly possessions.
Los Angeles should be looking to accomplish two main things with the bench this season; get them to play well enough that they don't screw things up and keep complete control out of the hands of Steve Blake as much as possible.
Beyond all that, Los Angeles is going to hope that three-pointers fall, an extra rebound bounces their way, stupid basketball is avoided at all costs and the bench won't lose them games.
All they need is for the bench to keep games close for the fourth quarter, and that they seem extremely capable of. So long as they do that, the Lakers have as good a shot as any team not from Miami or Oklahoma City to win a title.
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