5 LA Lakers Players Who Must Step Up with Pau Gasol Injured

Maxwell OgdenCorrespondent IIIDecember 4, 2012

5 LA Lakers Players Who Must Step Up with Pau Gasol Injured

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    According to a report via Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles, All-Star power forward Pau Gasol will miss the Los Angeles Lakers' December 4 game against the Houston Rockets. The ailment comes by virtue of tendinitis in both of Gasol's knees and could result in his missing an extended period of time.

    So which Lakers players must step up with Gasol injured?

    Head coach Mike D'Antoni offered insight into the injury and how it has impacted Gasol's early-season contributions. He also noted that it is irrelevant how long Gasol is absent, as long as he is able to return at full strength.

    Playing injured just isn't an option.

    "The biggest thing with him was that he was playing hurt and in this league you just can't do that," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "I just didn't think he was running fluidly."

    "We got to get him healthy," D'Antoni said. "Whatever it takes -- one game, two games, 10 games -- I don't know. It's day to day but he's got to be healthy. It wasn't fair [to him]. He's trying to battle through some stuff and in this league, you just can't do that."

    Who will shine in Gasol's absence? More importantly, who must fill his void with a higher-than-normal level of performance?

    The following slides will answer just that.

5. Earl Clark

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    Position: Forward

    Age: 24

    Experience: 3 Seasons

     

    With Pau Gasol injured, there is a chance that Earl Clark finally finds his way on to the floor. Although he's played in just four games thus far in 2012-13, Clark is one of the most athletically gifted players at his position.

    With the Lakers running an up-tempo offense, why not give him a run?

    Regardless of which forward slot Clark falls into, the 6'10" pogo stick is a legitimate game-changer. Running in transition with a young player such as Darius Morris, Clark could present D'Antoni with the high-rising finisher he desires Gasol to be.

    Clark's above-average jump shooting is certain to be of value in the halfcourt as well. After all, that's all a D'Antoni power forward does.

    Spreads the floor and throws up attempts from mid-range.

    On the defensive end, Clark could be a shot-altering presence at the 3 or 4. Although he may be too lean to defend in the post, the former Louisville Cardinal is fit to contain the stretch 4's of the league in Gasol's absence.

    Quality play from Clark could secure a consistent role as a reserve come the postseason.

     

    2012-13 Season Averages

    3.63 PER, 2.3 MPG, 0.8 PPG, 0.5 RPG

4. Metta World Peace

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    Position: Small Forward

    Age: 33

    Experience: 13 Seasons

     

    Whether or not the Los Angeles Lakers opt to use smaller rotations and shift Metta World Peace to power forward for small periods of time has yet to be seen. Should they do so, MWP could be a quality fit for said role.

    In small doses.

    The role of the power forward in coach Mike D'Antoni's system is simple. Expand the floor, sit in the corner and wait for the ball to come your way unless told otherwise.

    Considering MWP is shooting 38.1 percent from beyond the arc and 40.9 percent on corner threes, why not give this rotational shift a try?

    Although this could present defensive issues for World Peace, who stands at 6'7", low-post pressure has been one of his strong suits in recent seasons. With stretch 4's becoming more of a commodity in the NBA, this rotation becomes all the more beneficial.

    As previously stated, coach D'Antoni can't get too carried away with this one. Should he use it in temporary situations with Jordan Hill at the 5, as both Dwight Howard and Antawn Jamison resting, however, he could have something good.

    Something that contains MWP's motion tendencies and places him in his strongest position to score.

     

    2012-13 Season Averages

    13.55 PER, 13.2 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.6 SPG

3. Jordan Hill

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    Position: Center

    Age: 25

    Experience: 3 Seasons

     

    The most criminal act of Mike D'Antoni's disturbingly underwhelming tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers is his management of Jordan Hill's minutes. Despite Hill having emerged as the spark plug of this team, D'Antoni's grudge against Hill from their New York days continues to shine through.

    A direct reason the Lakers are losing games. 

    Prior to D'Antoni taking the sidelines, Hill had posted averages of 7.5 points and 5.6 rebounds in just 16.6 minutes per game. That included 3.3 offensive rebounds per game, which ranked second on the team to just Dwight Howard.

    A player who averaged nearly 20 more minutes per night to that point.

    In other words, Hill was the Lakers' most efficient rebounder on both ends of the floor. His scrappy style of play set the tone for victories, as his effort was consistent and the veterans on the team bought into his infectious energy.

    Since D'Antoni took over, Hill is setting just 9.3 minutes per night. Even still, he's averaging 1.0 offensive boards per contest.

    Antawn Jamison is averaging 1.7 offensive rebounds under D'Antoni while averaging 22.1 minutes per game. Get the picture yet?

    When Hill plays at least 17 minutes, the Lakers are 6-3. When he does not, they are 2-6.

    Do we really need to say more?

     

    2012-13 Season Averages

    15.07 PER, 14.5 MPG, 5.5 PPG, 4.6 RPG

2. Antawn Jamison

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    Position: Power Forward

    Age: 36

    Experience: 14 Seasons

     

    With Pau Gasol injured, sixth man Antawn Jamison is the overwhelming favorite to step in as the starting power forward. In turn, the Los Angeles Lakers will finally have the smooth shooting 4 who is comfortable in the pocket.

    If Jamison can't fill that role, no one on this roster will be able to.

    By design, head coach Mike D'Antoni's offense will place the power forward within two to three feet of the three-point line at all times. Although Gasol is a sound shooter from said area, that is far from his greatest strength.

    In fact, placement in said area neutralizes the Spaniard's greatest strengths.

    Jamison, meanwhile, has made a living as a mid-range jump shooter as his athleticism has declined with age. Although his field-goal percentages are not always consistent, the corner is a spot on the floor in which Jamison finds comfort.

    Which is exactly why he must step up as the player delegated to said area of the offensive end of the floor.

    Jordan Hill's mid-range game is improving but not even on the horizon of consistent enough to suffice in D'Antoni's system. Metta World Peace may have lost a step athletically, but that doesn't mean he's fit to go to the 4 in a small rotation full-time in Gasol's absence.

    Jamison is the key to the Lakers' sustained success in Gasol's absence.

     

    2012-13 Season Averages

    15.39 PER, 18.9 MPG, 7.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 48.0% FG

1. Dwight Howard

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    Position: Center

    Age: 26

    Experience: 8 Seasons

     

    Dwight Howard was brought to Los Angeles to win the Lakers an NBA championship. Since the two sides have united, D-12 has been quoted as saying that he would leave L.A. if it meant he had a better shot at winning his first career title (via NBA.com).

    Time to earn your money, Mr. Howard.

    Clearly the demand for Howard's services would not decrease if the Lakers are unable to string together victories and rise above .500. A potential pay-day is not the issue at hand here, however, as Howard now has the opportunity to take over the frontcourt and dominate.

    No longer is there a superstar who commands an equal amount of touches on offense. Instead, there is room for Howard to control the pace and outcome of a game.

    Over the past two games, we've seen the D-12 that fans and analysts had expected. With at least 20 points and 15 rebounds in each of those contests, Howard reminded the league of why he is much more than a defensive guru.

    He's also an offensive force.

    For the Lakers to overcome Gasol's absence and secure victories, Howard will need to continue producing at this pace. Antawn Jamison will space the floor, thus allowing the pick-and-roll game to flourish.

    That is, if D'Antoni is willing to commit to it without Steve Nash running the show.

     

    2012-13 Season Averages

    21.47 PER, 18.7 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 1.7 APG, 2.6 BPG, 1.2 SPG