Dwight, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace will justifiably draw the most attention this season and beyond, as those five will win a lot of games for the Purple and Gold.
The Lakers, star-studded as they may be, are an old group. Bryant and Nash are in the twilight of their Hall of Fame careers, while MWP and Gasol are no spring chickens. Only Dwight Howard is in the prime of his basketball life.
For this team to truly become dominant and compete for championships, the bench has to produce. And therein lies the Lakers' greatest problem.
Last season, LA's bench was the worst in the NBA—Matt Barnes and his paltry 7.8 points a night led the way. So far this season, the problems persist. As they fell to 0-6 in preseason play last night, the Lakers' subs were outscored by the Sacramento Kings' reserves 57-18.
Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks were brought in to improve matters over the summer; it remains to be seen if they can do so.
So, what can head coach Mike Brown do to maximize the play of everyone but the starters?
Aside from praying that Kobe and company build big leads so the bench play becomes almost irrelevant, Brown will have his work cut out for him this season. Below is a look at some of the key contributors off the pine, and their role in the Lakers' success.
Steve Blake will serve as Steve Nash's backup. He struggled last season (only hitting 37.7 percent of his shots), and seemed to lose confidence as a result. Due to the talent on this team, plenty of open looks will be available, and Steve Blake needs to rediscover his touch. With Nash needing to rest his balky back throughout a long season, Blake and Chris Duhon will be counted on to keep the offense humming.
Kobe Bryant may have gleefully bragged to reporters about killing Jodie Meeks during training camp practices, but Kobe needs Jodie to provide him with more than just the occasional breather. Mike Brown and his star shooting guard agree that he needs to play less than the 38 minutes per night he posted last season. Meeks has to prove that he can provide a scoring punch off the pine, play reasonably good defense and keep Kobe from needing to overextend himself prior to the playoffs.
Jordan Hill emerged as a reliable bench scorer and rebounder last season, capably filling in for Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol during key stretches. Once he returns from a back injury (herniated disk), Jordan will spell Dwight Howard and be counted on to grab boards and guard the opposing team's best low-posts scorers. Coach Mike Brown likes what Jordan Hill provides—tough, hard-nosed play and the ability to score when given the opportunity.
Antawn Jamison will the most interesting bench player to observe this season. He's a big-time scorer (career average of 19.5 points per game) who has played for many terrible teams throughout his long NBA journey. Coming off the bench in Los Angeles, Antawn is the anchor of the reserve unit, and must provide a scoring boost while the starters rest. Despite his struggles so far in the preseason, Jamison is a veteran and proven player who should be able to eventually find his way in the Lakers' offense and contribute.
The Los Angeles Lakers have the makings of a good-to-great team. Their stars are expected to be spectacular, and with good reason.
But for the squad to become truly formidable and get back to championship contender status, head coach Mike Brown must find ways to get the most out of his bench. Much easier said than done.