Progress Report for Each L.A. Lakers Youngster at Start of Season
The Los Angeles Lakers have plenty of youth on the roster, but they certainly have an old-timer feel to the team with the current starting lineup. The goal is to win a championship, and some of these younger players are going to suffer in the process.
Through two games, it's clear Los Angeles is going to rely on veteran experience in tight games. Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant both logged close to 40 minutes against the Portland Trail Blazers, and after Steve Nash came out with a leg injury, it was Steve Blake that played exclusively at point guard.
There are positions on the team where playing time can be had. Jodie Meeks and Jordan Hill are both youngsters that should see significant minutes, though Meeks needs to be a consistent three-point shooter to keep his role.
Looking at the Lakers on the roster that are under 25, we've compiled a progress report of where they are right now. Complete with a grade, the Lakers have six guys under the age of 25, so there's plenty of room for both praise and criticism in this team's 0-2 start.
Earl Clark: INC
Clark hasn't seen the court yet, and with three guys in front of him at both small and power forward, it's unlikely that changes any time soon.
When given the chance in Orlando, he showed some nice range on the outside and was capable of being an above average weak side defender. Unless Dwight Howard starts campaigning on his behalf, though, he won't be supplanting Antawn Jamison or Devin Ebanks any time soon.
Devin Ebanks: C
The Trevor Ariza clone didn't register a minute in the team's season opening loss to the Dallas Mavericks, but was the primary backup to Metta World Peace on Thursday night against the Trail Blazers.
It was a largely uneventful night for Devin Ebanks, as he finished with two points, two turnovers and three fouls. Stats like that might leave coach Mike Brown searching for a better option behind World Peace, although it's extremely early in the season.
For Ebanks to be successful, he needs to reclaim the baseline jumper and transition game he was perfecting towards the end of the 2011-12 season. Largely average on Thursday night, he gets a "C," keeping in mind that there is plenty of basketball left to play.
Jordan Hill: B-
Jordan Hill was active and engaged against the Dallas Mavericks, but for some reason was in the dog house against the Portland Trail Blazers.
He was 0-of-4 from the floor and a -20 against the the Blazers, but still managed four rebounds in only eight minutes of play. Dwight Howard played 41 minutes, and Mike Brown was content at riding the hot hand of Howard all night long.
Hill needs to be the big man that Mike Brown can count on. With not much experience in the front court behind the two starters, Brown will be forced to role with lineups that feature Hill guarding centers some of the time.
If not, Howard will start to wear down very early. I understand Brown riding his 33-point performance in what felt like a must-win, but Hill has to play more than eight minutes if this team is going to be the best team in the West.
He gets a B- for his potential, but he'll have to continue to impress Brown early and often to help keep Howard fresh and ready for bigger games.
Darius Johnson-Odom: INC
The rookie from Marquette hasn't made the impact that his former teammate Jae Crowder is making on the Dallas Mavericks. He's yet to see significant time in any role, and it would take a major injury or a complete collapse to change that.
Steve Nash is entrenched as the starter at point guard. Johnson-Odom's not a point guard, you say? Kobe Bryant has a lock on shooting guard, too.
Simply put, there's too much depth on this team for DJO right now. He's the 15th man, and he'll join Darius Morris as the Lakers' new project at guard for the foreseeable future.
Jodie Meeks: C
Signed as a three-point shooter behind Kobe Bryant, this 25-year-old has only played 18 total minutes in two games after a five minute game against Portland.
He hasn't shot the ball well from three (2-for-5), though 40 percent isn't a bad start for the Lakers' primary shooting option off the bench. He needs more opportunities to be effective, and with Mike Brown riding Bryant and the starters for a win, he hardly saw the court.
Not to put this guy on a pedestal, but he needs to hit dang-near all of his shots to be the guy off the bench whom Brown trusts enough to sit Kobe. He hasn't had much opportunity, but he'll get his chance to shine with Steve Nash now nursing an injury and Steve Blake in charge of both units.
For Meeks to be effective, he's going to have to be spot-on from three. He gets a "C" so far, but he's been a great shooter over the course of his young career and could turn it around at any time.
Darius Morris: INC
Darius Morris hasn't seen the court this season, but he could be in line for some time after a Steve Nash injury.
The second year guard from Michigan made the cut over Andrew Goudelock, so it's obvious the team sees something in him.
He's explosive off the dribble and can shoot from the three-point line, but it will be interesting to see if Mike Brown gives him the reins to the offense or allows the rest of the second unit to do most of the work, assuming Nash is out for more than a couple of games.
Robert Sacre: INC
Sacre joins DJO as a rookie that hasn't been able to see the court much, though he did have a minute of gametime against Portland.
Sacre will never see the court if Dwight Howard is going to play 41 minutes per game, but there will come a time when this team will need him to be a valuable contributor off the bench.
With good size and rebounding ability, it wouldn't be a surprise to see this guy play five minutes a game once Mike Brown gets comfortable with him. For now, though, he joins some of his fellow youngsters at the end of the bench, a trend that is somewhat disturbing with this 0-2 start.