Los Angeles Lakers: A Look at the Starters and Bench Without a Blockbuster Trade
In an offseason filled with trades and signings that included possibly bringing Chris Paul or Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers, many believe the prestigious organization is heading into this season with a mediocre team that is nowhere near the usual standards the front office usually puts on the court.
Although the Lakers no longer have Odom, and may have some issues in the locker room to deal with early on in the season, it's nothing a few winning streaks can't settle.
This team may not be as primed for success as years past but don't sleep on a team that is bringing back the core that led them to the NBA Finals three of the last four years, including Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and the still-young Andrew Bynum that has only gotten better in each of the last few years.
Some trades and signings may be inevitable in the near future but a look at the pieces in place now are needed to see just why the Lakers can, and will, make a push in the playoffs.
Starting Lineup Looks Very Familiar
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No, the Lakers didn't bring in a big-name player that many believed would push them over the top and make them shoe-ins for NBA Finals success, but the team that has earned them two NBA titles in the last four years is essentially still there.
Kobe Bryant leading the offensive onslaught is an automatic advantage to any team, but with fellow All-Star Pau Gasol in the paint, this duo is still one of the more feared tandems in the NBA. Both men started all 82 games last season while Bryant averaged 25 points a game and Gasol tacked on nearly 19 PPG.
At center, a healthy Andrew Bynum will be a tough challenge for Western Conference foes to try and handle. In the 54 games Bynum played, he averaged 11 points, nearly 2 blocks, and over 9 rebounds a game.
When he wasn't struggling with knee injuries, he was busy in the paint and on the boards both offensively and defensively. The 24-year-old managed to play more aggressively and under control on the offensive side and it showed while his mid-range jumpers of years past have turned into easy dunks over mediocre opposing centers.
The players of the starting lineup that more fans are skeptical of are point guard Derek Fisher and forward Metta World Peace.
Fisher's age is a big worry for the Lakers since opposing guards have been able to penetrate the defense regularly during the playoffs. For the most part, Fisher is still able to provide enough defense for his team to win games and does numerous things both on court and off that prove his leadership skills that he's gained with his experience.
World Peace has always been known as a defensive pest for other teams and this season won't be any different. Expecting big numbers on the offensive side might be a little far fetched but understand that his defense and hustle will be key in the Lakers' success this season.
"Bench Mob" Will Look Different
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With the departure of the Sixth Man Award winner Lamar Odom, the Lakers bench will look drastically different compared to last year.
Obviously "The Bench Mob" will have to find a way to make up for the 14 points, three assists, and nine rebounds Odom averaged last season. It may prove to be a tough task but with the offseason acquisitions and the new offensive scheme, some of these players will fit in and be able to make the most of their time on the court.
With the aging Fisher still set to start in the backcourt and the physically demanding schedule of this shortened season, Steve Blake will see more minutes than he saw in 2010-2011.
After seeing action in 79 games last year and averaging 20 minutes in each of those games, he will have to be ready for a heavier load this year. In those minutes the Lakers will also need him to put the ball up more often with his skilled shooting from around the perimeter.
Another player that will have to make a bigger impact off the bench is Lakers' veteran Luke Walton. After only seeing action in 54 games last year, his ball handling and court vision should mesh well with the new players and new offense being implemented after the departure of Phil Jackson.
The player to look for mostly coming off the pine this year will definitely be Matt Barnes. Barnes averaged nearly seven points and over four rebounds a game last year but his numbers will have to increase in order to make his team successful this season. Without Odom there will be more minutes to go around and Barnes will be taking a heavy load of those minutes.
Don't be surprised when Barnes goes off for multiple 20-plus-point games this year while leading some of the newcomers and making this year exciting for a bench that many have already counted out.
Newcomers Will Make a Difference
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The Lakers didn't make any blockbuster deals that would have drastically changed the roster, but the acquisitions they did make will benefit the team in major ways.
Josh McRoberts will provide the big body on the bench that the Lakers lacked last season—they were punished any time Gasol and Bynum were off the court at the same time. The forward averaged seven points and five boards last season while starting 51 games for the Indiana Pacers.
The former Duke Blue Devil will give the needed rest time for the Lakers starting big men in order to assure their presence in the fourth quarter. Also his style of play will work well with his fellow bench players and new head coach Mike Brown's offensive scheme.
One player that will play a factor on the offensive side of the ball for the bench is forward Jason Kapono. His consistent 45 percent shooting throughout his career was only marred by an off year with the Sixers last season. His shooter presence will help benefit the other players as well as open the court for the more explosive players.
With the departure of the high-flying Shannon Brown, newly acquired Lakers' guard Gerald Green will provide that spark off the bench that will keep the home crowd in games. His leaping ability can excite the Los Angeles crowd and help the Lakers keep leads or chip away at deficits.
The bench might not look anything close to what it did last year but trades and signings are still possible for this work in progress.
As of now, this team is still a playoff team that is only accustomed to winning. Anything short of a title will be a failure but if the Lakers front five are able to stay healthy, this team that was swept out of the playoffs last year won't be going quietly this season.