Projecting the LA Lakers Opening Day 10-Man Rotation

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistOctober 23, 2012

Projecting the LA Lakers Opening Day 10-Man Rotation

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    As far as talent goes, there is no team in the NBA with a deeper, more star-studded assortment of players than the Los Angeles Lakers.

    The formula is simple. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol act as the base on which more complex elements are added. As the team's veteran lynchpins, Kobe and Pau provide steady scoring, defense and leadership.

    What's added to the solid base layer is perhaps the most exciting part of the Lakers' championship concoction. Steve Nash's savvy point guard play will add much needed versatility to the Lakers' backcourt, while center Dwight Howard's unparalleled athleticism and defensive prowess will propel the Lakers' defense to new heights.

    With an influx of new talent that has Lakers' roster looking deeper than ever, here's a look at the team's revamped 10-man rotation.

Point Guard: Steve Nash

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    Projected Minutes Per Game: 31.5

    Whether you believe Steve Nash or Dwight Howard was the Lakers' biggest offseason addition, one thing is certain: They finally have the point guard they've been dreaming of. 

    Nash will be tasked with running Eddie Jordan's new Princeton offense, and while there are sure to be growing pains at the start, it won't take him long to smooth things out. 

    While the two-time MVP has never been a prolific scorer in terms of volume, he offers more than just his phenomenal court vision. For his career, Nash shoots 49 percent from the field and an even more impressive 42.8 percent from beyond the arc. 

    Thanks to Kobe Bryant, Nash will need to learn how to move more off the ball, but that shouldn't be a problem for the 38-year-old floor general. 

    Steve Blake, Chris Duhon and Darius Morris clog up the reserve roles in the backcourt a bit, but their presence also means Nash won't be pressed into playing extended minutes throughout the 82 game regular season.

Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant

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    Projected Minutes Per Game: 37.2

    The NBA's active leader in points scored enters his 17th season with a supporting cast worthy of his excellence. 

    Amid concerns one year ago that his knees were deteriorating, Bryant set out for Germany (via CBS Los Angeles) to undergo the now famous platelet-rich plasma therapy treatment. 

    Kobe responded in a big way during the truncated 2011-12 season, playing 38.5 minutes per night through a rigorous schedule that saw teams playing two and three games in consecutive nights. 

    With limited depth on the wings, Kobe will once again be called upon to shoulder the load for a team that's full of experience in the starting five, but sorely lacking it on the bench.

    A lock to be the team's leading scorer, expect another MVP-quality season out of Kobe in 2012-13. 

Small Forward: Metta World Peace

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    Projected Minutes Per Game: 28.8

    Since coming to the Lakers in 2009, the artist formerly known as Ron Artest has shown virtually nothing on the offensive end to engender confidence in his game.

    World Peace's real value comes in being a stingy wing defender, and it's hard to make a case against him as one of the league's best.

    As Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Times reported back in September, World Peace is rounding himself into regular season form physically, and should be a big upgrade over the version fans saw last season.

    On a team with so many potent offensive weapons, World Peace should actually find open shots quite easy to come by. The real question will be, how many of those open looks will he actually knock down?

Power Forward: Pau Gasol

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    Projected Minutes Per Game: 37.5

    If you're looking to identify the biggest benefactor of the Dwight Howard deal (via ESPN), it's likely Pau Gasol.

    The seven-foot Spaniard was overlooked by opposing defenses a year ago, and with a force like Howard in tow, he will see softer defensive matchups throughout the season. 

    Howard will regularly command double-teams, which is where Gasol's versatile offensive skill set will come in handy. Gasol is more than capable of playing in the post, but when Howard starts camping out on the blocks Gasol should find himself positioned nicely at the elbows for open jumpers.

    Constantly overlooked, Gasol's potent inside-outside game will serve to remind detractors how diverse his game truly is.

Center: Dwight Howard

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    Projected Minutes Per Game: 37.0

    Lakers' fans thought they had it made when they seemingly committed highway robbery, acquiring (via ESPN) Steve Nash from the Phoenix Suns for a handful of draft picks.

    Well if trading for Nash was highway robbery, then snagging Dwight Howard in exchange for Andrew Bynum was grand larceny.

    By acquiring a perennial All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year, the Lakers enhanced their defense, upgrading it to very good from average a year ago.

    After netting a double-double (via in his first outing in purple and gold, Howard looks like he's primed and ready to perform at an All-NBA level in his first season with the Lakers.

    Howard will be under intense scrutiny in L.A., but his qualities as an all-world athlete will make him the defensive savant Los Angeles has long desired.

Sixth Man: Antawn Jamison

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    Projected Minutes Per Game: 22.3

    Antawn Jamison brings plenty of offense to the Lakers' revamped bench, but at age 36, doesn't have much to offer on the defensive end.

    Jamison has never been renowned as a particularly good defender, but the presence of Dwight Howard protecting the rim should help Jamison out, especially when he's caught defending down in the post.

    On a team that's lacking depth on the wing, Jamison's versatility will come in handy. Capable of playing both forward positions, Jamison will be able to stretch defenses with his polished mid-range game.

    Although he's slowed down with age, Jamison posted serviceable numbers with the Cleveland Cavaliers over the past few seasons. Playing in 65 games a year ago, Jamison averaged 17.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, with a PER of just over 16.

Backup Point Guard: Chris Duhon

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    Projected Minutes Per Game: 13.5

    While there have been no definitive statements from the Lakers on who will be the team's backup point guard, some clues were available during Sunday night's exhibition against the Sacramento Kings.

    According to Dave McMenamin of, Chris Duhon may be in the driver's seat based on Sunday night's rotations:

    Jamison and Duhon are the first substitutions, taking out Nash and Howard. Mike Brown said he'd stick to a "real" rotation tonight

    —Dave McMenamin (@mcten) October 22, 2012

    It was originally believed that Steve Blake would retain the backup point guard duties, but the 32-year-old has failed to impress in his first two seasons in Los Angeles.

    To improve, Blake will have to shoot at a more efficient rate (35.9 percent from the field in 2010-11 and 37.7 percent in 2011-12), and up his PER from a miserable 8.55 in 2011-12.

Backup Shooting Guard: Jodie Meeks

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    Projected Minutes Per Game: 14.2

    The Lakers have a knack for poaching shooting guards from the Philadelphia 76ers. First it was Jason Kapono, now it's Jodie Meeks.

    Meeks is really no more than a three-point specialist, but he figures to be effective in his new role with the Lakers. Tasked with starting duties in Philadelphia for the majority of last season, Meeks disappointed due to his limited defensive capabilities.

    Thanks to constant double-teams on Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant, Meeks will find open threes to be plentiful as he roams the hardwood of the Staples Center. In his refined role, Meeks should have no problem producing at a proficient level.

    Although he has much more tread on his tires, look for Meeks to play a Mike Miller-esque role with the Lakers.

Backup Small Forward: Devin Ebanks

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    Projected Minutes Per Game: 12.1

    Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the preseason, Devin Ebanks has showed the impressive versatility that could make him an indispensable piece of the Lakers' rotation moving forward.

    Through six preseason games Ebanks has averaged nearly 10 points per contest. If that production can be duplicated in the regular season, Ebanks' will be more than happy with his reserve role.

    Behind the aging Metta World Peace, Ebanks will be key in bringing some offensive stability to the small forward position. At 6'9'' Ebanks has nice range, and has flashed his improved stroke throughout the preseason.

    A key piece of the Lakers' second unit, Ebanks appears locked in, ready to show improvement in his third NBA season.

Backup Power Forward: Jordan Hill

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    Projected Minutes Per Game: 11.0

    Jordan Hill has been on three NBA teams in three years. That's not exactly ideal for a guy who was selected No. 8 overall in the 2009 draft.

    While the lofty expectations that accompanied Hill's draft position classify him as a bust, he will be presented with opportunities in Los Angeles that could help redefine his young career.

    As a versatile backup who can play both the center and the power forward, Hill will be a key piece of the Lakers' frontcourt depth.

    According to a tweet from Lakers' sideline reporter Mike Trudell, Hill is making some good progress on the injury front:

    Brown says he thinks backup PF @jordanchill43 (herniated disc) is close to returning. No contact in practice today but he looks good.

    —Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) October 22, 2012

    With rookie Robert Sacre waiting in the wings, Hill will need to have a productive fourth NBA season in order to solidify his role as a primary reserve in the Lakers' frontcourt.