Every offseason discussion about the Los Angeles Lakers has revolved around the possibility of making a blockbuster move, making the team the unquestioned and unrelenting favorites entering the regular season.
The mere fact that the Lakers haven’t made a type of move that would cause shock waves around the league speaks about their focus in role players. Yes, role players are often overlooked, but they can often be the difference between the postseason and a lottery pick.
Here are a few reasons the fate of the Lakers’ 2012-2013 season will depend on the role players.
Let’s face it, acquiring superstars, whether via free agency or trade, can bring short term success, but the Lakers are not looking for one championship; they’re looking to build the next great dynasty.
The Boston Celtics managed to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy in the first year of acquiring Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to go alongside Paul Pierce. They remained contenders up until recently, but never achieved their first year success again.
The Lakers, on the other hand, have had the luxury of having multiple superstars with minimal weakness in the past. The team already has the superstars to do this. Signing quality free agents may be the only thing management needs to do to take these 2012-2013 Lakers further into the playoffs.
This should go without saying, but the Lakers need role players that give the starters some rest. Last season, the bench production was not adequate enough, blowing lead in the process.
Because of this, the starters had to go into the game earlier than expected, either to maintain of regain a lead.
Compared to other teams in the Western Conference, the Lakers definitely had an issue. Two of the most dominant teams in the conference had depth to maintain, and even increase leads. Depth is partly the reason the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder faced each other in the conference finals.
The team gained a trade exception in the trade, but more importantly they lost that year’s NBA Sixth Man of the Year. In fact, he is the first Laker in to win the award, as reported by The Daily News.
Losing the best sixth man of the 2010-2011 season proved to be difficult for the Lakers, considering the fact that they did not attempt to replace him with another player.
The Lakers had a winning percentage of .695 in Odom’s last year as a Laker. After the trade that sent him to the Dallas Mavericks, the team’s winning percentage dropped to .621.
This slight change could have dramatically altered playoff positioning and helped the Lakers, but instead they were eliminated by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the conference semifinals, winning only one game.
Realistically, the Lakers can not afford another large contract. Instead, the team should focus on signing players on the cheap, but that can have the potential to outperform their contracts.
One of these potential small contract players that can outperform their current contract is big man Jordan Hill. The Lakers announced on their website that they re-signed the forward, previously acquired in March in exchange for long-time Lakers starting point guard Derek Fisher.
Although Hill did not play many minutes last year, he shined when he was on the court. If he continues the production that he had and becomes a regular in the Lakers 2012-2013 rotation, the former eight-overall pick can surprise critics.
A possible replacement for Lamar Odom, in terms of being an effective sixth man, is Antawn Jamison who was signed as a free agent for only $850,000, according to ESPN.com.
This contract is exceptionally small because, according to Lakers.com, the former Cleveland Cavalier ranked 26th in league-wide points per game last season with 17.2 points.
There is no pressure on Jamison, as Pau Gasol has the starting role. Jamison can come off the bench and produce immediately. The combination of Jamison and Hill may effectively be the boost the Lakers need to end up in the NBA Finals.
Jamison has the experience to thrive in a championship-focused environment. He was traded to Cleveland to help LeBron James improve his chance at winning the Larry O’Brien Trophy in the 2009-2010 season. He also played with the Washington Wizards, alongside a very productive Gilbert Arenas. The experience from playing with these high caliber players has definitely prepared Jamison for playing with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum.