The defending champion Los Angeles Lakers are off to a winning start this season but some key injuries have changed the chemistry and player rotation.
Some have pointed to the Lakers bench as a weakness, which I think is an understandable diagnosis but a premature one.
Despite this criticism Lakers forward/center Josh Powell has been a pleasant surprise coming off the bench and filling in for the injured Pau Gasol.
Even though the two power forwards names are pronounced almost the same, Powell is no Pau, but the journeyman NBA veteran is much better than most of the basketball world knows.
Always a capable spot up shooter, in the offseason Powell worked hard to extend his range to the three-point line. According to the LA Times, Powell credits some of the motivation to his offseason work and newly found three-point range to a motivational call from Lakers leader Kobe Bryant.
The Lakers bench has not played great as a whole this season but when Gasol and Andrew Bynum return to the starting line up, the Lakers super 6th man Lamar Odom will come off the bench to lead the second unit. So what appears to some, as a weakness will eventually become a strength because players deep on the Lakers bench are getting valuable playing time and building confidence.
Coach Phil Jackson recently called Powell “the most reliable Laker off the bench”, which is definitely strong validation from a man who doesn’t say anything by accident.
With limited playing time Powell has shown glimpses of what he can do, in his only game with major minutes he scored 13 points in 23 minutes. On a veteran championship team like the Lakers Powell's playing time will vary but his energy level and professionalism allows him to contribute regardless of the situation.
It seems Powell’s game is suited perfectly for the triangle offense he is able to stretch the floor and hit spot up jumpers and at 6’9" he pulls the other teams big men out of the paint to defend him. He is athletic and aggressive at both ends of the floor and can guard power forwards and some centers.
In a league driven by star power it is unheralded players like Josh Powell, the glue guys that help you win championships. Powell, who went undrafted out of NC State, played in Europe and is now on his fifth team, is an example of hard work paying off. “Laker Nation” should hope that this journeyman has finally found a home.
Every team has some unsung heroes or quality role players, leave a comment below and tell me what player deserves some props on your team.