Complete L.A. Lakers Player Power Rankings For Start of 2012-13 NBA Season
Tinseltown is hopping yet again as the Los Angeles Lakers transformed themselves from a potential Western Conference finalist to a championship contender over the course of one offseason.
Kobe Bryant is the familiar face of the franchise, but he is now flanked by Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, in addition to Pau Gasol. This may be one of the most talented Lakers teams since the Showtime era.
You name it and the Lakers have it this season. However, with so many stars on board, can the players adapt to another new offense and buy into Mike Brown's vaunted defensive schemes?
In order to do so, the talent on the roster will be tested. Championships are the only measure of success in Lakerland. So how do the players rank one to 15? Read on to find out.
15. Darius Johnson-Odom
Darius Johnson-Odom barely saw any time during the preseason, but the Lakers saw enough in him to keep him on the roster. Expect DJO to spend a good amount of time in the D-League this season.
"He's a young guy that doesn't quite have a feel for the NBA game," said Brown. "It'd be some time before he's ready."
Johnson-Odom should absorb all he can while he is on the bench with the Lakers. Mike Brown is known as a very good defensive coach, so one way for DJO to see playing time will be to prove himself on that end first. In the meantime, Johnson-Odom needs to showcase his skills in the D-League before he can stay on the Lakers active roster.
14. Darius Morris
Considering the Los Angeles Lakers’ depth at point guard, Darius Morris should not expect to see much time early in the season. Buried on the bench, Morris is going to have to stay ready, because there is no guarantee the team’s older point guards will stay healthy.
Like Darius Johnson-Odom, Morris is going to have to prove he can be relied upon on defense in order to see minutes. The Lakers have more than enough firepower on offense, so the quickest route into the rotation is not making mistakes while on the floor and playing solid defense.
Morris’ size and length will help in that department, but it will likely take an injury for Morris to break into the rotation.
13. Robert Sacre
Due to Dwight Howard’s absence this preseason while recovering from back surgery, Robert Sacre saw a good amount of minutes during the preseason. Unfortunately, the results were mixed.
Sacre was a foul machine, committing 4.5 fouls during his 25.5 minutes per game. His scoring and rebounding were not much better—7.0 points and 4.8 rebounds.
One area where the rookie center out of Gonzaga stood out was in the blocked shots department. Swatting 1.3 shots per game, Sacre showed his potential as solid rim protector.
Regardless, Sacre playing major minutes this year will likely mean foul trouble for the Lakers big men or an injury. Neither of which, Lakers fans want to see. Sacre has potential and needs to continue to develop before breaking into the rotation.
12. Earl Clark
Earl Clark has been limited all preseason because of a strained groin. While he will be ready to go early in the season, his minutes are sure to be limited due to the injury and average overall play.
Offensively, Clark’s game is just that; offensive. He ranked as one of the worst power forwards last season, posting a miserable 40.5 true-shooting percentage to go along with an 8.14 PER ranking.
The signing of Antawn Jamison will keep Clark buried on the bench unless he can perform well enough on the defensive side of the ball to contribute. However, his athletic ability and size will give Mike Brown the option to play him at both forward positions off the bench.
11. Chris Duhon
Entering the season as the team’s third point guard, Chris Duhon will see sporadic minutes throughout the season. Despite playing under 10 minutes per game in the preseason, Mike Brown and the Lakers coaching staff know what they are going to get when Duhon steps on the floor.
Duhon is a good three-point shooter, having knocked down 36 percent of his threes during his eight-year career. In addition, Duhon is a good defender. He allowed a mere 12.9 PER to opposing point guards last season.
While his role will be limited this season, Duhon will primarily be used during important defensive possessions. Do not be surprised to see him sub in on defense late in games.
10. Devin Ebanks
The Los Angeles Lakers roster shapes up perfectly for Devin Ebanks to slide into a complimentary role off the bench this season. Despite playing limited minutes in his first two seasons, Ebanks should be a regular in the rotation all year thanks to his defensive ability.
Playing 18.4 minutes per game this preseason, Ebanks put up a solid 9.9 points per game. His slashing ability and good defense have drawn comparisons to Trevor Ariza since he was drafted and the Lakers hope he can contribute much in the same. This year he will fit in well next to Antawn Jamison, Jodie Meeks and Steve Blake on the team’s second unit.
Expect Ebanks to be a defensive specialist and someone the young players on the bench should model their game after. His defense put Ebanks on the floor and is a major component for young role players to develop in order to earn their way a spot in the rotation.
9. Jordan Hill
Seeing the Lakers have Dwight Howard at center, Jordan Hill normally would not see much time being Superman’s backup. However, with Dwight still recovering from back surgery the fourth year big man out of Arizona, has a chance to see solid minutes at center this season.
Unfortunately, reports indicate that Hill is battling a herniated disk.
"The doctor said it wasn't serious now, but it could be serious if I don't strengthen my core," Hill said. "So we've got to be careful with it now."
While the Lakers have solid post depth, the injury comes at a bad time for Hill, especially after coming off a solid playoff performance last season with the Lakers. He also has played well this preseason, finishing second on the team in rebounds.
8. Steve Blake
Having been a primary contributor—or at least expected to be—in the Lakers rotation the past two seasons, Steve Blake now plays second fiddle to the great Steve Nash.
Blake was brought in to knock down open threes and spread the floor around Kobe Bryant. However, last season Blake shot a poor 33.5 percent from three. Not exactly what one would expect from a good three-point shooter.
This season, Blake will be expected to up his shooting numbers and provide his usual solid defense. While he only played 14.6 minutes per game in the preseason, he shot 45.5 percent from three.
7. Jodie Meeks
The guy backing up Kobe Bryant usually does not see much time, but Jodie Meeks should find his way onto the floor to help space it for Dwight Howard and Kobe.
Known as a deadly three-point shooter since entering the league—37 percent—Meeks’ numbers slipped last season, but should rebound thanks to the star players he will share the floor with.
In under 17 minutes per game this preseason, Meeks led the team in three-point shooting and nailed 92.3 percent of his free-throws. Production like that will make Meeks a dangerous threat on a roster littered with players who can create their own shot.
6. Metta World Peace
Half-man, half-crazy—Metta World Peace is a fan favorite for obvious reasons. This year Metta fills in as the “other” starter in the Lakers' loaded starting five.
Metta was up to his usual tricks during the preseason, leading the team in steals and random acts in the crowd.
MWP is bound to be left open to attempt corner threes, considering he made fewer than 30 percent of them last season. His shooting will need to improve this season, but his defense is what he will be on the floor for.
Holding opposing small forwards to an 11.8 PER in 2011-12, Peace will be counted on to lock down top wing scorers. Defending the wing similarly this season could make the Lakers very good on defense, considering Dwight Howard is now anchoring the paint.
5. Antawn Jamison
One of the most underrated signings of the offseason, Antawn Jamison could not fit in more perfectly.
Coming off a campaign which saw him lead the Cleveland Cavaliers in minutes per game and score over 17 points per game, Jamison will be asked to play a reserve role this season.
Jamison is still a very good offensive player and will be counted on to lead the Lakers bench. However, with Jordan Hill and Dwight Howard still ailing from injuries, Jamison could see a solid amount of minutes early in the season.
Either way, expect Jamison to be a vital cog in the Los Angeles Lakers offense, especially when on the floor as a pick-and-pop big man playing with Steve Nash.
4. Pau Gasol
Imagine if Pau Gasol were a little kid again. Always wanting to journey to outer space, he wakes up on Christmas morning and opens his presents to uncover an astronaut suit and a spaceship. That is exactly how Pau should be feeling after this summer.
Gasol’s game is about to be maximized, albeit through limited touches, thanks to the Lakers adding Steve Nash—one of the best passing point guards ever—and Dwight Howard—a truly dominant defensive center.
The Lakers offense will not revolve around the Spanish forward, but expect Pau to be one of the major benefactors of the Lakers major offseason additions. His ability to knock down jumpers from the elbow and hit the glass off of Dwight Howard will make Gasol a difficult matchup all season.
3. Dwight Howard
Superman is back in Los Angeles, or something like that.
With Dwight Howard protecting the paint, Mike Brown can potentially transform last year’s lackluster defense into one of the league’s best. Howard is arguably one of the best defensive big men the league has ever seen. Now he joins a star-studded cast that will make him nearly impossible to guard on the other end of the floor.
While Howard’s back injury is unlikely to be completely healed early on this season, the Lakers possess the depth to rest him when needed. Additionally, the talent level of the Lakers allows Dwight to ease his way back from injury and not play extended minutes unless needed.
Furthermore, Dwight now has the chance to evolve into the main character in one of the league’s most historic franchises.
2. Steve Nash
It remains to be seen exactly how Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant will mesh in the Los Angeles Lakers’ new Princeton offense. However, there could not be a better problem for a team to have with two all-time greats as their starting guards.
Nash’s ability to dictate tempo and create opportunities for his teammates will be in full effect this season. Imagine Nash coming off a high screen-and-roll from Pau Gasol. As he prods the defense and heads for the paint he can either kick to Kobe Bryant to attack from the wing or drop an easy assist to Dwight Howard.
Additionally, Nash’s shooting is exactly what the Lakers have been missing. Known as one of the better shooters in the league, Nash led all point guards in true-shooting percentage and two-point shooting percentage last season.
Nash’s abilities will be maximized as long as he is allowed to control the offense as much as Kobe.
1. Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant headlines another star-studded Los Angeles Lakers roster for his 16th season in Tinseltown. Many think this may be the best Lakers team Kobe has ever played on. While that may or may not be true, one thing remains certain—this is Kobe’s team.
The offense will run through Kobe, but he is going to have to cut down his usage and share the ball with three potential All-Stars.
Last season, Kobe finished second in the league in scoring, quieting many critics who expected his game to begin to regress. Considering all the weapons Kobe has at his disposal, he could be in for another surprising year, but this time in efficiency
Kobe’s efficiency rating has dropped considerably from 2007, when he posted a 27.65 rating finishing second in the league. Last season Kobe’s rating was down to 21.45, largely because his field-goal and true-shooting percentages were at a seven-year low, while his usage remained at a career high. Expect to see him regain a rating in the 25 range, thanks to the weapons around him, which will free him up for more open shots and assist opportunities.