Grading Los Angeles Lakers Players at 2014 NBA All-Star Break

Ben Leibowitz@BenLeboCorrespondent IIIFebruary 14, 2014

Grading Los Angeles Lakers Players at 2014 NBA All-Star Break

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    At the 2014 NBA All-Star break, the Los Angeles Lakers have an 18-35 record (tied for fourth-worst in the league with the Sacramento Kings) and no representatives heading to New Orleans.

    Injuries have crippled the Lakers roster to a point where signing Kendall Marshall and Manny Harris was a necessity. They also suited up just eight healthy players against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Feb. 5—and somehow won the game.

    Lakerland has faced a ridiculous amount of adversity in 2013-14 and will continue to do so in the second half if players can’t stay healthy.

    Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar have all missed significant time, which has left head coach Mike D’Antoni grasping at straws.

    The storied franchise is poised to miss the playoffs for just the fifth time since moving to Los Angeles in 1960-61. There have been some bright spots for the hapless Lakers—numerous role players are experiencing career years with added opportunities—but the overall product has been a major disappointment.


    Note: All player stats in this article are accurate as of Feb. 13 (prior to games played).

15. Shawne Williams, SF/PF

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    The 2013-14 campaign has been a challenging one for NBA journeyman Shawne Williams.

    He began the year on the 12-man roster and even earned some spot starts under head coach Mike D'Antoni. Nonetheless, Williams was waived by the Lakers in January.

    Coach D'Antoni said at the time, "He did everything we asked him and he played well. With the injuries and being able to keep flexibility and look at areas to shore up, we felt like that's what we had to do," per ESPN's Ramona Shelburne.

    Exactly one month later, Williams was called up from the Los Angeles D-Fenders—the team's D-League affiliate—because injuries continued to stack up against the Lakers.

    Since his return (three games), he's averaging 7.3 points, five rebounds, one steal and shooting 41.2 percent from the floor.

    Not everything he does shows up in the stat sheet, though, as Bleacher Report's Ethan Norof pointed out via Twitter: "Shawne Williams won't light up the box score or highlight reel, but plays hard every second and fights for his teammates. Lakers need that."

    Williams has had to battle just to keep a roster spot this season. His stats haven't been great, but at least he gives his all every night.

    Grade: C

14. Ryan Kelly, PF

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    Rookie Ryan Kelly likely wasn't going to get many minutes if the Lakers had stayed healthy.

    Mike D'Antoni is notorious for not giving rookies much playing time, and he stayed true to that formula as Kelly saw action in just five of the Lakers' first 27 games. As injuries continued to mount, however, the coach had no choice but to give the Duke standout more minutes.

    The 22-year-old has had some bright moments—like scoring 20 points against the Boston Celtics on Jan. 17 and posting 26 points and six rebounds in a Feb. 5 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. The overall package, however, has been hit and miss.

    He is shooting 41.7 percent from the field and 32.8 percent from three-point range. Neither of those percentages is favorable.

    The shooting inconsistency can be attributed to a random allotment of playing time, but let's just say he's not going to compete for rookie of the year.

    Grade: C

13. Robert Sacre, C

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    Robert Sacre has posted better stats as a sophomore than he did as a rookie, but that's not saying much.

    The 7-footer out of Gonzaga is averaging 4.5 points and 3.1 rebounds and shooting 45 percent from the floor. Like Kelly, he hasn't played much under Mike D'Antoni, but injuries have thrust him into the starting lineup at times.

    From what the NBA community has seen so far, it appears that Sacre's ceiling as an NBA talent is a role player at best. He's had some respectable performances, but nothing that hints he can be a legitimate difference-maker on a nightly basis.

    Grade: C-

12. Chris Kaman, C

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    Chris Kaman's 2013-14 season has been defined by two occurrences:

    1. Describing his situation with the Los Angeles as, "Same (bleep), new city," per Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News.
    2. Lying down on the spacious Lakers bench and having the image photoshopped all over the Internet.

    The veteran center signed a one-year deal with the Lakers that was worth approximately $3.2 million last summer, and the results haven't been what either party wanted.

    He has been upset with a lack of playing time, but he posted back-to-back double-doubles with more minutes. He notched 27 points and 10 rebounds against the Chicago Bulls on Feb. 9 and had a 25-point, 14-rebound affair against the Utah Jazz on Feb. 11 (both losses).

    He has played well in limited time overall, averaging 9.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks for a player efficiency rating of 17.24. But again, he and D'Antoni haven't seen eye-to-eye.

    Jabari Davis of Basketball Insiders said that he would be "very surprised" if Kaman remained a Laker beyond the Feb. 20 trade deadline. That should be something to keep your eyes on moving forward.

    If nothing else, at least the Lakers might be able to flip him for something before the deadline.

    Grade: B

11. Wesley Johnson, SF/SG

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    Swingman Wesley Johnson appeared to be completely reborn with the Lakers to start the season.

    In November, the Syracuse product shot a blazing 45.7 percent from three-point range. He chipped in 8.7 points and 3.9 rebounds per game during the season's first full month, but those numbers weren't sustainable.

    Predictably—if you watched Johnson play at all with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Phoenix Suns—he crashed back down to earth.

    He matched most of the country's weather by shooting an ice-cold 27.5 percent from beyond the arc in December. A recent 20-point, nine-rebound effort against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Feb. 5 was a nice bright spot, but even his career highs this season of 42.4 percent from the field and 36.7 percent from deep aren't very impressive.

    The former No. 4 overall draft pick has had his ups and downs, which pretty much describes his NBA career to this point.

    Grade: B-

10. Xavier Henry, SG

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    While Xavier Henry burst onto the NBA scene in an opening-night upset win over the Los Angeles Clippers—posting 22 points, six rebounds and two assists—that was arguably his best performance of the season.

    I won't say that his performance against the Clippers was a fluke, because the 22-year-old guard clearly has talent. However, he had trouble in building off early success, was wildly inconsistent and has now been out of action since Dec. 31 due to a knee injury.

    Henry has missed 22 straight games, and according to Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times, he's now expected to be absent for an additional four weeks.

    While the Lakers could use his energy off the bench, it's becoming apparent that this knee injury is more serious than the team is letting on.

    At least Lakers fans can watch Henry's huge poster dunk from earlier this season against the New Orleans Pelicans.

    Grade: C+

9. Jordan Hill, PF/C

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    Jordan Hill has quietly put together the best season of his NBA career in 2013-14 for the Lakers.

    He's posting career highs in points (8.4), rebounds (7.1), assists (0.8) and shooting percentage (54.2 percent).

    Despite playing the best basketball of his career and posting a player efficiency rating of 18.81 (second on the team behind veteran Pau Gasol), the University of Arizona product is still only receiving 19.5 minutes per game.

    It's curious why Coach D'Antoni hasn't decided to give Hill more responsibilities during a lost season. If nothing else, he could gain even more confidence by becoming a marquee option on offense.

    Since he's in a contract year, Hill may be poised for a big payday in 2014 free agency.

    Grade: A

8. Jordan Farmar, PG/SG

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    Moving from one Jordan to another, Jordan Farmar has played inspired basketball for the struggling Lakers this season.

    He embraced his role as the leader of the Lakers' impressive second unit, averaging 9.1 points, 4.5 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game as the team jumped out to an unbelievable 9-8 start.

    The 27-year-old's poise off the bench allowed guys like Wesley Johnson, Xavier Henry and Jodie Meeks to play great basketball beside him. Like so many point guards before him, Farmar thrived in D'Antoni's system.

    Unfortunately for his coach, Farmar has dealt with a hamstring injury that has forced him to miss 30 games heading into the All-Star break. He's been a huge bright spot for a terrible Lakers team, but he hasn't found the court enough to make a lasting impact.

    Grade: A-

7. Steve Blake, PG

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    If I told you prior to the 2013-14 season that Steve Blake would post a triple-double at least once, you probably would have laughed in my face.

    Oddly enough, he reached it in his second game back from injury on Feb. 5 against the Cleveland Cavaliers with 11 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds.

    The point guard from Maryland is having one of his best seasons as a pro, averaging 9.3 points and a career-high 7.8 assists per game.

    The Lakers needed someone to step up in order to help replace Kobe Bryant's lost production. Blake was up to the task.

    In the month of November, he averaged 10.1 points, 8.3 assists and 3.4 rebounds and shot 40.3 percent from three-point land.

    A torn elbow ligament kept him out for more than a month, but he has played great for Coach D'Antoni when healthy.

    Grade: A

6. Kendall Marshall, PG

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    Prior to the Feb. 13 matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder, sophomore point guard Kendall Marshall was shooting 47.8 percent from three-point range. That mark ranks him third in the NBA, behind only Jimmer Fredette of the Sacramento Kings and Anthony Morrow of the New Orleans Pelicans.

    Despite atrocious shooting form, Marshall has been virtually automatic from downtown for the Lakers, which makes no sense.

    Head coach Mike D'Antoni will take it, though, because Marshall has been a diamond in the rough for the Purple and Gold. In addition to being on fire from long range, the North Carolina product is averaging 10.1 points and 9.2 assists per game.

    D'Antoni—at least on offense—continues to make mediocre players good, good players great and great players elite. Marshall is just one more notch in his belt.

    It's hard to believe the Washington Wizards waived Marshall after acquiring him in the Marcin Gortat trade. From what we've seen thus far, it's safe to assume the Wizards want a mulligan.

    Grade: A

5. Jodie Meeks, SG

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    After a disappointing first year with the Lakers in 2012-13, Jodie Meeks has blossomed into a solid rotational player for Mike D'Antoni's squad. Here are his numbers in 2013-14 compared to a season ago:

    2012-13 Stats: 38.7 percent field-goal shooting, 35.7 percent three-point shooting, 7.9 points, 2.2 rebounds, 0.9 assists.

    2013-14 Stats: 44.9 percent field-goal shooting, 40.3 percent three-point shooting, 14.4 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists.

    His numbers have improved across the board this season, with shooting efficiency being the most impressive barometer of his success.

    Like so many other Lakers before him, though, Meeks found his way to the injured reserve after spraining his right ankle on Feb. 4 against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    Nothing has gone right in Lakerland thus far, which makes this setback even harder to stomach.

    Grade: A-

4. Nick Young, SG/SF

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    As injuries continued to cut down the Lakers in 2013-14, Nick Young remained the healthy constant and one of the only reasons for fans to tune into games. Nevertheless, "Swaggy P" suffered a non-displaced fracture and bone bruise in his left knee.

    The sheer amount of injuries for the Lakers has gone from depressing to downright laughable. It's a shame, because Young was putting together a solid case to earn Sixth Man of the Year Award honors at season's end.

    In 48 games (nine starts), he has averaged 16.9 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. He's spent time as the Lakers' leading scorer this season, which is notable because he's primarily appeared off the bench.

    Young is shooting 41.9 percent from the field and 34.9 percent from three-point range, which are both hovering near career lows. That hurts his overall grade, but D'Antoni has needed him to be a volume scorer, so his efficiency isn't as pronounced compared to other players.

    Grade: B+

3. Steve Nash, PG

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    Has Steve Nash played his last game?

    It's a depressing question for NBA fans who have grown to admire his demeanor and the way he makes all of his teammates better, but it's time to face facts.

    He just celebrated his 40th birthday on Feb. 7, and according to Mike Trudell of, the veteran point guard is once again suffering from nerve root irritation, which has kept him out for all but 10 games.

    Nash hasn't been the same player since joining the Lakers via a sign-and-trade deal with the Phoenix Suns. Father Time has caught up to him in a big way, and he even acknowledged in the first episode of Grantland's series The Finish Line that he'll never be the player he once was.

    In 10 games played, the veteran floor general is averaging 7.6 points, 4.7 assists and 1.7 rebounds per game. Those numbers were bumped by a Feb. 7 birthday performance against the Philadelphia 76ers when he posted 19 points, five assists and four rebounds.

    It's unfair to grade Nash at this juncture, because he hasn't been anywhere close to full strength.

    Grade: Incomplete

2. Pau Gasol, PF/C

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    Whether or not Pau Gasol remains a member of the Los Angeles Lakers past the Feb. 20 NBA trade deadline is up for debate. After another rough start to a season, however, the veteran Spaniard showed why he was able to help LA to win two straight championships in 2009 and 2010.

    In January, the 33-year-old averaged 20.8 points, 11.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.7 blocks to go with 51 percent shooting from the floor. It was arguably his best month of basketball since the 2010-11 season.

    He has been on an evident decline in recent years—due to age, injuries, team fit and D'Antoni's coaching methods.

    He has butted heads with his new coach on multiple occasions, including in December when he said, "When I'm not getting the ball where I want to, where I'm most effective, where I can bang guys and utilize my skill, that affects my aggressiveness and overall intensity," per the Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan.

    The NBA is a "what have you done for me lately" league. Gasol has found that out the hard way, because he continues to receive criticism from fans.

    It may finally be time for the Lakers to move on by trading him, but even if they don't, it's hard to imagine him sticking around during 2014 free agency.

    Grade: B+

1. Kobe Bryant, SG

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    Seeing Kobe Bryant's forlorn face on the Lakers sideline has been strange, to say the least.

    The Black Mamba was one of the most durable athletes of his generation, but he's now logged 54,208 total minutes in his NBA career (regular season plus playoffs). The 35-year-old has played just six games in 2013-14 due to an Achilles tear he suffered last April and a fracture of the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee.

    Fans are now left wondering whether or not he will ever be the same player again—much like the situation that faces Steve Nash.

    The 18-year veteran is still planning to return this season. Per ESPN's Dave McMenamin, Kobe said, "My plan hasn't changed."

    The Lakers may be better off if Bryant chooses to rest and target a comeback in 2014-15, but that's just not his style.

    Grade: Incomplete