L.A. Lakers Players Making the Strongest Case for More Minutes
The Los Angeles Lakers are off to a slow start and have been plagued all season by injuries.
Although the bench may not be as deep as management and fans wish it was, Mike D’Antoni is going to have to rely on his bench in order to survive the next few weeks.
Antawn Jamison has stepped up in Pau Gasol’s absence, but who else is worthy of seeing increased minutes?
Read on to find out.
Before Pau Gasol went down indefinitely with his knee issues, Jordan Hill logged three minutes total against the Denver Nuggets and Orlando Magic. With Gasol out, Hill becomes a valuable part of the rotation, no matter what Mike D’Antoni thinks of him.
The previous two games after Gasol’s injury, Hill played 17 and 14 minutes, respectively. He nearly came away with back-to-back double-doubles.
Nobody has ever doubted Hill’s rebounding, and that remains true so far this season. Hill’s total rebound percentage of 19.1 is currently leading the team.
Meanwhile his offense is also solid, ranking fifth on the team in offensive rating—106—and points per 36-minutes—14.5—according to basketball-reference.
Chris Duhon has been playing extremely well since Steve Blake went down with an abdominal injury. His presence on offense and his ability to run the pick-and-roll have allowed him to average seven assists per game since Nov. 30. He leads the Lakers in offensive rating at 124, according to basketball-reference.
Although his shooting still has not come around—6-of-15 the last four games—he has been able to make an impact with his passing and rebounding.
While Duhon has played well overall, the Los Angeles Lakers need someone else to stretch the floor with Antawn Jamison. Duhon is shooting 40 percent from three on the season, but his attempts are nearly a shot less than his career average.
The talent level on the Lakers is undeniable, but with Steve Nash still weeks away from returning and Blake is out for at least the next month. Duhon is going to be relied upon to knock down open threes and continue guiding the offense.
Minutes have become scarce for Devin Ebanks, after playing a career-high 16.5 last season.
Ebanks has been riding the pine most of the year, but he makes an impact when he enters the game.
A PER of 8.21 is nothing to write home about, but his energy off the bench has been a delight. His total rebound percentage is good for sixth on the team.
Also, he seems to find a way to make his presence felt when he actually gets to play, as evidenced by his previous two contests.
On Dec. 5, against New Orleans, Ebanks played 11 minutes and scored three points, pulled down three rebounds and a steal. Three days earlier, against Orlando, he again played 11 minutes and scored four points, three rebounds and two assists.
Despite playing mostly garbage minutes last season, Darius Morris has been a staple in the Los Angeles Lakers’ rotation this year.
Morris is averaging 21.1 minutes but looks to be ready for an increase. He is currently shooting 41 percent from three, scoring 5.5 points and dishing 2.5 assists.
Furthermore, with injuries to Steve Blake and Steve Nash, Morris is going to be needed over the next few weeks as a key contributor behind Chris Duhon.
His size and athleticism at the point-guard position allows Mike D’Antoni to continue to run his system without worrying about his backup point guard getting destroyed on defense.
Jamison seeing more minutes is essentially guaranteed via Pau Gasol being out indefinitely and Mike D’Antoni opting to play Jamison over Gasol late in games anyway.
Either way, Jamison has been effective on offense since seeing his minutes increase.
He has scored in double digits in six of his last seven games, including a 33-point explosion against Denver at the end of November.
Furthermore, Jamison is third on the team in offensive rating—116—and is second in effective field goal percentage—57.3 percent.
The one problem with Jamison is that he needs to improve his rebounding with Gasol injured. Too often he is spotting up for shots and does not make a run into the paint after rebounds.
His defensive rotations are also slow; thankfully he is playing next to Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace.