It wasn't long ago when the Lakers' second unit was "so deep" that they were bestowed the moniker "The Bench Mob". After a drop-off the last two years, they have been called out as the Lakers' weak point. This year, the Lakers have a chance to address that issue, and remind the 29 other second units in the NBA why they are "The Bench Mob"
Remember a time when the Laker bench was a feared one? You probably can, considering it's only really been two years since the Laker bench was labeled "The Bench Mob". It seems virtually impossible to fear a bench that starred Luke Walton, Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic, and Ronny Turiaf, yet it was feared.
The Laker bench used to be a high energy, all hustle second unit that oozed so much confidence that you would think they were starters. Not only did they bring energy and highlights, they also contributed their own brand of zaniness (yeah, Ronny, we of Laker Nation still remember you screaming your lungs out every game). It seemed that the Laker bench was the bench of the future... Two years later, in the 2010 NBA Playoffs, the Lakers' bench was noted to be its weak point. The Bench Mob that was feared in '08 had become a laughing stock, and five guys from Phoenix have been bestowed the "Bench Mob" moniker. The Laker bench had become Lamar Odom, Shannon Brown, and Jordan Farmar (Sasha Vujacic and Luke Walton have dropped below the radar). The Lakers' bench had lost it's identity. They lost the confidence that intimidated opposing benches.
The Lakers have the pieces to rebuild the Bench Mob this off-season into a bench that is even more intimidating than the one they had in '08. They have the core of their bench in Lamar Odom, a player who, as Charles Barkley during the Finals, would start for any of the other 29 teams in the NBA. Also, they still have Luke Walton, who should be given the benefit of the doubt due to his injury-ridden season, who was instrumental to the success of the '08 Bench Mob with his play-making ability.
In an off-season that has become caught up in Free Agency, it is only fitting that the Lakers retool their bench through Free Agency:
I particularly like the signing of Steve Blake. Steve Blake will undoubtedly play off the bench, should the Lakers resign Fisher (which we should believe will happen). Steve Blake has been a serviceable PG for many coaches, a PG that hits his threes (40% during the 2010 campaign) and is careful with the ball, with roughly a 4:1 TO ratio. He is also efficient with the time given to him, garnering a +9 efficiency rating as a bench player. He will bring a steady hand to the second unit easing Lamar's ball-handling duties and leadership, seeing that Steve Blake has started for the Blazers before the arrival of Andre Miller.
Every bench needs an energy guy...
Mr. TNT Legs was the highlight machine for the Laker Bench. His high-flying act was like a drug, with fans wanting to see a mind-blowing dunk every play. Shannon Brown is much needed as an energy guy for when the starters are lethargic due to injuries or fatigue. He has also shown that he can become an adept defender. Being young, he still has the chance to expand his game further. For the Lakers', and their fans', best interest, the Lakers NEED to resign him (along with Derek Fisher, of course)
Yes, THAT Raja Bell...
Most people would call me crazy for even thinking that Raja Bell should be playing for the Lakers. In the hearts of many of the Laker Nation faithful, he is still regarded as Public Enemy #1 for clotheslining Kobe. However, adding another proven perimeter defender off the bench to back up Ron Artest's defensive duties is a strong plus for the rebuilding of the Laker bench's image, and definitely strengthens the chances of the Lakers hopes for a three-peat. Raja Bell will bring added toughness, defense, and solid three-point shooting, which is ever-so-important in the triangle offense
He has been regarded as a carbon copy of Trevor Ariza, when he entered the league, by Draft scouts. He is an efficient slasher, very athletic, a good rebounder, and plays tough-nosed defense. If the Lakers can't sign Raja Bell, they can mold Ebanks into a defensive stopper, which is a good idea, considering Ebanks' athleticism and wingspan.
Due to salary cap restrictions, it is unlikely that the Lakers will not resign DJ Mbenga and Josh Powell...
As a low-post scorer, Caracter will bull his way to some paint points. He is an adequate rebounder and plays physically on both ends of the court.
The aforementioned players, plus Lamar Odom, Luke Walton, and Sasha Vujacic, will rebuild the image of the bench, along with the image of the entire Laker team (soft? Do people still call the Lakers soft? The Celtics certainly don't). Of course, this is assuming that Walton gets healthy, and Vujacic returns to form as the 2008 "Machine".
Overall, GM Mitch Kupchak and Dr. Jerry Buss have an opportunity to strengthen the Lakers' perceived weakness by adding depth to an already stacked bench. In doing so, the Lakers will not only open the 2010-2011 Regular Season as the favorites, but they will have eliminated their so-called "weakness", with their second unit reclaiming the "Bench Mob" moniker that is rightfully theirs.