Grading the Lakers' Final 15-Man Roster
The Los Angeles Lakers have assembled one of the most jumbled groups of talent in recent memory in order to fill out their opening-day roster.
With a roster that runs the gamut from superstars to partially guaranteed training camp invitees, a wide range of players will be contributing and playing significant roles for the 2013-14 Lakers.
How Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol coexist with the likes of Nick Young, Shawne Williams, Jordan Farmar and Xavier Henry remains to be seen, but this year's edition of the Purple and Gold certainly doesn't lack for intrigue.
One housekeeping note before we get started: Throughout the slideshow, each positional unit will be broken down and given a grade, with a composite score listed at the conclusion.
Depth Chart: Steve Nash, Jordan Farmar, Steve Blake
The Lakers' point guard grade would be higher if we knew for certain that Steve Nash would be able to contribute anything close to 30 minutes on a nightly basis.
Sadly, at this point in his career, the 39-year-old simply can't deal with the wear and tear of an 82-game regular season, as his ankle and neck have bothered him constantly throughout the preseason.
Expect to see plenty of Jordan Farmar this year, especially if Nash sits during some grueling back-to-backs, which is reportedly a possibility, according to Mike Trudell of Lakers.com.
Blake and Farmar give the Lakers nice stability behind Nash, and if the former can hit threes at a 40 percent clip like he did last season, Nash's diminished playing time won't be such a punch in the gut.
Still, it's hard to ignore that the Lakers will be forced to trudge forward without an elite point guard whom they can reliably pencil into their starting lineup each and every night.
Position Grade: B
Depth Chart: Kobe Bryant, Jodie Meeks, Xavier Henry
Kobe Bryant is still without a definite timetable to return to the floor, which shouldn't come as a surprise given that he's yet to participate in a practice with his Lakers teammates.
And when you read a quote like this, from ESPN's Dave McMenamin, it's clear that Bryant is still weeks, if not months, away from a return:
"No," [Mike] D'Antoni said after the Lakers' 111-106 preseason win over the Utah Jazz on Friday to finish out their exhibition schedule 4-4. "My God, I know he's Superman, but my God. He hasn't run yet."
However, regardless of when Bryant makes his first appearance on the hardwood, being able to pencil his name in on the Lakers depth chart provides a major lift to the unit as a whole.
In Bryant's absence, it will be upon Jodie Meeks and Xavier Henry to pick up the slack. Henry, who impressed with his ability to score off the dribble in the preseason, is a dark horse to emerge much the way Earl Clark did last season, especially if his perimeter defense becomes semireliable.
Being presented with a golden opportunity to crack the Lakers rotation, it's time for Henry to prove why he deserved to be a lottery pick (No. 12 overall) in 2010.
It's also worth noting that Hoopsworld's Steve Kyler has reported former Laker Shannon Brown may be returning to L.A., which would presumably shake up the team's depth at the 2 a bit.
Position Grade: A-
Depth Chart: Nick Young, Wesley Johnson
Combine Nick Young's endearing and goofy personality with his streaky jump shot, and it's clear that there's a new fan favorite in the land of the Purple and Gold.
For the time being, at least.
Young will score buckets aplenty for the Lakers this season and should have the green light to let fly while Kobe Bryant continues to rehab. Whether those shots are of the efficient variety, however, remains to be seen.
Young has never topped 44.4 percent shooting from the field in a single season and has never posted an average PER (his career high is 14.5). Lakers fans will love him when he's feeling it from deep, but when Young's shot is off and he continues to jack up questionable attempts, things will start to get ugly.
It doesn't help that the Lakers lack reliable perimeter scorers outside of Bryant, with Wesley Johnson the only other available option at small forward.
Johnson brings far more from a defensive standpoint than Young, but his outside shot and offensive tools remain a major question mark.
A 40 percent shooter from the floor and 33.6 percent shooter from three for his career, Johnson's highest career PER stands at 10.3, which he posted last season with the Phoenix Suns.
If Johnson can somehow harness a consistent three-point stroke from the corners, his value would skyrocket as a dependable member of the Lakers bench.
Position Grade: C
Depth Chart: Shawne Williams, Jordan Hill, Ryan Kelly, Elias Harris
Power forward is the biggest unknown for the Los Angles Lakers from a positional standpoint, which should be obvious, considering that Shawne Williams, who signed a partially guaranteed deal at the veteran minimum, could very well be starting on opening night.
A stretch 4 who will help free up room on the blocks for Pau Gasol, it would make sense for Mike D'Antoni to roll with Williams as his starting 4 to help space the floor.
Considering Jordan Hill's offensive limitations, it's far more logical to use him as a spark plug off the bench alongside Chris Kaman, who is capable of dragging defenders out as far as 15-18 feet from the basket.
It's not a particularly attractive group at power forward, and quite frankly, it looks like one that was pieced together with tape due to the Lakers' strict salary-cap limitations.
Position Grade: C-
Depth Chart: Pau Gasol, Chris Kaman, Robert Sacre
A position of strength for the Lakers is center, where Pau Gasol is eyeing a bounce-back year after an injury-plagued 2012-13.
With Dwight Howard out of the picture, Gasol figures to be given free reign of the low blocks, where he's proven to be a dominant force in the past. Essentially, if Gasol can flip his shot distribution from last season, so that the bulk of his looks come between the rim and nine feet and jumpers from outside are more of a rarity, he could be primed to post big numbers, especially when he's offensive option No. 1 in Bryant's absence.
On the bench, Chris Kaman should be a serviceable big, and put in the right spots, he could easily exceed expectations. Perhaps it's an optimistic view to take, but Kaman was true on 51 percent of his field-goal attempts between 16 and 23 feet last season, the highest mark of his career, per Hoopdata.
The obvious issue with Kaman is that he's a defensive liability and is not the sort of rim-protecting specialist who will help fortify the Lakers' second unit.
However, given L.A.'s limited financial resources, Kaman is a fine stopgap solution.
Position Grade: B+
As things currently stand, the Lakers' 15-man roster has very clear strengths and weaknesses, and there isn't much gray area.
Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash comprise the team's aging superstar trio, one that will need to be the beneficiary of good fortune and good health in order to keep the team's playoff hopes afloat.
The good news is that the Lakers have competent backups at point guard to help ease the burden on Steve Nash, so expect Jordan Farmar and Steve Blake to see their fair share of minutes—and then some—as the season progresses.
The areas of great concern, though, are the two forward spots. Uncertainty is the operative word here, as Nick Young, Wes Johnson, Shawne Williams and Jordan Hill represent the Lakers' depth at small and power forward.
Perhaps Young has an offensive renaissance of sorts in Mike D'Antoni's spread attack, but his defensive deficiencies—combined with the lack of defensively stability the Lakers have at shooting guard—raise some troubling questions about the state of the team's defense.
The Lakers are going to be dependent upon outgunning opponents based on the current state of their roster, but given the financial inflexibility they had when filling out the depth chart, there are enough quality pieces in place to make a run at one of the Western Conference's final playoff spots.
Overall Grade: B