Left to right: Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol.
The Los Angeles Lakers did not reach the expectations laid out before them before the start of the 2012-13 NBA season. Some individuals, detailed throughout this final regular-season grade report, failed to live up to their independent potential. More importantly, the team never seemed to gel.
Although a very successful second half was marginally enough to scrape past the Utah Jazz, the fact of the matter remains that a 45-37 record and No. 7-seed entry to the postseason is not what GM Mitch Kupchak had in mind when he assembled this group over the summer. A projected starting five of Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Metta World Peace was one of the league's sexier groups on paper.
Instead, coaching changes, injuries, attitudes, egos and inconsistency hampered the Purple and Gold from becoming all that experts foresaw. The season-ending and career-threatening Achilles injury to Kobe summarized the strife of the Lakers' season best.
Now that it's all in the books, I get the honor of playing teacher and assigning final grades to every player on the roster. Click through to see the boom get lowered.
Chris Duhon is most commonly seen on the bench with his warm-up gear on.
2012-13 Regular-Season Averages in 46 games (nine started): 17.8 minutes, 2.9 points, 2.9 assists and 1.5 rebounds
Chris Duhon simply isn't the impact player in the NBA that he was at Duke University.
When he did play this year, he did a fair job of protecting the ball and moving the team down the floor in transition. However, he didn't score very well and split time with Darius Morris behind Steve Blake and Steve Nash.
Duhon's role with the Los Angeles Lakers is a minor one, and he was not really a part of the reason this team made the playoffs.
Final Grade: D-
Devin Ebanks was hard-pressed for minutes this season.
2012 Regular-Season Averages in 19 games (three started): 10.4 minutes, 3.4 points and 2.2 rebounds
Devin Ebanks is a young athlete and had some good moments during the 2011-12 season. However, this year, he was almost nowhere to be found.
It is really hard to play as little as Ebanks did considering the laundry list of injuries that plagued the Los Angeles Lakers all year long. Yet Devin didn't see very much floor time and had a minuscule impact when he stepped between the lines.
Final Grade: D-
Antawn Jamison gets blown by in transition.
2012-13 Regular-Season Averages in 76 games (six started): 21.5 minutes, 9.4 points and 4.8 rebounds
I envisioned Antawn Jamison having a big offensive impact of the bench for the Los Angeles Lakers this season. Turns out I was wrong. Jamison had a rocky start in his transition to L.A. and didn't help his own cause by complaining about playing time early on.
While his shooting ability—especially for a man at his position—should have been a good fit for head coach Mike D'Antoni's run 'n gun system, Antawn was consistently far too much of a defensive liability to earn legitimate minutes.
At the advanced basketball age of 36, this was not a good audition for Jamison if he was seeking an extension from the Lakers after the season. Whenever the postseason run comes to an end, Jamison will no longer be owed anything from Los Angeles, a fact that nobody seems too disappointed about.
Final Grade: D+
2012-13 Regular-Season Averages in 32 games (three started): 6.3 minutes, 1.3 points and 1.1 rebounds
Robert Sacre only started three times and played in 32 games, but that was quite enough floor time for the Los Angeles Lakers' sake.
Sacre is best known for his sideline antics. While his energy surely gave his teammates a boost at times, the Lakers' deep reserve center did not bring too much else to the table in 2012-13.
Final Grade: D (for dancing!)
Darius Morris dribbles through traffic.
2012-13 Regular-Season Averages in 48 games (17 started): 14.2 minutes, 4.0 points and 1.6 assists
Darius Morris played only in spurts this season and didn't have much to do with the Lakers' postseason push. He has shown the capability to be an agitating defender but does not score with regularity and is mostly relegated to a deep bench role.
At the age of 22, Morris has plenty of time to incorporate what he must have learned from playing alongside Steve Nash. Other than that, D-Mo flew under the radar in his second season out of the University of Michigan.
Final Grade: D
Jodie Meeks didn't knock down as many threes as the Lakers had hoped.
2012-13 Regular-Season Averages in 78 games (10 started): 21.3 minutes, 7.9 points and 2.2 rebounds
Jodie Meeks was brought in to spread the floor and make threes. Nobody expected any large contributions on the defensive end, therefore nobody has been disappointed.
However, most who watched the Lakers this year—including myself—predicted that Meeks would have a bigger role than he ended up having. Given that Coach D'Antoni's scheme is perfectly fit for a player of Jodie's style, his scoring impact should have been bigger than what it was.
Final Grade: D+
2012-13 Regular-Season Averages in 49 games played (42 started): 33.8 minutes, 13.7 points, 8.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.2 blocks
Pau Gasol was riddled with injuries all season long. As a result, the big man performed well under his career averages in scoring and shooting percentage. Gasol also failed to collect as many rebounds as his career average of 9.2 per game, but that could be largely in part to the presence of fellow center Dwight Howard in the paint.
On almost any team in the NBA, a healthy Pau would be a standout performer and unique asset. This was not the case in Los Angeles this year. Aside from all of the trade speculation that followed the Spaniard during the dog days of midseason, Gasol looked soft on defense and was noticeably difficult to incorporate into Mike D'Antoni's schemes.
Kobe Bryant's injury has rendered Pau a big part of the postseason agenda. If Gasol can deliver at the level his is capable of, he could help himself to cover up what a disappointingly average season he had.
Final Grade: C-
Steve Blake is the Lakers' best alternative guard to supplement Steve Nash.
2012-13 Regular-Season Averages in 45 games (13 started): 26.1 minutes, 7.3 points, 3.8 assists and 2.9 rebounds
Perhaps still most memorable for his leadership during the Maryland Terrapins national championship run in 2002, Steve Blake actually was a key figure in getting the Los Angeles Lakers over the final hump in the regular season. In the final two games, Blake added 23 and 24 points, respectively, to boost his team into the seventh position in the Western Conference.
He missed way too much time for anyone's liking, leaving Coach D'Antoni with a really thin depth chart at the guard position—especially considering that Steve Nash missed a lot of time as well. Without him, the Lakers were forced to employ the likes of Chris Duhon and Darius Morris in the backcourt.
Steve Blake did not have what I would call a good season by any means. The fact that he was one of the best Lakers' guards when healthy also doesn't say much. Still, his clutch play to close it out earns a few points back toward his final assessment.
Final Grade: C
Jordan Hill was after every 50-50 ball when he was healthy.
2012-13 Regular-Season Averages in 29 games (one started): 15.8 minutes, 6.7 points and 5.7 minutes
It really is a shame that Jordan Hill went down with a labrum tear as early on as he did. Despite not being a starter, Hill was perhaps the Los Angeles Lakers' best contributor off the bench.
J-Chill provided the Lakers with energy and rebounding help early on, which was especially crucial when Dwight Howard was struggling to regain full health.
I've always said that if Hill could get more minutes, he would have a chance to have really nice season averages. This year turned out to be a failed attempt, as the Lakers' third center missed the season's final 53 games. The Lakers will look forward to having Hill back as a key reserve next season.
Final Grade: C
Kobe Bryant encourages the energy play of Earl Clark.
2012-13 Regular-Season Averages in 59 games (36 started): 23.1 minutes, 7.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists
Earl Clark had flashes of brilliance during the middle of the regular season, adding energy and rebounding help after the loss of Jordan Hill. He is one of the Los Angeles Lakers' better and younger athletes but is not nearly enough of the difference-maker they needed for most of the 2012-13 campaign.
There isn't too much more to say about Clark other than he was a surprising contributor for a decent stretch before withdrawing back into a mild reserve role.
Final Grade: C+
Steve Nash wore a suit to Staples Center far too many times this season.
2012-13 Regular-Season Averages in 50 games (50 started): 32.5 minutes, 12.7 points, 6.7 assists and 2.8 rebounds
Steve Nash looked every bit of his 39 years of age this season. The Lakers guard was brought in to join the ranks of an All-Star studded starting lineup but couldn't keep his body in good enough shape to endure the physical tests of a full NBA campaign.
When he was on the floor, Nash was a clear boost to the Los Angeles Lakers lineup, at least on the offensive end. He facilitated the pick-and-roll better than any other guard Coach D'Antoni could have employed and helped the Lakers get into a bit of rhythm.
Nash didn't look to score as much as he needed to and was a proven liability on the defensive end of the floor. Fortunately, he had Dwight Howard behind him protecting the paint, so his lack of athleticism at this point in his career was only a blip on the full screen of the Lakers' defensive woes.
Final Grade: C+
Metta World Peace hustles as hard as anyone on the floor.
2012-13 Regular-Season Averages in 75 games (66 started): 33.7 minutes, 12.4 points and 5.0 rebounds
Metta World Peace is a bull. He played major minutes for the Los Angeles Lakers this season and absorbed a lot of the wear and tear that his teammates couldn't. Then he tore his meniscus in March.
Formerly known as Ron Artest, MWP has posted better numbers in the past. However, without his grit and toughness during the worst days of the regular season, the Lakers may have folded.
At 33, it appears as though the prime days of MWP's athleticism and scoring ability are over. He remains a crucial part of what the Lakers are trying to do in the playoffs but probably will not add enough to get L.A. past the San Antonio Spurs.
Final Grade: B-
Lakers fans can only hope at this point that Dwight Howard ditches theatrics and decides to remain in Los Angeles.
2012-13 Regular-Season Averages in 76 games (76 started): 35.8 minutes, 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks
Dwight Howard's final regular-season numbers are once again startling and among the best at his position. He once again led the league in rebounding despite a noticeable lack of health at the start of his campaign.
The biggest problems for Dwight throughout the season were regaining his trademark explosiveness, finding his niche in the Lakers' system and keeping his trap well enough shut to the media. Howard has shown a flare for the dramatic in the past, but down the stretch he proved to be the leader and difference-maker that GM Mitch Kupchak sought when he signed him on.
Howard played as much as almost any Laker this year and his presence in the paint was nearly always palpable. However, despite his best efforts, his team only barely eked into the playoff picture.
Only one question remains: Will Dwight sign an extension with Los Angeles after the postseason comes to an end?
Final Grade: B
2012-13 Regular-Season Averages in 78 games (78 started): 38.6 minutes, 27.3 points, 6.0 assists and 5.6 rebounds
Where do we start with Kobe Bryant?
The Los Angeles Lakers' favorite shooting guard had a freakish season, played the lion's share of minutes and single-handedly kept the team's hopes alive when all seemed lost.
Bryant turned in many vintage performances over the course of a tumultuous Lakers campaign, adapting his game as necessary and proving to be every bit of the wily veteran that NBA fans have grown accustomed to seeing year in and year out. Unfortunately, his tenacity and willingness to do everything possible for his team resulted in too many minutes on the floor and a consequential injury to his Achilles tendon.
But Bryant's injury should not overshadow just what a spectacular season he put together as the leader of the Lakers. He scored at a very impressive clip in his 17th season, was a coach on the floor—albeit too much at times—and was one of the sole reasons the Lakers remained afloat in rocky waters.
Kobe earned his new nickname even if it is self-proclaimed. In this case, "Vino" did get better with age. Still, his team only finished eight games over a .500 winning percentage.
Final Grade: B+