Final Regular Season Grades for Every LA Lakers Player

Howard Ruben@howardrubenContributor IApril 19, 2014

Final Regular Season Grades for Every LA Lakers Player

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    Collectively, the Los Angeles Lakers produced their worst season in franchise history.  Individually, the players all get passing grades accompanied by a cloudy future. 

    These guys played hard and passionately for most of a very long, frustrating, unfortunate season in which they set a franchise record for futility.  There just weren't enough bodies due to injury and not enough talent to win many games in the highly competitive Western Division of the NBA.

    With only Robert Sacre, Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant on the books for next season, many of the remaining 12 Lakers will be gone to other teams by summer though several will be encouraged to stay in L.A.

    If there was one silver lining in the Lakers' 27-55 season of discontent, it was that head coach Mike D'Antoni gave young, inexperienced players ample opportunities to show what they could do on the NBA stage. D'Antoni may not return to L.A., but players like Ryan Kelly, Kendall Marshall and Wesley Johnson may owe their pro futures to him.

    There were lowlights to be sure this season, including a 48-point loss at home to the L.A. Clippers and the horrible leg injury suffered by Kobe Bryant just six games into his return from a major Achilles tear a year ago.

    But, there were a number of individual highlights as well.  Call them glimmers of hope for a franchise that, at least on the court, appears to have hit rock bottom and can only go up from here.

15. MarShon Brooks: C-

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    MarShon Brooks is a scorer, but that may not be enough to prolong an NBA career. At least not with the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Brooks came to L.A. as part of the deal that sent Steve Blake to the Golden State Warriors in February. He actually got some decent playing time when he first arrived and responded with a season-best 23 points and four assists in a four-point win over the Sacramento Kings.  He was 9-13 and hit all three shots from long distance.

    But, after Jordan Farmar returned to the lineup from injury, the minutes just weren't there for Brooks, and he languished on the bench. The last time he played more than 10 minutes was against Denver on March 7.

    For the season, the 25-year-old Brooks averaged 6.4 points in 12.7 minutes. He shot 49 percent from the floor, including 58 percent from beyond the arc.

    Brooks, who starred in college at Providence and was the No. 1 draft pick in 2011 by the Boston Celtics, just never seemed to find a home with the Lakers.  He struggled defensively, and that alone hurts his long-term chances on a team that finished 29th in points allowed.


14. Kent Bazemore: C+

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    The other half of the Steve Blake deal involved 6'5" shooting guard Kent Bazemore, an unknown commodity when he arrived in Los Angeles since he spent most of his minutes cheering on Golden State teammates from the end of the bench.

    But, due to a shortage of healthy bodies, Bazemore got an opportunity to showcase his talents with the Lakers and performed well.

    Bazemore showed athleticism, passion and energy.  Before a season-ending foot injury shut down the rest of his season, Bazemore got into 23 games and averaged 28 minutes and 13.1 points.  His shooting (45 percent and 37 percent from three-point range) was solid if not spectacular.

    The Lakers afforded Bazemore an opportunity to play, and he is thankful for that.  They could offer him a restricted free-agent qualifying offer of $1.1 million this summer, so there is a chance he'll be back with the team.

    As Mike D'Antoni said of Bazemore via Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News: "He’s the best.  He’s here every day and asks questions.  His activity is off the charts.  Sometimes he’s in the wrong place.  But that’s what happens to young guys.  He’s lucky he got traded here where he could play.  Not that Golden State is bad.  He’s just had an opportunity here and has made the most of it.”

    Bazemore needs to improve his defense and turnovers (2.2 per game), but that should come with time. Undrafted out of Old Dominion, the 24-year-old seems to be a quick learner.

13. Steve Nash: C-

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    One of the game's all-time greats had what could arguably be called his worst season as injuries forced him to miss all but 15 regular-season games for the Lakers.

    It was obvious Nash had lost several steps, and his shooting (38 percent from the field) was second-lowest of his career, dating back to 1998-99 with the Dallas Mavericks.  That's to be expected when you miss most of the season. 

    Nash still was able to average six assists per 21 minutes of action when he did play.  But his game has seriously deteriorated. 

    Nash is attempting to play at a high level at the age of 40, which is ancient by NBA standards. His chronic nerve root irritation limits his playing time, and he struggles just to get into the lineup for a few minutes at a time.

    It's hard to give Nash a lower grade, mainly because he's Steve Nash and, when he did get on the court, showed flashes of his former brilliant self.  He is a gifted passer who was able to pass Mark Jackson for third on the all-time assist leaderboard this year with 10,335. 

    Nash says he continues to play because he wants to help the team and show the fans that he's appreciative of the support they have shown him over the years.  He caused a stir when he admitted that he also did not want to leave $9.7 million on the table next season by retiring prematurely, per Royce Young of CBS Sports.

    There's no doubt Nash will continue to work at recovery and be in the best shape possible for his final season.  But he remains uncertain about just how much he can help the team and how healthy he might be.

12. Xavier Henry: C

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    Like other young players on the team, Xavier Henry was a talent in search of minutes in order to prove his worth and find a permanent home.

    A former lottery pick of the Memphis Grizzlies, Henry was an inconsistent enigma all year.  The 6'6" small forward is a streaky player who, when he gets going, can take over a game.

    After Kobe Bryant went down in December, Henry started to see more action and quickly made the most of it. There were games of 27 points (Portland), 18 (Atlanta) and 21 (Minnesota). During a December stretch Henry was in double figures in 10 of 13 games.

    There is much to like about Henry's game. He handles the ball well for a player his size and is fearless about driving to the basket.

    On the downside, Henry shot under 42 percent from the field and had just three rebounds per game in 21 minutes of action. He also spent two significant stretches on the bench due to injury, missing close to half the season (39 total games).

    The best guess here is that Henry does not return to the Lakers next season.

11. Chris Kaman: B-

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    Chris Kaman was often the forgotten man this year to the extent that he took a (staged) nap one night on the bench in Cleveland.

    A former All-Star center who can still score and play defense, Kaman was perhaps the biggest waste of the Lakers' signings last summer because his coach, Mike D'Antoni, never warmed to the idea of playing two bigs (Pau Gasol and Kaman) together at the same time.

    D'Antoni also decided early on that he wanted to give the team's young center, Robert Sacre, more opportunity to work on his game.  For that and a few nagging injuries, Kaman saw action in just 39 games.  But he did manage to average 10.4 points while playing just 19 minutes per game.

    Kaman saw more action after Pau Gasol developed vertigo and was forced from the lineup.  The former Central Michigan star responded with two consecutive games of 13 points before being benched again in a 36-point loss at Minnesota.  Two days later Kaman was back in the starting lineup and had his best game of the year, a 28-point, 17-rebound, six-assist performance in a 16-point win over the Phoenix Suns.

    When he was healthy and when he played, Chris Kaman was effective as both scorer and rebounder.  He and D'Antoni just never saw eye-to-eye, and Kaman blames himself for making the wrong choice of teams.

10. Robert Sacre: C+

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    After another dismal Lakers loss, this one a 36-point embarrassment to the Minnesota Timberwolves, center Robert Sacre refused to let it get him down.

    He told Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:

    Discouragement is OK.  You bring your car into a mechanic's shop and he tells you it's going to be done in an hour and it's not done for another four hours.  It's discouragement but at the same time you can't dwell on it.  You've got to keep doing whatever you're going to be doing until that time is ready.

    No question.  We're at the bottom so might as well just go to the top. There's nowhere else but up from now, so I don't see anything else.

    Sacre brought positive energy, excitement, laughter and encouragement to the entire roster this season.  He also improved his game dramatically from his rookie campaign. 

    The last pick of the 2012 NBA draft out of Gonzaga, Sacre made the roster mainly because the team needed someone for Dwight Howard to bang against in practice.  With Howard gone and the team going nowhere in the standings, Sacre saw his minutes increase to almost 17 from six and his point totals to 5.4 from 1.3.

    Sacre became a much better defender and shot-blocker this season.  He developed a nice little hook that was rather effective and increased his shooting 48 percent.

9. Wesley Johnson: B-

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    Wesley Johnson's biggest day in the NBA might have been his first.  That was the day the Minnesota Timberwolves made him the fourth overall pick out of Syracuse in the 2010 draft.

    In three ensuing seasons, two with the T-Wolves and one with the Phoenix Suns, Johnson never lived up to the hype that accompanied him out of the college ranks.  The Lakers offered him a shot at redemption, and Johnson has shown tremendous improvement in almost every respect.

    While still far from being a smash hit in the NBA, Johnson should now be considered a legitimate role player with outstanding athleticism and a growing toughness.

    Johnson started 62 games and averaged 28 minutes, 9.1 points, 4.4 rebounds and two assists per contest this year.  He shot 43 percent from the field and 37 percent from three-point range, perhaps the biggest improvement in his game.

    What you can't teach is pure athletic ability, and Johnson has that to spare.  His speed and tremendous leaping ability made the 6'7" Johnson a major asset in a fast-break offense.  If he continues to improve his outside shooting and defense, Johnson's upside is limitless.

8. Kendall Marshall: B+

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    Roy Williams, legendary coach at University of North Carolina, has seen some pretty incredible talent over the years.  He raves about point guard Kendall Marshall.

    Via a DraftExpress scouting report (h/t David Murphy of Bleacher Report), Williams called Marshall "the best passer I’ve ever coached in 24 years as a head coach.”

    Signed in December by the Lakers and thrust into a starter's role, the 22-year-old point guard went from obscurity to big time in a hurry.  In a January 3 game against the Utah Jazz, Marshall started and played 41 minutes, scoring 20 points, grabbing six rebounds and dishing out 15 assists as the Lakers won by 11.

    He followed that performance with 17 assists against the Denver Nuggets and went on to record 10 or more dimes in 25 of the 54 games he played this season.  Marshall finished his second season in the NBA with an average of 8.8 assists per game.

    Marshall also shot the ball well.  His jump shot looks like something from the 1950s and resembles a Bob Cousy set shot, but it still proved to be rather effective.  Marshall made 40 percent of his three-point shots, often taking them from several feet behind the arc so as to avoid onrushing defenders.

    Marshall turned the ball over three times per game, and his decisions were not always sound.  He also didn't play much defense, and that could be a liability.

    With Jordan Farmar having a good year and hoping to return to the Lakers, it remains to be seen if Marshall will stick in L.A.  He needs minutes to be effective, and there's no guarantee of that next season.

7. Ryan Kelly: B-

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    Ryan Kelly was a gamble, a second-round pick by the Lakers last summer who was coming off foot surgery.  They felt they might bring him along slowly.

    That was before half the team succumbed to one injury or another.  Kelly, a 6'11" stretch forward in the mold of a Dirk Nowitzki, was healthy and ready to play as much as the Lakers wanted him to.  He did not disappoint.

    The Lakers always knew Kelly could shoot.  But he stepped up on both ends of the court and, as the season progressed, looked more and more comfortable in his role as shot-maker and defender.

    Kelley had 17 games where he scored in double figures.  He went for 20 in a big win at Boston back in January, where he played 34 minutes and hit all six of his free throws in the final minutes to help seal a three-point victory over the Celtics.  That game seemed like a turning point.

    Kelly scored in double figures 17 times for the Lakers this season.  He followed the Celtics performance with 17 points two nights later at Toronto.  And, he had a season-high 26 at Cleveland in 42 minutes.

    For the year, Kelly averaged eights points on 42 percent shooting, 34 percent from beyond the arc.  He made 82 percent of his free throws, grabbed four rebounds and saw action in 59 games.

    Ryan Kelly impressed with his understanding of the game and his willingness to play efficiently at both ends.  Whether with L.A. or another team, Kelly has a bright future in the league.

6. Nick Young: B

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    If Nick Young was half the player on defense as he is on offense, he'd be downright dangerous.

    The Los Angeles native and former USC standout brought excitement to Staples Center with his uncanny ability to create his own shots.  And because Kobe Bryant sat for most of the year, Young was able to really showcase his talents in the form of off-balance, circus-like shots that often resulted in four-point plays.

    Young led the Lakers in scoring (17.9) and shots attempted (13.9).  He averaged 39 percent from three-point range and often kept the Lakers in ballgames.  Witness his 41-point explosion at Utah this past week, which helped the Lakers to a rare road win.

    Where Nick Young falters is on the defensive end.  At 6'7", Young should be grabbing more than 2.6 rebounds per 28 minutes.  He often leaves his man open, ready to sprint down the other end for dunks and layups.

    Young will most likely leave Los Angeles this summer, as some team will be willing to pay him much more than the hometown discount of $1.1 million he played for this season.   He is a crowd favorite, but Lakers management will be hard-pressed to give him a substantial raise and will sign a couple of free agents.

5. Jordan Hill: B+

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    Jordan Hill and Mike D'Antoni never did connect, not in New York and certainly not in Los Angeles.

    By being one of several big men who is better suited for a half-court game, Hill often was the odd-man out in the D'Antoni rotation.  When he did get playing time, Hill was one of the most efficient Lakers all season.

    Averaging 20.8 minutes per game, Hill achieved career bests of 9.7 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.  He should be playing somewhere between 25-33 minutes and averaging 12-14 points and 10-12 rebounds.

    Hill was often frustrated this season, sitting out games for weeks at a time.  After Gasol went out late in the season, Hill got more minutes and delivered in bunches.

    Over the final eight games, Hill averaged 16.6 points and 10 rebounds.  He'll only consider staying with the Lakers if they have a new coach next year.

4. Jordan Farmar: B

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    Jordan Farmar missed half the season due to injury, but when he was healthy there was no better point guard on the Lakers.

    In half a season, the former UCLA standout displayed a maturity the team had not seen when he originally played for the Lakers and helped it win two world championships (2006-10).  Farmar's game has evolved; he's become a better outside shooter and a much better floor leader.

    Spending two seasons in New Jersey with the Nets and one overseas in Turkey allowed Farmar to grow in confidence, and it showed this season when he was on the court.  He was much more vocal than in the past and backed it up with his play.

    Farmar made 44 percent of his three-point shots, a marked improvement from his earlier days with the team.  He averaged 10.1 points in 22.2 minutes as he made a strong case for the team to bring him back next year as the starting point guard.

    Farmar is not in the class of the elites, such as Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook, but could easily be a 15-point and 8-10 assist-per-night performer. 

3. Pau Gasol: B-

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    Pau Gasol has endured endless trade talk the past few seasons and been called out by the team's current head coach on several occasions.

    Gasol deserves better, and he may get that next season in another uniform.  The 7'0" Spaniard averaged 17.4 points, 10 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.5 blocks in 60 games, and those numbers will look attractive to a number of teams, including the New York Knicks.

    Despite several setbacks, including a bout with vertigo this month, Gasol still managed a very good season on a disjointed team filled with young, inexperienced players and a coach who preached a style of basketball ill-suited to his strengths.

    There were times this year when Gasol looked out of place on defense, but that was due to a lack of sound coaching as much as anything else.  Gasol is a decent defender and plays better within a system where players help each other.

    Pau Gasol is not the same player who came to the Lakers six years ago and helped get them to three straight NBA Finals and two consecutive World Championships.  But, he has a lot of good basketball left in him, and it would be a shame to see that talent vacate L.A.

2. Kobe Bryant: B+

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    Kobe Bryant only played in six games this year, and it was arguably the worst year of his professional life.  That is aside from the $30 million he made.

    You've got to give the Black Mamba high marks, however, because of the work he put in just to get to that first game on December 8 against Toronto.  Bryant played 28 minutes that night, scoring nine points with eight rebounds and four assists in a 12-point loss.

    What's remarkable is that Bryant went on to average almost 30 minutes per game and 14 points for those six games before fracturing the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee on December 17 at Memphis.  In that game, his last of the year, Bryant played 33 minutes, had 21 points, five rebounds, four assists, one block and one steal in the team's win.

    Bryant also had 20 points against Phoenix, 13 assists in a loss to Oklahoma City, 21 points, seven rebounds and eight assists in a win at Charlotte the next night and eight points in 32 minutes at Atlanta the night before the Memphis game.

    So in between an almost nine-month rehab from an Achilles tear and his season-ending knee fracture, the 35-year-old Kobe Bryant was on his way to retaining his peak form in just six games.  The original thought was he'd be back in six weeks, but that turned into the rest of the season.

    Bryant's grade might have been higher, but he gets a few demerits for failing to show up at games in the final weeks of the season, saying he didn't like associating with a team so many games under .500, via the Los Angeles Times, and leaving for a French vacation before the last game of the season.  

1. Jodie Meeks: A

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    Jodie Meeks should take a bow.  He was the one member of the Lakers deserving of an A grade this season.

    Through sheer hard work, focus and determination, Meeks excelled on both ends of the court and changed from being a one-dimensional player with a quick release to a complete guard with an outstanding future.

    The numbers bear this out:  Meeks went from averaging eight points a game to 16 this year.  He shot 46 percent from the field, including a robust 40 percent from beyond the arc.  Beyond that, Meeks had two assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals a game as he developed his game on both ends.

    Averaging 33.2 minutes per game, Meeks was not only a big outside shot-maker, but was also adept at driving to the basket and drawing fouls. 

    Most importantly, he became a solid defender.  If there's one guy the Lakers need to re-sign, it's Jodie Meeks.