One of the biggest question marks facing each team going into training camp prior to the season is setting their rotation, and with so many new faces, the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers are no different. With only eight players returning from last season, the Lakers roster includes key new players at basically every position, both in the starting lineup and on the bench.
Not only is the Lakers roster full of new players, but most of their core players are aging veterans, making managing the rotation more imperative than ever for head coach Mike Brown and staff. Newly acquired point guard Steve Nash is 38 and will be 39 around the trade deadline next season. Kobe Bryant is entering his 17th NBA season and Antawn Jamison is entering his 15th.
Keeping the vets' minutes at reasonable levels will be a priority throughout the year to ensure that they won't run out gas come playoff time. The Lakers have addressed this by adding youth and depth to their bench, an area of concern for L.A. in previous seasons.
The Lakers also have a couple of roster spots up for grabs for some of the younger players trying to make the team in the preseason. Finding the right mix of veteran and youth can be the difference between winning a championship and suffering an early playoff burnout come May.
With that in mind, in the following slides we will examine the potential rotations at each position for the Lakers as well as take a look at who will be up for the open roster spots and why.
The Lakers are no strangers to starting the season with a veteran point guard, and 2012-13 will be no different with 38-year-old Steve Nash at the helm. The bigger question will be: Who is going to back up Nash for the 18 to 22 minutes or so that he needs a breather?
Steve Blake is one of the few holdovers from last season, but Blake has struggled with consistency and defense in his previous two season with L.A. The Lakers picked up Chris Duhon in the Dwight Howard trade, and he has proven to be a capable backup in his eight seasons with the Bulls, the Knicks and the Magic.
Blake recently injuring his foot makes Duhon the immediate backup by default, and he was probably going to win the job over Blake anyway since he is the Lakers best defensive PG. After Duhon and Blake, Darius Morris will be challenged by athletic rookie Darius Johnson-Odom for a roster spot as an emergency PG.
The question at the shooting guard position isn't who will start, but how many minutes will Kobe Bryant play next season? After averaging 33.9 minutes per game in 2010-2011, that number rose to 38.5 in Mike Brown's first season as Lakers head coach. The Lakers were thin at the 2-guard spot, forcing Brown to rely heavily on Kobe. Those minutes and high usage rate resulted in the most turnovers per game Bryant has had since 04-05 (3.5) and his lowest field goal percentage since that same season.
The Lakers signed sharp shooter Jodie Meeks to fill that void and take some pressure off Bryant to play big minutes. Meeks can come in for 20-24 minutes each night at the two-guard, with Kobe sometimes sliding to the small forward position for a few minutes to give the Lakers more scoring punch.
Second-year combo guard Andrew Goudelock should see spot duty at times. Also look for Devin Ebanks to get minutes here and there to give the Lakers a different look defensively (Ebanks started seven games at shooting guard when Kobe was injured last season).
Despite his antics, Metta World Peace is still a serviceable NBA small forward when healthy and in shape. He proved that last season when he averaged 10.7 points per game in 31 minutes after the All-Star break while shooting .331 from three-point range and proving his trademark intimidating perimeter defense.
World Peace is said to be in excellent shape entering this season, although he won't be relied upon to do much as a starter besides shut down his man and knock down the occasional open jumpers he'll be seeing when teams double Bryant, Gasol or Howard.
Ebanks will again be in the mix here for rotation minutes if World Peace needs a break and when Jamison is in at power forward. Ebanks' length and athleticism allows him to match up with many of the league's small forwards. Jamison can play both forward positions effectively, including the 3 if the Lakers want to go with a different look offensively.
Former UCLA combo forward Reeves Nelson will be battling for a roster spot here, but with the Lakers depth at the forward positions it's highly unlikely he will have much of a role, if any.
Pau Gasol is without a doubt the Lakers starting power forward and when paired with Nash should have his most effective season in years. With the Lakers going with more of a Princeton-style offense, Gasol's full skill set will be on display. Gasol won't be required to play 37-plus minutes per game as he has in previous seasons since L.A. has good depth up front. 33-35 minutes seems more realistic. Gasol can also effectively play center when needed.
Hybrid forward Antawn Jamison will more than likely be the Lakers sixth man, seeing 25-30 minutes split between the power and small forward positions. Jamison has one of the best touches around the basket in the league as well as range out to three-point territory, where he shot .341 last season (91 of 267 attempts).
Jordan Hill proved his worth for the Lakers in the playoffs last season, averaging 4.8 points per game and 6.3 rebounds per game in 18 minutes as a rotation big man. Hill should provide much of the same in a similar role in 2012-13. Earl Clark has value as a 6'10" combo forward, able to handle the basketball well for a player his size as well as defend some faceup power forwards.
The timetable for Dwight Howard's return to the court is still a mystery, but when he does come back he will be entrenched as the starting center, hopefully for the foreseeable future.
Jordan Hill will be his primary backup this season and, although not on the same level as Howard, Hill has a similar skill set. Hill's athleticism will be a nice fit in the pick-and-roll with Nash or Duhon, and Hill's energy defensively and on the boards will be key assets to the Lakers bench.
As mentioned in the previous slide, Pau Gasol will see minutes at the center position, especially early in the season if Dwight isn't ready by opening night. With Howard, Hill and Gasol, the Lakers feature a solid three-man post rotation capable of producing points and rebounding at all times.
After being the last pick in the 2012 draft, 7' center Robert Sacre showed enough potential during the summer league to secure a non-guaranteed contract and training camp invite but he will be battling with undrafted 7'3" rookie Greg Somogyi for the final roster spot as an emergency center for the Lakers.
Depth is a nice problem to have, and the Lakers have more of it going into the 2012-13 season than they have had in years. If Brown can implement a consistent rotation, the Lakers' chances of winning a championship increase greatly.