The Los Angeles Lakers have the best starting five in the league hands down. This has been proven over and over for the past few seasons, with the Lakers being crowned back to back champs. Although, the Lakers have won the championship in the past two years, the road was not as easy as it should have been.
Take for instance the seven game winners Kobe had last year. These situations should never have occurred with the type of fire power in the starting lineup, which the Lakers had. Time and time again the starters would build a lead only to have it evaporate the moment the bench set foot on the floor.
Some say it was the inconsistent play of Laker forward Lamar Odom, who would no doubt be a starter on any other team in the league. It wasn't just Odom; it was the entire second unit. Sasha had an off year, Walton was injured, Brown was injured, Farmar was worried about his future, Powell was a defensive liability, D.J Mbenga was nothing more than a season ticket holder, and Phil Jackson had Adam Morrison locked in a cage below the arena.
The Lakers offseason consisted of going out to find players that addressed their immediate needs, which were all bench personnel. First, the biggest hole in the roster had to be filled, the back up point guard. Jordan Farmar didn't really pan out for the Lakers. He couldn't accept his role as a backup, which translated to poor inconsistent play when he did get time. So, bring in Steve Blake. Blake is a perfect match for the Lakers. He is a pass first, shoot later type of guy, who has a high basketball IQ, and should fit in just right with the triangle offense. Oh, and did I mention he is a solid defender and a proficient three point shooter.
The next move made was bringing in a backup for Ron Artest. Who better to fill that role than Raja Bell? Oops, Raja didn't like the thought of hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy alongside Kobe; instead he'd rather go fishing next summer with Deron Williams.
Instead Lakers brought in another former foe of Kobe Bryant, Matt Barnes. Matt Barnes is a staunch defensive guru much like Ron Artest, who can also light it up from the outside. He is a bit on the insane side, but I don't think that problem will arise under the watchful eyes of Bryant, and coach Jackson. Barnes gives the Lakers added depth at the small forward position, since Walton may not be available for very much during the season, due to his ailing back injury.
The last move was to get a suitable back up for Bynum that would not care about getting offensive numbers, and would be a defensive presence in the paint and grab some boards. Theo Ratliff is old, but still effective. He won't see very many minutes this year. Less minutes for Ratliff means a healthy Bynum.
The Lakers were able to resign walking highlight reel Shanon Brown as well. Before hurting his thumb on his shooting hand, Brown was showing great improvement in his jump shot and ball handling skills. Brown is now over the thumb injury, and has said he has been concentrating on improving his game over the summer.
Finally, Lamar Odom, fresh off of a gold medal run at the FIBA world championships. Odom was pivotal in team USA's run, providing on court leadership and dominating the glass. This experience in Turkey should translate into making Odom a better leader for the second unit. Also, he should now realize that he needs to set the example by maintaining a consistent level of play.
Overall, the Lakers bench will be quite formidable, with a blend of length, three point shooting, and solid defense. Combined with the potent fire power of the starting five, this Lakers team will be hard to beat. That's why I say this Lakers team should be unstoppable.
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