5 Players with a Chance to Shine During LA Lakers' Stretch Run
Obviously, the rest of the season is a mere formality for the Los Angeles Lakers.
But the team's situation does provide a unique opportunity for a handful of players to shine.
Los Angeles only has three players under contract for next year, so pretty much everyone on the roster is playing for their job—whether it's with the Lakers or somewhere else.
Most of these guys are young and have a lot to prove. The last six weeks of the season will serve as an extended audition, and the entire league is invited to see if these players are worth a look in the future.
Here are the five players who will most welcome the spotlight down the stretch.
Kendall Marshall can already thank the Lakers for resurrecting his basketball career. Now the path is clear for him to prove that he deserves a full-time rotation spot in the league for years to come.
With Steve Nash sidelined and Steve Blake shipped out, it looks like Marshall is entrenched as L.A.'s starting point guard for the rest of the season.
Thus far he has been excellent, averaging close to a double-double in points and assists and burying a stunning 47 percent of his three-pointers, the second-best mark in the league going into Tuesday night's action.
Marshall has shown incredible poise and the ability to run a team competently. He's definitely earned his place in the league but does he fit into the Lakers' long-term plans?
The other player in line to benefit from the opening at point guard is Jordan Farmar.
Unfortunately, Farmar has struggled to remain healthy all year long with repeated hamstring issues, which has kept him behind Marshall in the rotation.
When he has gotten on the court, Farmar has looked good. His three-point shot is falling 40 percent of the time and he is averaging 15 points, five rebounds and eight assists per 36 minutes.
As solid as he's been individually, the team's offense has really struggled when Farmar has been on the floor.
According to NBA Wowy, the Lakers produce just 94.9 points per 100 possessions with Farmar in the game. That's quite a bit worse than even the worst offense in the league.
With no guarantees after this season, Farmar has to prove that he can be a floor general who makes everyone around him better.
Known for his flamboyant bench celebrations, Kent Bazemore is finally getting his chance to shine on the court now that he is a member of the Lakers.
Bazemore has already entered Mike D'Antoni's starting lineup and will continue to receive heavy minutes as long as L.A.'s backcourt remains banged up.
The second-year player shares a lot of similarities with Xavier Henry. He's a lefty slasher with a questionable jump shot who can get to the rim and draw fouls.
He's set a new career high every time he's stepped on the floor with the Lakers. If he continues to play like this, he'll be known for something other than his celebratory shenanigans.
MarShon Brooks showed a lot of promise as a rookie, averaging nearly 13 points per game for the then New Jersey Nets.
He's become an afterthought since.
The Lakers are the fourth team he's been on in the last 12 months, and he's hardly gotten off the bench in his previous stops.
Mike D'Antoni has thrust Brooks into a prominent role off the bench with so many injuries to the team's other wings.
Brooks is a capable scorer who can get his own shot.
Unless he can start knocking down treys with some regularity though, there may not be much of a future in the league for an inefficient, offense-only player like Brooks.
Though he's got more experience than the other four guys on this list combined, let's not forget that Pau Gasol will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
Gasol won't earn close to the 19-plus million dollars he's making this year, per Spotrac, but he can boost his market value with a great stretch run.
He's still one of the best big men in the game, at least when it comes to offense and rebounding. Gasol is scoring more points per minute than he ever has as a Laker and is grabbing the most rebounds per minute of his entire career.
In the 20 games before he missed three weeks with a groin injury, Gasol was putting up All-Star numbers. He averaged 20 points, 11 rebounds and four assists per game on 51 percent shooting over that span.
If Gasol can find that level again, he will make himself a hot commodity this summer.
The Lakers will have to think long and hard about whether they want to re-sign the Spaniard or not.