The Los Angeles Lakers have had a bumpy season by their recent standards. At 43-19, they are currently third in the Western Conference and looking to finish strong en route to a hopeful three-peat.
Oddly enough, when you look at LA's schedule you will notice they have been streaky throughout. There are three different occasions where they lost three games in a row, and five separate times when they have won five or more games in a row. The former streak must be changed if they want to go deep into May and perhaps June to seek that 17th NBA championship, one that would tie them for the all-time lead with the Boston Celtics.
They are doing well offensively, scoring 102 points per game while holding opponents to about 95.
I will take a look at all 14 current players on the Lakers' roster and assess their season thus far, resulting in a letter grade based on their performance.
With all that in mind, I hope you enjoy.
Thanks for reading!
Easily the biggest disappointment on the roster so far this season, Ron Artest has failed to live up to expectations on both sides of the ball in the City of Angels.
Artest's 8.2 points per game averaged is the lowest number of his illustrious 12-year career, and this is rooted by his poor shooting, a number that currently stands at 40.3 percent, the second worst clip of his career.
The 31-year-old's defense is still above average, but he isn't stealing as many passes as he usually does. His current rate, 1.4, is tied for the worst in his 12 years.
An overall disappointing season for Artest might ultimately lead to his escort out of Los Angeles.
Matt Barnes has been out for over a month now due to injury, but coach Phil Jackson has hinted that he will return for tomorrow's game against the Bobcats, a team that has seemingly had the Lakers number since their inception.
Before the injury, however, Barnes was putting together a nice little campaign for the starting three position.
In his first season with the Lakers, the 30-year-old Barnes put up 7.4 points per game in just over 20 minutes per game of playing time to go with over 81 percent at the foul line and a 4.8 rebounding average.
I can see Barnes taking away Ron Artest's starting slot once he is back to 100 percent.
Derek Fisher's backup is the definition of a journeyman. In eight seasons he has switched his uniform six different times.
Steve Blake has never really found a niche in the NBA or a team in the league that allows him to play his own game.
He is fifth on the team in assists, and doesn't have a great average at 2.1 per game in 20.2 minutes of playing time. He is also averaging 4.3 points per game.
To be totally honest, Blake doesn't bring much to the Lakers outside of his defensive intensity. Is it just me or is he the hardest working Laker on the defensive side of the court?
A few weeks ago, I wrote a column on why Shannon Brown was easily the Lakers' most under-appreciated player, and here on March 3rd I stand by my original statement.
The 25-year old Brown, who averages 9.3 points per game in just 19.5 minutes per game, scores more in fewer minutes than Ron Artest, Matt Barnes, Steve Blake, and Derek Fisher.
The Michigan State product is a fine free throw shooter additionally, draining better than 89 percents of his shots from the charity stripe.
To me, Brown is like a poor man's O.J. Mayo, and if used more frequently by Coach Jackson he could become a household name.
I've heard bickering towards Kobe Bryant about him no longer being the best player in the game, but honestly I still believe he is.
He is dishing out a team-high 4.9 assists per game as well as grabbing 5.2 boards, good for fourth for the defending champions.
In just 33.9 minutes per game, the Black Mamba puts up 25.1 points, a 48 minute rate of about 35 points. Now I'm no math genius, but the guy everyone says is better than Kobe, LeBron James, is averaging only one more point per while playing five whole more minutes per contest.
Makes you wonder, huh?
Regardless, Kobe, now 32 years of age, is having yet another spectacular season in LA, and he will be the main guy as always coming down the playoff stretch for the Lakers. He anchors the team both offensively and defensively, something only a handful of guys in this league can claim for their respective clubs.
If Kobe is really on the decline now I'm starting to think he'll never have a bad season.
Andrew Bynum is as injury-proned as they come in the NBA.
In six seasons he has played in over 65 games just once, and this season will be no exception as the seven foot center has already missed 25 of the Lakers' 62 games.
Outside of the injury, he is still on his way to becoming one of the best centers in the game.
His defense looks as electric it can get, as he swats just under 1.8 balls per game as well as grabbing 7.7 rebounds in 26 minutes of play on average.
Throw in the 11.5 points he averages to go with his 55 percent shooting and you have an all-around solid season for the 23-year old out of St. Joseph High School in New Jersey.
If he could have avoided the injuries this grade would be higher than it stands, but such is basketball.
Perhaps the most productive rookie on the Lakers' roster, Derrick Caracter has seen most of his minutes at the four spot for Los Angeles.
The Texas-El Paso product has played in 38 games thus far, and his 5.4 minutes and 2.1 points per game that he averages seem to be the only notable contributions to the defending champs.
Give Caracter a year or two to mature under guys like Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom and he will flourish.
Devin Ebanks, who started the season with the Bakersfield Jam of the D-League, was called up to the bigs on January 8th and has been become somewhat of a 10th or 11th man in the Lakers' rotation.
In six games with the Jam he averaged 16.5 points per game while draining exactly half his shots.
He has been productive in his little playing time, scoring more than three points on average in less than six minutes on the hardwood per game.
Derek Fisher isn't as good as he once was, but he's as good once as he ever was.
Toby Keith's song perfectly describes the 36-year-old Fisher, who in his 11th year in Los Angeles (and 14th overall) is coasting through the season relying on stars like Kobe, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom.
Fisher is having perhaps his worst season since his rookie campaign, putting 6.7 on the scoreboard on average and dishing out 2.7 assists in his 27.4 minutes played per game.
Basically the Little Rock, Arkansas native is starting because he is respected, and because the only other point guard is Steve Blake.
Pau Gasol is the definition of great consistency.
In his ten year career he has averaged anywhere from 17.6 to 20.8 points per game, and this season is no exception as he is putting up 18.6. His 10.5 rebounding average is a team-high, and his 1.7 block average is trailing Andrew Bynum by only a slim margin.
He is also shooting better than 52 percent on his field goals in addition to a solid 82 percent with his freebies, a number that puts him on the leaderboard of forwards' free throw percentage.
Although not being an elite defender, Gasol is a good help man and can defend down low effectively when it is needed.
Gasol is easily the Lakers' biggest asset in the frontcourt, and he is a main key in the three-peat that Los Angeles is seeking.
Another consistently great season for the 30-year-old Spaniard.
The longest-tenured Los Angeles Laker not named Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom is still as effective at 31 years of age as he's ever been.
The 6'10", 230-pound Queens native is having a career year in LA, and is shooting a stellar 54 percent from the floor to go with his 14.6 points per game. Shooting has always been a key for the southpaw Rhode Island product, but this year's percentage is a career high. His 39 percent three point shooting is also a career best.
His passing is above average for someone his size, and his defense isn't anything to shun either.
2010-11 has been an overall great season for Kourtney Kardashian's husband.
Theo Ratliff has played just over eight minutes in eight games this season.
In that short time frame the 37-year-old shot blocking specialist made just one of six field goals for a 16.7 percent field goal percentage.
A 0.3 scoring average isn't anything to get you a grade, and the only thing to brag about here is a whopping 0.6 block average.
Joe Smith has played in just six games for the Lakers since being signed in January, averaging one point per game.
The journeyman and former number one overall pick out of Maryland is playing for his 12th team in the NBA. That's pretty crazy.
It's hard to believe that Luke Walton is already 30 years old, and eight seasons into his career he is not doing a whole lot for the Lakers in this year's campaign.
This season he has played in 44 games but is averaging just 8.9 minutes in these contests.
The Arizona graduate's 2.0 points per game average is a career low. His 38 percent on field goals is only better than last year's 35 percent. He has done practically nothing while being a part of Los Angeles' rotation during their quest for a three-peat.
As far as Bill Walton is concerned, he has no son.