The Los Angeles Lakers will showcase a revamped roster for the 2012-2013 NBA season that features major changes in both the starting rotation as well as the bench. The Lakers front office pulled out all the stops to improve a Lakers team that suffered second-round exits for each of the last two seasons and failed to return to what seems like their rightful place in the NBA Finals.
Despite a major upgrade at point guard (Steve Nash) and an improvement at center (Dwight Howard), when healthy, there are still a few holdovers from last season's Lakers team that will frustrate fans almost as much as they impress them.
With that in mind, let's examine the six most infuriating Lakers players, and why they sometimes do things that will leave fans and coaches scratching their heads in frustration.
Devin Ebanks has the physical tools to be a solid wing contributor in rotation. The third-year pro is 6'8" with long arms and athleticism, and at times, he can guard anyone from shooting guards up to power forwards.
But where Ebanks leaves much to be desired is on offense. Ebanks desperately needs to improve his mid-range jumper to force defenses to respect him on the floor, discouraging teams to double Howard, Bryant and Gasol. For 2011-2012, 63 percent of Ebanks' shot attempts was jump shots, converting only an abysmal .339 of those attempts, according to 82games.com.
Also, the Lakers need shooters to keep proper spacing on the floor, and Ebanks' career 2-14 from deep isn't going to cut it.
Ebanks has only appeared in 44 total games in his first two seasons with L.A. With Matt Barnes no longer on the Lakers roster, he has an opportunity to almost double that number this season, but only if he can knock down open jumpers.
Granted Goudelock was just a rookie last season, but the undersized guard had his moments when he left fans wanting more.
Goudelock came into the NBA with a reputation as a shooter, and he flashed that potential at times last season; however, too often there were moments when Goudelock dribbled the shot clock out while aimlessly looking for his own shot, only to settle for a contested long jumper a la Kobe Bryant. Even though Bryant calls Goudelock "Mini Mamba," Andrew is nowhere even close to that level.
With Goudelock standing only 6'2" high, he needs to improve his playmaking skills if he plans to win rotation minutes next season. His average of .5 assists per game for 2011-2012 is unacceptable. If he doesn't improve that aspect of his game, the number of minutes he plays on most nights in 2012-2013 will match his jersey number.
Steve Blake is the epitome of an average back up point guard. Blake is of average size, is an average shooter, is an average ball-handler...you get the idea. Nothing about Blake's game stands out or would "wow" you.
And that's what makes Blake so frustrating. Blake is making $4 million for each of the next two seasons, so his salary in combination with his average play makes him virtually impossible to trade for now.
With Steve Nash and Chris Duhon more than likely to split the majority of the point guard minutes, it is imperative for Blake to excel as a spot up shooter just as Steve Kerr was throughout his career.
That may be more wishful thinking than anything, considering that Blake has yet to shoot over .380 from the field for the Lakers despite playing 20-plus minutes per game each of the last two seasons.
My best advice would be to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst, Lakers fans.
Kobe Bryant is, without question, one of the most accomplished players in NBA history, (a topic I touched on here). Despite Kobe's greatness, his shot selection at times will drive even the most die-hard Lakers fan insane.
Sometimes Kobe's confidence can be both his greatest asset and biggest deficiency. In Kobe's defense, he does take a ton of bail-out shots at the end of the shot clock, but the degree of difficulty of those shots leaves much to be desired. What makes Kobe special is his ability to make those difficult shots.
Hopefully, with Kobe finally having a great point guard to share the back court responsibilities and another great post player in Howard, Bryant's shot selection will improve in field goal percentage to somewhere between 45-50 percent.
As the Lakers' primary playmaker, Nash's ball-handling ability should also help eliminate the many turnovers that plagued Kobe's game last season.
For years Pau Gasol has been touted as one of the top post players in the NBA and for good reason. Gasol has a wide array of post moves, is an excellent passer for a 7-footer and has a solid jumper. Where Gasol has frustrated Lakers fans for years is his inconsistent intensity in key situations.
A prime example of this is how Gasol seemingly mentally checked out of the second round series, which resulted in Dallas sweeping the Lakers in 2011. Gasol averaged a disappointing 12.5 ppg on .422 shooting from the field in the series. Ouch.
Gasol played just as underwhelming in the 2011-2012 playoffs, again averaging only 12.5 ppg on .434 shooting. Mediocre performances such as those didn't do much to shake the "soft" label off, which Gasol been branded with since coming to L.A. in 2008.
With increased post opportunities in 2012-2013, Gasol's play should return to a high level and with more consistency. Playing with Nash won't hurt either. If not, Lakers fans will be calling for Gasol to be traded louder than ever.
There was once a time when Metta World Peace was one of the most versatile players in the NBA both offensively and defensively. Metta was a 15-20 points per game scorer before joining the Lakers and was always in the discussion as one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA.
Unfortunately, those days appear to be behind him, which is frustrating for Lakers fans and makes Metta virtually the only "weak link" in the Lakers' starting lineup. Metta is still capable of being a lock-down defender when he's focused. He's actually even an improved three-point shooter. Keeping Metta focused is the challenging part.
MWP hasn't done much to shake the reputation of being a head case since changing his name from Ron Artest. Metta elbowed James Harden last years, resulting in a seven-game suspension late last season, which included a portion of the playoffs.
It's crucial for MWP to keep his wild personality under control as his role for the 2012-2013 Lakers will be key on their quest for an NBA championship next season.