Initial 2013 LA Lakers Post-NBA Draft Depth Chart Projections
While the Lakers did obtain the services of Ryan Kelly, a power forward who can stretch the floor, it is clear that they are going into next season with some serious issues regardless of whether or not Howard re-signs.
With an unbalanced roster and salary cap issues that will plague them until after the upcoming season, the Lakers will need to maximize every ounce of talent they have on this team.
One of the ways to utilize every strength in the current roster is to recognize and understand the depth of this team and how every currently contracted player fits together in the rotation.
1. Point Guard
Starter: Steve Nash
Although the Steve Nash experiment didn't pan out as the Los Angeles Lakers expected due to the myriad of injuries Nash suffered, there is no doubt that a healthy Steve Nash would help the fluidity and cohesion of the Lakers offense.
An excellent shooter and facilitator, Nash's contributions would actually be an upgrade over the point guard play the Lakers have had in recent years, even during their latest two championships.
Nash's main deficiency is on the defensive end, where he is neither strong enough nor fast enough to compete with the younger guards and deny them entry into the paint.
However, like the Lakers in recent years, Nash has always had a history of being a defensive liability. Although this one particular weakness won't be shored up by a healthy Nash, it is one the Lakers have learned to live with.
Bench: Steve Blake
Steve Blake is a serviceable backup point guard for Steve Nash.
Although he isn't the creator or even the shooter that Nash is, he is still a capable three-point threat and is a better on-ball defender than Nash.
2. Shooting Guard
Starter: Kobe Bryant
Coming off of an Achilles tendon injury, Kobe Bryant is expected to return to the lineup sometime in November or December.
Expect Bryant to immediately start and take on the lion's share of the minutes at the shooting guard position.
While it is never wise to doubt the Black Mamba, expect Bryant to continue to show some degradation on the defensive end.
Offensively, expect Bryant to continue his trend of balancing his high volume shooting with the facilitating skills he put on full display last season.
Bench: Jodie Meeks
Jodie Meeks is a capable defender who has a reputation as being a consistent outside threat on the perimeter.
With Bryant expected to decline in skill due to his age and his recent injury, Meeks may be expected to fill a bigger role than he did last season.
Whether it is becoming more of a pest on defense or taking on a larger role on offense, Meeks will be expected to pick up the slack and become one of the primary options off of the bench.
3. Small Forward
Starter: Metta World Peace
Metta World Peace was arguably the Los Angeles Lakers' most consistent player outside of Kobe Bryant last season.
While he is still as streaky on offense as he has ever been, his defense and intensity are never in question.
World Peace will be expected to produce the same type of effort and occasional scoring he did last season despite aging one more year.
With Earl Clark and Antawn Jamison not currently under contract, the Lakers don't have a small forward to substitute for World Peace.
This is a gaping hole that needs to be filled during the free-agency period, or the undermanned Lakers will have to start playing Kobe Bryant more at the 3 position to fill the void.
4. Power Forward
Starter: Pau Gasol
Pau Gasol showed last year that still has a lot left in the tank when healthy.
Averaging 13.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game despite battling through some injuries, Gasol continues to be the most versatile offense threat.
With Kobe Bryant returning from an Achilles tendon injury and Dwight Howard's return not confirmed, Gasol will be expected to be the primary focus of the offense.
That's not to say that Bryant won't be the No.1 option. This just means that the Lakers will need to utilize Gasol out of the post a lot more in order to maximize their talent via his ability to score and facilitate.
Bench: Ryan Kelly
Ryan Kelly's saving grace is his outside shooting prowess.
With range that is likely to make him a good fit in Mike D'Antoni's system, Kelly will need to provide the shooting touch that made the Lakers draft him.
However, given his relative lack of athleticism and poor rebounding skills, he shouldn't see more than 10 minutes per game as Gasol's substitute.
Starter: Jordan Hill
With Dwight Howard not under contract, the safest assumption is to assume that he won't be in a Los Angeles Lakers uniform come opening day. This falls under the mantra of expecting the worst and hoping for the best.
If that proves to be the case, Jordan Hill would be the starter by default given the fact that the Lakers have no other center to play.
Hill has shown his ability to score off of hustle plays and has been a force on the boards.
Although a hip injury forced Hill to miss major time, a healthy Hill will see the lion's share of the minutes at center.
While he is even worse as a post-up option than Howard, he still provides energy and hustle on both ends of the court and should help keep the Lakers competitive on the boards.
With no other center on the roster, expect Pau Gasol to fill in at the center position while Jordan Hill rests.
This means that Hill may be expected to play upwards of 30 minutes per game unless the Lakers are able to find a cheap and serviceable backup center to fill in.