2010-2011 NBA Predictions: Is The Los Angeles Lakers Bench a Liability or Asset?

Harrison MooreAnalyst IIOctober 1, 2010

Two years ago, the Lakers’ bench was thought to be one of their greatest strengths. Many analysts and announcers even declared the Lakers as the deepest team in the league.

Since that time, the Lakers bench became notorious for giving up the big leads that the starters would build. Time and again, they were shown up by the deeper benches of the league.

It's not that the Lakers’ bench didn’t have potential.

In fact, the potential of the Lakers’ bench was on full display as they thoroughly outplayed the Celtic bench in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, outscoring them 25-13, not allowing them to register a single point until the meaningless fourth quarter of an 89-67 blowout.

The problem was that the Lakers bench was on the receiving end of smackdowns like that far more frequently than they dished them out. One could even blame the Laker bench for the Celtics’ Game 4 victory which allowed them to even the series and eventually propelled them to a 3-2 series lead.

In Game 4, the Lakers bench was stagnant while the Celtic bench, led by Glen Davis and Nate Robinson who scored a combined 15 points in the fourth quarter alone, outscored the Laker bench 36-18.

The other letdowns the Lakers’ bench suffered over the last couple of years are endless, but despite their potential, it was clear that the bench was in desperate need of retooling.

Though the Lakers’ acquisition of Steve Blake wasn’t a blockbuster move, particularly with the departure of Jordan Farmar, it does give the Lakers a much needed long distance threat.

The real gems of the Lakers’ off-season were the signings of shot blocking specialist Theo Ratliff and renowned perimeter defender Matt Barnes. Both players are sure to beef up the bench on the defensive end of the floor, but will it be enough to turn the bench from an Achilles heel into one of the league’s most elite units?

The smart money says so.

As he gained a heavier role in the rotation, Shannon Brown showed quite a bit of promise last year, registering career highs in points (8.1) rebounds (2.3) and assists (1.3).  Though Lamar Odom averaged only 31 minutes per game (the second lowest minute average of his career), he was consistently effective on the boards, coming within 0.3 rebounds of averaging double digit rebounds.

Though Sasha Vujacic fell off greatly during the regular season and at times became lost in the rotation, the clutch free throws he made in the waning seconds of Game 7 of the NBA Finals, proved that he is not without his uses.

In adding firepower to the bench, the Lakers’ bench has a solid shot at capitalizing on its potential. With the Heat brewing in Miami and the Magic and Celtics looking for revenge, the Lakers’ new found depth will be needed.