Grading Each L.A. Lakers Player's Performance at the Midseason Mark
It's time for each Los Angeles Lakers player to receive his midseason report card, folks. If we judge solely by the team's record—just 19-25 after two consecutive encouraging wins—nobody deserves a passing grade.
However, today I'm in the business of evaluating each individual's performance in 2012-13 based on offensive production, defensive effort and attitude.
With that, let's dive into a breakdown of each Laker's performance.
Please note that I've excluded Jordan Hill, Steve Blake, Devin Ebanks and Robert Sacre from this list, as their contributions have been decidedly altered by injury or complete lack of playing time.
PF Antawn Jamison
2012 Season Averages: 19.8 minutes, 7.3 points, 4.3 rebounds
The picture on this slide says almost everything you need to know about Antawn Jamison's season for the L.A. Lakers.
The 6'9" power forward has been literally and figuratively turned around for most of the year, both by opposing players and his coaching staff's unpredictable use of his talents.
Lets call a spade a spade—Jamison is a defensive liability who can sometimes shoot the lights out if given significant minutes. To this point, those minutes haven't been there.
I wouldn't give such a harsh grade to the veteran if he didn't contribute to the Lakers soap opera by complaining about his role. For that, he gets docked points from his already low score.
Midseason Grade: D+
SG Jodie Meeks
2012-13 Season Averages: 17.5 minutes, 7.6 points
Jodie Meeks was brought in to shoot the lights out, even before the installation of Mike D'Antoni. Since D'Antoni's hire, Meeks should have been even more of a factor from beyond the arc, right?
Well, to date, Jodie is shooting only 36.7 percent from three point land and only 38.9 percent from the floor. For a guy that is supposed to be all about offense, his contribution simply has not been potent enough.
Defensively, he has brought energy when on the floor but has not been enough of a factor to warrant legitimate minutes when shooting the ball poorly.
To his credit, Meeks has been one of the quieter Laker voices during times of trouble and has stayed the tough course so far.
Midseason Grade: C-
PG Chris Duhon
2012-13 Season Averages: 20.5 minutes, 3.4 points, 3.3 assists
Chris Duhon is one of two interchangeable Lakers point guards behind Steve Nash (in Steve Blake's absence) and is joined by Darius Morris.
He has shown flashes of ability to lead the team well in transition, but is barely an adequate reserve for Nash when he needs a breather. He's shot only 25 percent from the floor in January and has been a non-factor in their wins.
Duhon is shooting an embarrassing 46.2 percent from the free-throw line, but that may be because he has only attempted 13 on the season.
Granted, the Lakers are chock-full of other offensive threats that deserve the ball more than Duhon, but he hasn't made any case for himself to receive playing time in a reserve role once Steve Blake returns.
Midseason Grade: C-
PG Darius Morris
2012-13 Season Averages: 16.1 minutes, 4.7 points, 1.7 assists
Darius Morris' alma mater is currently ranked No. 1 in the country. Sorry, had to to do it (Go Blue!).
At times this year, Morris has been a defensive stopper from an energy standpoint. Other than that, he doesn't prove to be that much of an offensive threat and has seen inconsistent minutes.
Just like Duhon, Morris is a completely replaceable guard that will sink deeper on the depth chart once Steve Blake returns.
No complaints about D-Mo's attitude, the second-year man has nothing to complain about. He plays for the Lakers!
Midseason Grade: C
PF/C Pau Gasol
2012-13 Season Averages: 33.3 minutes, 12.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists
Pau Gasol's individual performance has most mirrored the Lakers team performance throughout the first half of the 2012-13 campaign.
Sometimes the big man comes out and plays with passion and scores with ease; other times he gets exposed on the defensive end for rotating to slowly on help defense and looks slow running the floor.
He's never been a defensive juggernaut, but he should at least try to be a better compliment to Dwight Howard, who hasn't been himself for most of the season.
Offensively, Pau has shown signs that his full arsenal is still available—like sinking a running lefty hook shot against the Thunder and completing multiple lob alley-oop passes to Dwight. However, the veteran forward has failed to bring consistency to a team that has sputtered and even bottomed out at times.
Lakers fans have come to have great expectations out of the Spaniard, and this season he has failed to deliver on what we've grown accustomed to seeing.
What makes matters worse is the fact that he openly displayed discontent for a lineup change that has him coming off the bench. Not a sign of a true team player.
To his credit, he has recovered by turning in a couple of stellar performances in his new role.
Midseason Grade: C+
C Dwight Howard
2012-13 Season Averages: 34.9 minutes, 16.5 points, 12.0 rebounds, 2.4 blocks
Where do we start with Dwight Howard?
His numbers don't look so bad—he leads the league in rebounding—but he hasn't quite looked fully healthy yet.
We all know that he has the potential to dominate on both ends of the floor, but he has lacked mental toughness and has even been a brat for most of the season. He has come around in the last week or so, accepting more responsibility for the team's plight and shouldering more of the load to turn it around.
That doesn't change the fact that he has been in and out with injury, miserable from the free-throw line and still hasn't signed a contract extension.
Still, it is really hard to say that he's played poorly when his numbers are as good as, if not better than, most starting centers in the NBA. If he can help turn the team's record around, his grade will surely rise in the second half of the season.
Midseason Grade: B-
PG Steve Nash
2012-13 Season Averages (in 20 games): 33.3 minutes, 11.5 points, 8.1 assists, 2.6 rebounds
Steve Nash is no longer athletically capable of staying in front of the best point guards in the game. As such, he's been exposed in transition, when defending pick-and-roll and does not add much from the rebounding perspective.
Nash is now 38 and has been crippled by injury for a good chunk of the season. But he is clearly the floor general the Lakers need when he is out on the hardwood.
Coach D'Antoni would like Nash to score more, which explains his increase in aggression over the team's last few games. Even so, the assist man has been upstaged by Kobe Bryant's brilliant all-around performances in the Lakers' most recent wins.
As far as attitude goes, Nash is a proven leader who has kept faith in this team all along. He's been seen motivating his teammates and has definitely been a positive role model for the younger guards, even when he can't suit up.
Nash will be a very key component of this team's success going forward. For the Lakers to complete a turnaround and reach the playoffs, Steve is going to have to continue to elevate his play.
Midseason Grade: B
SF Earl Clark
2012-13 Season Averages (in 21 games): 17.3 minutes, 6.0 points, 5.0 rebounds
Earl Clark has been a bright spot for the skidding Lakers, especially since we turned the calendars to 2013.
In January, Clark has averaged 27.3 minutes, 9.9 points and 8.2 rebounds. These numbers do not begin to describe what Clark has provided for the Lakers in the energy department, where they've often fallen flat.
Clark has come from the end of the bench to providing a strong spark that Coach D'Antoni can employ both in the starting lineup and with the reserve unit. Earl flies around the floor, collecting offensive rebounds and making every team pay for neglecting him.
Whether or not the small forward will keep up his contribution remains to be seen, but what he's done for L.A. since the turn of the year must be acknowledged.
Midseason Grade: B+
SF Metta World Peace
2012-13 Season Averages: 34.8 minutes, 13.6 points, 5.7 rebounds
One thing Lakers fans can always count on is the fact that Metta World Peace will be on the floor, hustling hard and banging bodies with someone.
The veteran small forward has never been afraid of contact and has been at least tied with Kobe for the most physically tough player on the floor.
He brings a tenacity to every game that most other players on the roster have lacked up until recently. It shows most when he travels out beyond the arc to greet the opposition's best offensive man or throws his body around in the paint to collect rebounds.
For a man who usually is associated with attitude issues, Metta has kept his mouth relatively in check this season and has earned the respect of his coaching staff. He understands that games can be a physical war and is first out there to lead his team into battle.
Unfortunately for Metta's report card, the Lakers have lost more battles than they've won.
Midseason Grade: B+
SG Kobe Bryant
2012-13 Season Averages: 38.8 minutes, 28.7 points, 5.1 assists, 5.0 rebounds
Let me start by saying that if Kobe Bryant had to grade himself at this juncture, he'd probably give himself something in the "C" or "D" range because the team has struggled to produce wins.
I'm willing to give the Black Mamba a bit more credit than that.
The man is turning in one hell of a campaign in his 17th NBA season. He is playing more minutes and scoring more than his career averages, all at the advanced basketball age of 34. Despite hoisting up some questionable attempts—which he's always done—Kobe has scored the rock pretty efficiently.
Bryant has shown willingness to guard the opposition's best offensive threat, which has admittedly yielded mixed results. However, it's his dedication to bettering his team that shines out of his defensive flexibility.
If you haven't clicked on the TV for the past few days, I'd strongly encourage you to seek video highlights of Kobe's last two performances (21 points, 14 assists, nine rebounds against OKC, 14 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds against Utah).
The man has proved time and time again that he can do it all and won't stop doing so until the Lakers emerge victorious. That's the kind of attitude that separates him from most other athletes in the NBA today.
The only legitimate knock on his midseason grade is his team's poor record. Sorry, Kobe.
Midseason Grade: A-