Saturday Reading: Replenished Reserves

Dave Murphy —  September 1, 2012

With training camp a month off, most of the talk still centers on the Lakers’ big four – Bryant, Gasol, Nash and Howard. There’s obvious reasons, these are the guys who win you ballgames, these are your stars. Nobody’s going to lead off the conversation with Jodie Meeks. Yet, at any given moment in a game, there will be players on the floor who are not the headliners, and at any given moment they can make a difference.

Phil Jackson was famous for letting guys figure it out on their own. Mike Brown’s wound just a little tighter – he threw subs in and reeled them back even faster last season. At the same time, the disparity of minutes was striking – Kobe, Pau and Andrew were heavily used, all season long. I’m hoping Brown uses his star power more prudently this time around, put a little in your pocket and save it for the playoffs. As for the fifth member of the starting five, I’ve got Metta lightly penciled in – abstract decision making aside, he comes to play and brings the necessary toughness.

Competing for short minutes will be nine or ten other guys. The combination of new players, new assistant coaches and some degree of Princeton offense, will likely bring us another round of musical chairs until it all gets sorted out. Here’s some bullet points on the bench:

Darius Morris signed his qualifying offer to return this summer. I’m not quite sure if it’s guaranteed for the whole season. My guess is that he’ll be very much on the bubble.

Andrew Goudelock still feels like an experiment in progress and like Morris, he’s got a pretty steep hill to climb.

Steve Blake hasn’t really lived up to expectations since signing with the Lakers but last season was an improvement over the year before. He’s probably got the edge when it comes to backup minutes at the point, and admits that he has something to prove.

Chris Duhon’s most productive season was 08/09 with the Knicks when he started 78 games and scored. 11.1 ppg. He wasn’t a fit with Orlando. My clearest memories of him are his early years with the Bulls, including a very decent rookie season.

Former Kentucky standout Jodie Meeks was a default starter under Doug Collins but his role here will be as a short minutes shooter. Whether it’ll work with the Lakers is debatable – Brown didn’t give his gunners a lot of rope last season. I’ll say this, Meeks fills a need and the Lakers went after him pretty hard.

Christian Eyenga runs the floor, throws down some monster dunks, and the coaches like him. He’ll get a look this season but there won’t be a lot of available minutes. I’ve been reminded that Eyenga is no longer a Laker. As I’ve noted several times, my brain is still foggy after getting Steve Nash and Dwight Howard in the same off-season. It’s all still a giddy haze.

When Devin Ebanks entered (restricted) free agency, his agent said he was looking for more playing time. He’s at a crossroads in his young career – there’s obvious potential but he needs some room to grow. I’m not sure how that works with this star-driven lineup but it’ll be interesting to watch. He’s back for a one-year deal.

Antawn Jamison figures to fill the sixth man role this season. He’s been in the league a long time but he’s still putting up numbers. He’s never been known as a defensive stopper but he’ll get after it on the boards now and then – two years ago he grabbed 23 rebounds against the Knicks. He’s a great pickup at the veteran minimum salary.

Earl Clark is a utility big man who came in the Orlando trade. Clark flirted with free agency earlier in the summer. It’s doubtful that he’ll get much playing time here.

Jordan Hill didn’t get off the bench until late in the season last year but he made a difference with energy and raw athleticism. He’s by no means a finished product but he’ll see some minutes at the center position, especially in the early part of the season.

And then, the rookies, Darius Johnson-Odom and Robert Sacre. If you’ve been counting, there isn’t room for both of them on the roster and to be honest, there probably isn’t room for even one, given the fact that Mitch prefers to keep the 15th slot open. I liked Sacre’s court hustle and attitude during summer league and at any rate, they’ll be in camp and they’ll give it a shot.

This above is by no means the definitive list. If I’ve left somebody out, post it here. If Matt Barnes has finally dealt with the tentacles of the law, post it here. If Slava Medvedenko makes his long lost return, I’m buying rounds all night long. Otherwise, let’s hear how you see the roster shaping up – sub patterns, rotations, weaknesses and strengths and any needs that haven’t yet been filled.

– Dave Murphy

Dave Murphy

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30 responses to Saturday Reading: Replenished Reserves

  1. Eyenga was dealt to ORL in the Howard deal.

  2. Yeap, Eyenga is gone.

  3. If the FO spend 1/2 mi to get DJO draft pick, I believe they intend to use him.

    Or that was just a trade chip?

  4. I’m really interested in how our rotations are going to shape up this year. Will we do the same thing that we did when Odom was on the team? Start Pau/Howard, but bring Jamison in for Pau earlier than normal to run with the first team. Then sub out Howard and run Pau/Jamison or Hill/Jamison?

    Also, who will finish games? Will we see Jamison paired with one of our bigs this year to close out games? Phil never trusted Bynum to finish games, but I’m willing to bet that Howard won’t get that same treatment.

    It will be interesting to see how many minutes Kobe plays this year now that we, assumedly, have a decent backup for him. I would love to see his minutes reduced to Steve Nash numbers- or closer to 30 mpg. That will do a couple of things:
    1. Reduce the wear on his body.
    2. Make him fresher at the end of games- which is something that, along with age, made him less effective at closing.
    3. This will be an organic way of reducing his usage.

    Will we see Kobe play a little 3 spot this year and run Jodie Meeks alongside him for stretches? Or, will we see Ebanks as the sole backup to Metta?

    One of my main concerns is that Steve Nash will be playing reduced minutes as he usually does. How will this affect our point guards? Hopefully, this is where the Princeton offense comes in. If Steve Blake and Darius Morris can be, for lack of a better word, hidden by our offensive scheme, then perhaps they can be adequate backups.

    I haven’t watched enough of Duhon to even know what his capabilities are. I must say that everyone is pretty low on their expectations are for the guy though.

  5. I will be interested to see who backs up Nash, and it matters since Nash will (unless Brown gets silly about it) only go about 30 MPG. I assume it is Steve Blake’s job to lose, but Morris’ size may help him. When I saw Duhon last year, he looked very bad.

  6. I obviously missed a couple things when writing this – I included Eyenga and forgot to list Clark (since remedied). I agree with rr that the PG backup slot is Blake’s to lose.

    Phil – re: Johnson-Odom, it’s hard to say as things have changed since draft night. They’ll have to cut at least one player from the present roster.

  7. I honestly don’t see why we shouldn’t have the best bench in the league next year.

  8. WRT Kevin’s points:

    I think Kobe will play a little 3 unless the team brings Barnes back, and I think we will see Jamison in pretty early, but I think in the first part of the year, it may be Jamison coming in for Howard, rather than for Pau. Meeks is good enough that you will want him out there 18-22 minutes, and I think Kobe will still want to go 32-36 unless the game is a blowout.

    These are certainly nice things to be talking about as compared to last year.

  9. Dave,

    BTW, it’s “Johnson-Odom”, not the other way.

  10. Weaknesses: SF position, FT shooting, transition defense (can get better with practice)

    Strengths: Rebounding, Passing, 4 legit options for end of games purposes, Paint protection, Coaching (after hearing Carrill speak highly of Jordan and our coaches resumes are impressive on wiki)

    Take Pau and Ron out at the 5 min mark bring in Meeks, Jamison. (Nash, Meeks, Kobe, Jamison, Dwight). Take out Nash, Kobe at the 2 min. (Blake, Meeks, Ebanks, Jamison, Dwight). Go exclusively to Dwight and put shooters around him. We still need to make him comfortable moving forward. Nothing signed sealed and delivered on paper just yet.

    Start 2nd: (Blake, Meeks, Ebanks, Jamison, Hill). Brown really has to trust the bench with such older players even if it means piutting 5 bench players on the floor at the same time. Bring in Ron at the 9 min mark (Blake, Meeks, Ron, Jamison, Hill). Bring back the starting 5 at the 6 min mark to finish the 2nd. Then the same for the 2nd half.

    Nash, Kobe = 32 mins. Ron = 32 mins. Dwight = 36 mins. Pau = 26 mins. Meeks, Jamison = 22 mins. Blake = 16 mins. Hill = 12 mins. Ebanks = 10 mins.

  11. We are set to win now, but it is always wise to look at what we will do down the road – I am sure Mitch is doing it now. What I mean by this is that some of the coaches will probably be looking specifically at the younger players during training camp. If either of the two rookies jumps out as a person who could play several years in the league, I suspect we will see either Duhon, Glock, or Clark finding another home. Yeah, there is money there but, with the drop-off in contracts in two years, we have a real need to develop low cost role players now, rather than having to offer contracts later. We will really need to have a couple of big signings in 14/15 and the new CBA makes all this much more difficult.

    From what I hear, Clark is an interesting case and I am watching to see how high is basketball IQ is and how quickly he adjusts to a read-and-react system.

  12. Pau & Howard start. Pau has a feel on how things are in the paint. Jamison checks in for DH. Pau moves to C and Jamison to PF. Hill checks in for Pau. Lead up by another 10. DH checks for Jamison. Hill moves to PF. Pau checks in for Hill….and so on.

    I can’t wait.

  13. @ 10, Kevin:

    No disrespect, but if you’re forecasting Pau to only play 26 mins a game, I definitely feel that you’re short-changing him a bit. FFT (Food For Thought):

    1. If the Lakers are to incorporate the Princeton Offense, as planned, Pau, with his excellent passing skills, solid mid-range jumper and high b-ball IQ is the perfect fit.

    2. With the addition of ‘General Nash’, Pau’s skill-set allows for the Lakers to work the Pick n Roll Option to near perfection being that Pau, after setting the initial pick, can be successful @ either rolling to the hole or popping out for a short jumper.

    3. With all do respect to J-Hill, Pau’s size and (still good/reliable) back to the basket game allows for him to not only be our starting PF, but also our ‘best’ back-up Center. This is vital, considering D-12’s injury status.

    Just a small sample size, but reasons such as this has me to believe that it’s imperative that Pau is on the floor for more than 26 mins per game.

  14. Kevin_

    I don’t agree that SF and transition D are a weakness. Such a lot of our issues dealing with the transition came off of poorly executed offense. I don’t think we’ll have the same trouble with Steve Nash controlling the O. What DH12 brings in transition D is difficult to compare to anything without coming off as hyperbolic. He changes side of the court at speeds unheard of from the center position. Ron’s anticipation and hand speed (and strength) are also a factor in slowing the transition of the opposing team. I’m very interested to see how Dwight and Ron complement each other on defense in general but with better execution on O and DH12, I don’t quite see transition D as a weakness. So, this bring us to the Small Forward position. No, we don’t have depth there but MWP is still a good player and a great defender. He has the ability to change the game and any player with that ability is hard to call a weakness. Lets just say, he ain’t no Devean George and I don’t think we would have called Rick Fox a weakness just because he wasn’t Shaq or Kobe. Ron has game left in him and it’s going to be fun to see what Nash does for Metta’s 3PT%. I would not be surprised to see Ron shoot around 40% from 3, just based on the Nash factor. Couple that with training camp that helps to maximize spacing (a huge factor in the Princeton Offense) and I think Ron will be a much improved 3PT shooter. Give us that and his defense and I’d call his contribution a strength.

  15. On the other hand, I still don’t see the LALs creating many more TOs then last season. Maybe the better defense will create turn overs from squeezing out the opponents ability to take advantage of favored options. Teams may start forcing the ball into places that they are not so comfortable exploiting, hence increased TOs. So, forcing TOs may or may not continue to be a weakness but forcing teams to take bad shots and then securing the rebound is just as good as forcing a turnover, and we have plenty of the former ability.

  16. Why is Barnes’ status connected to his ongoing legal matters but Hill’s is not? Is this really a moral or logistical issue, or is it just that Hill is the more valuable player? It would seem to me that of the two, Hill is one potentially facing real time.

  17. P. Ami: I can agree with you on transition defense. I think that can improve just with practice alone. And spacing and offensive execution as you mentioned will definitely improve transition defense as well.

    What I don’t think is debatable is SF being a concern. Ron is still our best on ball defender, creates extra possessions with steals and has success in the post. But he’s lost foot speed can’t defend in space and has been an erratic wildly inconsistent offensive player his 3 years as a Laker. He’s never been a great shooter many of his 3s w/ Lakers have been open shots which he fails to make on a consistent basis. Nash will get him good looks and they’ll be the same corner and wing 3s he’s had last three years. He can only improve from last season but if he can’t make open shot teams will sag off him and we’ll be playing 4 on 5 again. In his resurgent April he shot 33% from 3.

    Ebanks is a great hustle player who can get out in the open court. If he extends his range beyond 15 ft and Ron shoots in the high 30s I like the combination of him and Ron even more.

    The starting 5 will draw so much attention it should make it that much easier for Ron. But his inconsistent play the last 3 years and Ebanks range are legitimate concerns for our SF.

  18. lil pau,
    Hill has been signed and Barnes has not. That is a pretty clear indication what the FO thinks. Barnes is a known quantity and Hill still has upside.

    We have 14 signed players and two rookies. That would seem to indicate that we will not sign another player, unless we decide a signed player actually hurts our club.

  19. It great to see only one or two weaknesses on paper. As Miami showed great players and coaching can negate weaknesses. But Ron has been a liability a lot and is better suited to play PF imo.

  20. Tra: I agree with all your points. With a ten man rotation that’s how I would distribute minutes. Pau would be on the floor with Nash for all 26. Pau is in Duncan, Garnett territory where you know he’ll produce when he’s on the floor. How many ever minutes he plays determines how effective he’ll be down the road. Pau having knowledge of a similar offense and practice time makes the learning curve easier.

  21. @7 Why we shouldn’t have the best bench in the league next year.

    How ’bout SAS-even w/o Ginobli counted as bench, Splitter, Blair, Neal, Green and Mills average a PER over 18. Lakes need 1 and 3 back up. Hoping Blake and Glock don’t play and Barnes signs (minimum) to play MWP’s sub.

  22. Going back to yesterday’s ‘Fast Break Thoughts’ Thread, I’m in agreement with Darius & rr where as it still hasn’t really resonated with me that ‘General’ Nash and DH12 have been out-fitted with FB&G Jerseys .. Damn it feels grand being a Los Angeles Lakers Fan.

  23. I don’t have specific minutes for each player on the roster overall, but there are a few guidelines that would seem critical:

    1) Don’t play any starters more than 36 minutes during the regular season–except in the most dire emergency.

    2) Go 12 deep. Most rotations should be automatic, but specialist units and certain specialist players should always be considered and used when and if appropriate.

    For example, Earl Clark may be able to handle a defensive assignment to guard very tall 3’s (like Durant/James). The Lakers might use a youth unit for change of pace (Morris, Meeks, Ebank, Hill, and Howard). The Lakers might have a Princeton unit, consisting of Blake, Kobe, MWP, Pau, and Jamison. There could be many more.

    3. Even though pg is the position where the Lakers have the most players, they don’t yet have anyone to maintain team focus when Nash is resting.

    Morris could conceivably grow into that role, but the Lakers may be able to find a more suitable veteran.

    4. The team should arrive healthy for the playoffs. Starters might occasionally be asked to take a game off during the regular season to stay rested.

    5. Playoff rotations will be different.

  24. Interesting note from the STATS, LLC tracking camera (via Zach Lowe):

    In terms of dribble penetration (defined as driving from a space 20+ feet from the hoop into a space 10 ft or less from the hoop), the Lakers were dead last in the league at 7.2 such drives a game. Ty Lawson himself outstripped our entire team. I knew we sucked at penetration (and of course we have elite post players to utilize, unlike most teams), but that’s kind of chilling. Another reason to look forward to the Nash Effect.

  25. IMHO, we should keep things simple by separating between a first and second team (Hill/Jamison/Ebanks/Meeks/Blake), where in each unit plays 8 minutes together before subbing out entirely for the other.
    Starters would each average 32 min a night – and spend of all it together to speed up familiarity with each other, and whatever offensive/defensive schemes the coaching staff wants to put together.
    The only worry is with the second unit, where there is no real shot creator. The Princeton offense may help alleviate some of those concerns.

  26. If a system allowed 2nd tier players to play competitively, we wouldn’t have this star-studded league we have today. So while the Princeton offense may be great, I doubt it will do much more than create a semblance of purpose while the bench is out there… and for it to work we’ll have to have a starter at the post.

    It would probably work best with Gasol leading the bench and not sharing court with Howard other than the beginning and the end of games…

  27. drrayeye,
    You don’t visit us often anymore, but your comments are always thought provoking.

    The league is geared around stars, making it more difficult to develop role players. However, Pops seems to find ways to bring along players and there is no reason Mike Brown couldn’t use something like specialized rotations to accomplish a similar purpose.

  28. We need this season’s version of the ‘Bench Mob’ from 2008/2009/2010. That second team was fabulous with Farmar turning up the tempo, Brown or Ariza finishing in transition, and Odom being the swiss army knife that could bring scoring, rebounding, and match-up problems. Though, that second team was very athletic, and those players were very solid–they could have been starters on some NBA teams–if this year’s ‘bench mob’ can find an identity, they could be very effective.