One Key Element Each L.A. Lakers Bench Player Brings to the Squad
The mark of any great team is a reliable second unit, and now that the Los Angeles Lakers have a phenomenal starting lineup, their bench may shine all the more.
From their sharpshooters to their size, this team's reserves may be just as dangerous as its starters, something most teams may not be expecting. Needless to say, the Lakers' chances for winning an NBA championship are through the roof after the offseason moves they've made, especially with some key additions to the bench.
Easily, the team's greatest strength in terms of all of the bench players is the depth. So many players bring so many different talents to the table that it makes the Los Angeles Lakers team like a stew. The starters are the meat, but the bench is where the real flavor lies. No matter how you look at it, this is a second unit unlike any other in that its depth of talent probably has more to offer than any other team's bench players.
That being said, as the Lakers look to win Kobe Bryant his sixth championship ring, here's how each of the team's bench players (those who are bound to be on the opening-night roster, that is) can make that dream a reality.
Antawn Jamison: Experience and Leadership
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In his 14 NBA seasons, Jamison has established himself as a fine scorer who can also hold his own on defense and from behind the three-point line.
Playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers last season, the former North Carolina Tar Heel averaged 17.2 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 34 percent from long range, not bad at all for someone who turned 36 over the summer. For his career, Jamison has averaged 19.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.
On top of that, it should be noted that Jamison is a two-time All-Star and was the 2004 Sixth Man of the Year when playing for the Dallas Mavericks. As the sixth man on a team with a very young bench squad, his mentoring the younger players will help ensure a reliable second unit for years to come and maybe even some future starters.
The fact that he's playing for the veteran's minimum doesn't hurt either.
Steve Blake: Deadly Three-Point Shooting
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For his career, former Maryland Terp Steve Blake has averaged just 6.9 points per game in nine seasons. Yet, he has still made a fine name for himself in the league because when he is left wide-open in three-point land, he is a near-lock to make the shot. As a result, he holds a career three-point percentage of 39 percent.
Sure, he may not look like much at 6'3", 172 pounds, but Blake is still a mastermind from downtown. In Game 7 of the Lakers' first-round playoff series against the Denver Nuggets, he shot 5-of-6 from long range en route to a 19-point performance.
With the ability to just light up the scoreboard like that, Lakers coach Mike Brown will surely arrange for Blake to continue getting significant minutes in 2013.
Chris Duhon: Locker-Room Guy
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With Steve Nash running the point and Blake holding the role of backup point guard, chances are that Duhon is only going to get garbage minutes. Yet, he will be important to the team in one unique way. Despite some issues with his coach toward the end of last season, Duhon generally has a good attitude and will be a great locker-room leader throughout the season.
Though he has the build of a point guard at 6'1", 190 pounds, Duhon's greatest strength is his three-point shooting, which stands at 36 percent for his career. On the court, there's not much he can do to help the team, and thus, can provide the most help in giving his teammates his support.
It may not seem like much, but a locker-room guy's work is highly underappreciated. During the postseason, high morale can prove to be quite the extra edge.
Sure enough, with the Lakers already having lots of big egos on the roster, Duhon needs to start filling his new role from the get-go.
Jordan Hill: Interior Defense
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Since being drafted with the No. 8 pick in the 2009 draft, Hill has yet to really make an impact in the NBA. Yet, after being traded to the Lakers last year, he impressed in a small handful of games toward the end of the season.
In the team's second-to-last game of the season, a double-overtime 114-106 victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Hill scored 14 points and pulled down 15 rebounds while blocking three shots. Sure enough, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak re-signed Hill to a two-year deal worth $8 million.
Simply put, the Lakers will only be cheating themselves out of some great defense under the basket if they let Hill ride the pine for most of the season. He has great size at 6'10", 235 pounds, and if Pau Gasol, or even Dwight Howard, needs a rest at any point, Hill could very well become the go-to guy.
Jodie Meeks: A Natural Scoring Touch
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Just for the sake of argument, let's assume that Steve Blake is on fire one night of the season and is just making shot after shot. As a result, whenever he's on the floor, opposing defenders double-team him.
This is where Meeks comes in, as he has shot 37 percent from long range for his career and can also be deadly when left wide open. If Blake is double-teamed and he's standing all alone in three-point land, chances are he will get the ball and drain the triple if uncontested.
More importantly, however, Meeks just has a natural scoring touch that is just screaming to break out. During his third season at Kentucky, playing for coach Billy Gillispie, Meeks averaged 23.7 points per game while shooting 46 percent from the field and 40 percent from long range.
Throw in his near-perfect stature for his position at 6'4", 208 pounds, and Meeks can be a fine scorer off the bench who brings a beautiful touch to his jump shot.
Earl Clark: Size
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Since being drafted 14th overall back in 2009, Clark has yet to impress on the NBA level. Despite averaging 14.2 points and 8.7 rebounds his junior year at Louisville, the man just looks awkward on the court, and his overall athleticism seems to be hit or miss.
His 10.2 career minutes per game could be to blame for this, as it is hard to stand out when playing time is limited, but Clark's career has yet to be something worth talking about at this point.
Still, the fact remains that Clark has a fine NBA body at 6'10", 225 pounds. On a Lakers team where second-unit defense is going to be a need, he could come into the game from time to time just to help defend some of the top big men in the game.
Yes, his career may appear to be a failure, but Clark is still young at age 24. If he is to finally break out this season, the Lakers are the right team to be on for it.
Devin Ebanks: Tenacity
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Ebanks has only been in the league for two years and has yet to receive playing time significant enough for him to make an impact. Yet, he has good size at 6'9", 215 pounds, and at West Virginia, he showed that he can hold his own on defense. In his two years with the Mountaineers, he averaged 7.9 rebounds per game.
Of course, while his defense is all well and good, Ebanks is a good bench player simply because he is so fast and athletic, clearly determined to do well. He may seem too skinny, but he shows no hesitation to go after every rebound and drive the lane.
This is just the kind of determination that the Lakers, let alone any team, needs in the quest for a ring.
Andrew Goudelock: More Scoring
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Goudelock may not look like much at 6'3", 200 pounds, but believe this. Behind this smallish frame lies a brutal scoring machine in the making.
In his senior year at College of Charleston, Goudelock averaged 23.7 points while shooting 41 percent from long range. Over the course of his four years at school, he averaged 18.2 points and shot 42 percent from downtown.
Of course, being a second-round pick and Lakers' rookie, Goudelock didn't get much playing time last year. Yet, in his 10.5 minutes per game, he made 37 percent of his three-pointers, very respectable for someone at the end of the bench.
Still, in size and skill, Goudelock seems a lot like New Orleans Hornets shooting guard Eric Gordon. He's small in size, but his determination to do well carries him to good numbers. With Kobe Bryant hinting at retirement, this coming season could very well be Goudelock's chance to audition for the higher-ups.
Darius Morris: A Bright Future
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Morris only appeared in 19 games last year and spent some time in the D-League, but the former Michigan Wolverine has already proven himself worthy of playing more minutes in 2013. You see, during this year's NBA Summer League, Morris led the Lakers in scoring and passing with 15.2 points and 4.2 assists per game.
Also, the fact that Morris is so big for a point guard at 6'5", 195 pounds is a testament to how phenomenal an athlete he is. Keep in mind, in his last year at Michigan, he averaged 15 points and 6.7 assists per game.
He drives to the basket hard and is learning how to create mismatches, so in the next year or so, he could very well be on his way to becoming a fine floor general.
He's also at a great advantage this season in that he has a phenomenal mentor in Steve Nash to help guide his hand. The future Hall of Famer signed a three-year contract with the Lakers over the summer, plenty of time to help mold Morris into someone who could take over once that time is up.
If an overall improvement is seen, the Lakers could have quite the bright future.