Realistic Expectations for the L.A. Lakers' Bench and Why It Hasn't Met Them
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Conventional logic led most to believe that the moment the Los Angeles Lakers assembled their new All-Star roster, there would be few obstacles to prevent them from earning a trip deep into the postseason.
Solid in theory, but a closer look at similar teams of the past reveals a different story.
Are the Los Angeles Lakers on the brink of the same outcome? Or are they deep enough to get the job done?
Today, we examine those questions by looking at the men who would have the role of stepping in to prevent such a collapse from happening.
Standing behind Steven Nash is Darius Morris. Steve Nash has considerably big shoes to fill for anyone, but despite the upbeat disposition, it's tough to assume that Morris would be able to fill that role long term.
In the absence of Nash, Morris has done a decent job, but it's the little things Nash does that can't be replaced. The sort of little things that aren't always transparent on a stat sheet.
When we look at those categories that can be tracked, assists would be the main thing that separates Morris and Nash. Nash has a rather uncanny ability to find not only an open man, but the open man most probable to score on that particular play. Literally every pass he makes sets up a play or creates an opening for one to unfold.
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Chris Duhon and Steve Blake are serviceable options, but neither come any closer to filling those shoes with the type of consistency that would be required to keep up with the likes of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the San Antonio Spurs and many of the other perennial contenders in the Western Conference.
So far this season, none of the three men have given Lakers fans reason to feel comfortable with the tough road that lies ahead.
Behind Kobe Bryant stands Jodie Meeks and Darius Johnson-Odom. Jodie Meeks has given Los Angeles Laker fans reason to feel a little comfort, but when you look at him against the likes of the perennial guards around the league, in the Western Conference in particular, it's common knowledge that depth in this area also requires attention.
It's always best to look at the end goal. When the end goal is a championship and we look at the top teams in the Western Conference, again, this area of the bench falls considerably short.
The offensive wizardry of new coach Michael D'Antoni should help. Trouble is, it may take more than strategy.
If the walls begin to cave in a bit, expect the Lakers to try to bolster several positions before the deadline through trades and free agency. This position is one that could definitely use a boost. And it's one that Laker fans can unquestionably look to see a boost added.
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Metta World Peace remains a solid starter in the small forward position. He's able to score, occasionally dish an assist and regularly rebound.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, when he has a tantrum and decides to do the unexpected, or simply needs a breather, the secondary option is, again, a considerable drop-off.
Devin Ebanks can occasionally put the ball in the bucket and grab a few rebounds, but how well he handles the front line on a team aching for overall fluidity and stability remains to be seen.
It wouldn't be a popular notion to say he has completely failed in his role to hold the fort down behind Peace, but without question, he remains a work in progress at best.
Of all the secondary options behind the starters for the Lakers, he may be the one man able to hold his own when the smoke clears.
That notion comes from a logic that says he would be required to do more of the dirty work as opposed to just score and assist. And that gritty element could come a little bit easier than trying to find a soft spot to sink a bucket against a tough defense.
Standing 6'9", with very good length and athleticism, he may be able to hold his own and balance things out a bit. That being said, I'd still expect the Lakers to consider stronger options before the trade deadline on this front as well.
Of all the positions on this Lakers team, this is the one that seems pretty much secure.
Antawn Jamison has been a very solid contributor, and as a seasoned veteran, he knows full well how to fill this role and many others like few do on the current roster.
That becomes a very important element, because if Gasol remains healthy, it allows the team to use Jamison in other roles, such as small forward and even shooting guard to create mismatches.
All and all, Jamison has been a solid contributor. He has played better than the other reserves, but to reach that elite level as a team, even he will have to find a level of consistency that so far has seemed absent.
Behind Dwight Howard at center you have Jordan Hill and Robert Sacre. Jordan Hill continues to show signs of improvement in certain areas, but the true areas of need in this case go well beyond the stat sheet.
Scoring a few buckets and grabbing a few boards certainly helps, but Hill has been viewed as a major drop-off in defensive areas when Howard has been on the bench.
Blocks and shot contesting are two things that come at a high premium. Right now, it's safe to say the Lakers don't have that presence in the absence of Howard, which opens up the driving lanes and allows streaky guards to cut inside and get easy buckets.
Hill is serviceable and will continue to develop. He's stable enough to serve as a backup for now, but if Howard were to go down with a season-ending injury or fall out of the lineup for a few weeks, are you really comfortable with Hill as your long-term starter?
That's a question many Lakers fans would take issue with. And that's the reason the dynamics of this bench could change.
All and all, there isn't much depth to the Lakers' lineup. That lack of depth will inevitably result in a very active front office as the trade deadline looms.
Unfortunately for fans, based on luxury taxes and other intricacies, the team checkbook may be off limits when it comes to adding the type of help they may need to bolster this squad.
For right now, it remains to be seen how active the Lakers will be as we get closer to the deadline. That being said, an inactive front office before the deadline will result in limited results when it counts.
For any Lakers fans wanting to know why the backups haven't met the expectations given, the answers all lie in the fact that perhaps they simply aren't good enough.
To add to that point, it takes some very careful maneuvering and a set of interested talents that are able and willing to come for less.
Few teams have had the luck to assemble a roster as deep as the Miami Heat's.
When we consider that even the depth of their roster this year may not guarantee them a title, it really sets a tone for the Los Angeles Lakers and the road that lies ahead.
There's quite a bit of work to be done. Stay tuned.
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