The Lakers can bring out Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest players of all time, as well as perhaps the strongest frontcourt in the NBA with Artest, Gasol, and Bynum.
However, perhaps the most formidable aspect of the Lakers is not the outstanding ability of their starters, but the talent and consistency of their bench. The Lakers bench is one of the best backup units in the NBA, and they have won countless games for Los Angeles.
How do the key bench players on the Lakers stack up against one another? Let’s find out.
Because it is nearly impossible to separate the Lakers rookies, I have grouped them together.
Both are 6’9 forwards who played between five and six minutes per game (5.2 for Caracter, 5.9 for Ebanks).
Caracter averaged 2.0 points and 1.0 rebound per game, while shooting 49% from the field, and played in 41 games.
Ebanks averaged 3.1 points and 1.4 rebounds per game and shot 41% from the field and 40% from three, but only played in 20 games.
Neither rookie was a significant contributor to the Lakers’ success, but one cannot deny the depth and youth that they gave the Lakers, especially at the aging forward positions.
Luke Walton played in 54 games this season, averaging 1.7 points, 1.2 rebounds, and 1.1 assists in 9.0 minutes.
However, he has yet to step on the floor this season in the Playoffs.
Walton, like Caracter and Ebanks, is a talented backup who can give the Lakers a few solid minutes per game, but doesn’t usually get the opportunity to give a whole lot more.
Still, having a guy like Walton as the fifth option at forward is outstanding, and speaks to the Lakers’ depth.
The Lakers picked up Steve Blake in the offseason to give them a backup point guard and increased depth at the guard positions.
Blake has done a good, if not amazing, job picking up the extra minutes that Fisher doesn’t play, and has filled in nicely as a backup at the point, freeing up Shannon Brown to play more minutes at the two-guard behind Kobe Bryant.
Blake has averaged 20.0 minutes per game this season. When we scale his numbers for accuracy, he has 7.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per 36 minutes played, while shooting 36% from the floor, 38% from three-point range, and 87% from the free-throw line.
Blake may not be an elite point guard, or even the best backup guard on the Lakers, but he is still an integral member of the Lakers bench and crucial to the team’s success.
Barnes was the Lakers’ other acquisition in the offseason, and he has done a good job coming off the bench at the forward position, giving the Lakers great depth, especially because he isn’t even the Lakers’ top backup forward.
In 19.2 minutes per game, Barnes has chipped in a scaled 12.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per 36 minutes, while shooting 47% from the floor, 32% from three, and 78% from the line.
Barnes has also played good defense this season, and has worked hard in the minutes he’s been on the floor, especially considering the injuries that have plagued several of the forwards on the Lakers bench.
Kobe Bryant is the best player on the Lakers, but he has entered the backside of his prime, and is playing fewer minutes this season than he has since his second season in the league.
Shannon Brown is the player who makes this possible, by playing 19.1 minutes per game, largely at the shooting guard position.
Brown has averaged a scaled 16.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per 36 minutes, and has electrified fans with his high-flying dunks, a result of his amazing athleticism.
Occasionally dismissed in the past as a street-baller, he has also worked this season to round out his game, and has developed a fairly consistent three-point shot.
Having Brown’s skills behind Kobe enables the Black Mamba to rest his tired legs without fear of leaving the Lakers with a gaping hole at his position, either offensively or defensively.
Naturally, Lamar Odom, the recently-crowned Sixth Man of the Year, is the Lakers’ best bench player.
Odom has done a tremendous job of coming off the bench and putting up All-Star-caliber numbers.
He is talented in a variety of ways, and can serve as a scorer, rebounder, ball-handler, defender, or even three-point specialist for the Lakers.
Odom has averaged 14.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 3.0 assists in 32.2 minutes per game, and has shot 53% from the floor and 38% from three-point range, filling in for anyone from Ron Artest at the small forward spot to Andrew Bynum at center.
Odom’s talent, skill, and willingness to come off the bench make him the best bench player on the Lakers, the best sixth man in the NBA, and a player who would be a leading option on any team in the league.