Lakers Will Need Starters To Prop Up The Bench

Darius Soriano —  October 22, 2012 — 41 Comments

This Lakers team is improved from last season. Simply look at their roster.

The additions of Nash and Howard are upgrades to the players they replaced and that’s true even though one of the guys who’s departed was second team all NBA last year. And though it may not seem like it, this is also true for the players occupying the team’s bench.

Consider the following:

  • Jodie Meeks should be Kobe’s primary back up, a position that was manned by Jason Kapono, Andrew Goudelock, and Steve Blake last season. Kapono isn’t currently employed, Goudelock may not make the Lakers’ roster, and Blake is a point guard.
  • Devin Ebanks will be the primary back up at SF replacing Matt Barnes. Barnes is the more proven player, but early returns say Ebanks is very much improved from last season and offers tangible qualities like size, length, and speed that Barnes either lacks or are diminishing. Even if you call a Barnes/Ebanks swap a wash (which would be fair), I’ll take the younger player on the upswing and not look back.
  • Antawn Jamison is the team’s swing forward and replaces Troy Murphy and Josh McRoberts. Murphy, like Kapono, doesn’t have a job at this point and McRoberts is trying to find his way in Orlando. Even though Jamison hasn’t yet looked great off the bench, he’s a superior player to Murphy and has a better skill set for this Lakers team than McRoberts.
  • Jordan Hill is a returning player but is worth mentioning here because of his small sample of games for the Lakers last season. Once he became a rotation player, he never relinquished his spot and proved to be valuable contributor down the stretch of the season. Like Jamison, he’s a superior player to Murphy (while also being a superior player to McRoberts as well) and, health permitting, having him for an entire season will be an upgrade.

Go down the line and this group trumps last year’s. Considering how much lack of depth hurt the Lakers’ last season, this is a good thing.

That said, when you zoom in on this group of reserves there’s a common theme. None of these guys are stand out players as individuals. They are, in the truest sense of the word role players. Their skill-sets are ones that are meant to complement others, not shine on their own. (Contrast this to the Kings who brought Marcus Thornton and Aaron Brooks off their bench, both of whom could start for several teams in the league and have been ‘instant offense’ players their entire careers.)

For the reserves to be at their best, then, they’ll need to be integrated into lineups with starting players, not trotted onto the floor together like an NBA version of a line change in hockey. These guys simply don’t have the requisite talent as individuals to carry a unit and shouldn’t be asked to.

This seems to be something that Mike Brown understands even though he’s not yet shown it this preseason. Before the Lakers’ first exhibition game against the Warriors, Brown spoke at length about what he wanted to see from his team in that game and through the exhibition season. One thing he commented on was that the odds were very high that at least one and probably two of his big four would be on the floor at all times when he sorted out a regular rotation.

Due to injuries, that plan hasn’t yet come to fruition, but we did start to see some of that Sunday night against the Kings. Before Brown brought back in all his starters to close the game, he used the lineup I’ve argued would be the best P&R lineup when Nash, Meeks, Ebanks, Jamison, and Howard all shared the floor. We only saw that lineup for a short time, but it was good to see that combination if only briefly.

When the season gets into full swing, however, we will need to see more of that. The Lakers don’t have a modern day version of Vinny Johnson to bring off their bench. There is no James Harden or Lamar Odom waiting in the wings. Brown will need to supplement his reserves with the right combination of starters to maximize his bench production. And, if he does this correctly, the bench may still be outscored in the classic sense but we won’t see nearly as many long stretches of poor play when substitutions are made.

The preseason hasn’t quite proven this true yet, but this Lakers bench is better. They’ll just still need help from the starters to make sure they’re affective.

Darius Soriano

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41 responses to Lakers Will Need Starters To Prop Up The Bench

  1. Keeping goudelock and/or morris over CDR is a travesty. You know what you are getting with AG & DM but CDR had some nice upside.

  2. Nice post and analysis Darius, leaving lots of questions. First, if you have to keep two of the “Big Four” on the floor at all times, what does it mean for these guys’ minutes? In particular, can you still possibly keep Steve Nash at an optimum 30 per game to keep him from burning out by playoff time?

    Moreover, while its true that this group is an upgrade over last season (how could they not be?), not only is there no standout individual talent, but all of these guys (with the possible exception of Hill) have yet to prove themselves in their anticipated roles with the Lakers.

    Unless they come up with another move or so, depth could be the Lakers achilles heal this season – particularly if one of their aging stars gets hurt for an extended period.

  3. Not surprised that Chris Douglas-Roberts was released. If he was a free agent signing, it would be a different story. Guaranteed contracts came into play here.

    It’s rare that a team uses a 10-man rotation (the Suns in 2010 come to mind and most teams use nine guys) so I don’t know what the fuss is all about when it comes to the bench. Granted, it’s obviously not the best bench but, as Darius already explained, it should be much better than last year’s.

    Anyway, the bench will look much better playing with a starter or two here (which is, you know, normal in NBA rotations). Antawn Jamison being flanked by a Steve Nash or/and a Dwight Howard is far more effective than an Antawn Jamison being flanked by a Darius Morris or/and a Robert Sacre.

    So let’s see what the regular season has to offer first.

  4. This bench isn’t far away from being a good bench. Hill is a very good back up PF. Ebanks looks to be a solid back up SF. Meeks started many games last year at SG… He is a quality back up SG. The thing they are missing is a guy who can create offense for himself… They also are missing a back up PG. So they are only one back up PG from having a nice second unit. One penetrating PG away from being able to run “line changes” like so many coaches like to do nowadays.

  5. Simple question here: why not move Metta to the bench and start Ebanks? Should get better results this year for both guys in their new roles. Devin wasn’t ready for the role last year and Metta was injured. Now, things have changed. Metta would be the only one on the bench who could create shots as a point forward.

  6. I agree with Aaron that we need a penetrating guard / shot creator from the 2nd unit.

    This unit on its own cannot create their own offense.

    Is the CDR release official – also terrence william and johhny flynn were released if we wanted to take a look at them

  7. Greg Somogyi released…expected. CDR waived…disappointing but not a shock. Agree with #1 above that CDR has more upside than Morris. But DM has a guarantee and CDR doesn’t and that is what drove the decision. I will be upset though if DJO is waived in favor of keeping Goudelock as the financial impact is neutral and firmly believe that DJO can have significantly more impact as a player. Stay tuned. We are currently carrying 16 on the roster.

  8. What? CDR released? Damn! And here I was thinking he had a shot at being our shot creator off the bench.
    On a related note, while individual pieces have been upgraded, we still need that creator on the second unit. Expecting Blake, Duhon or Morris to break their man off the dribble and/or draw the attention of multiple defenders is a little ambitious. I suspect that is another reason why Brown wanted to instill the Princeton Offense, but even there (like in the triangle), you need someone to collapse the defense to take advantage of our perimeter O.

  9. CDR will probably turn out to be this year’s Gerald Green. The numbers game is unforgiving.

  10. Murphy looks to be Jamison’s equal right now. Flat shot and no defense. Scoring is what he’s good at but he is struggling. Lakers added depth to lighten the load off the starters. Hill and Ebanks aren’t proven scoring contributors Lakers need Jamsion to put points up.

    Kobe seems to be worried also the last couple interviews he’s diverted from the question to point out the bench needs to get it together.

  11. Yes on paper it appears better. But then on paper I should be really smart and on paper the USA appears to be bankrupt.

    Prey they play better as they will be very much needed. Blake, Duhon and Jamison are my biggest concerns.

  12. While I agree that the bench is lacking (after an all-star level starting unit, it’s only natural that we have a depleted bench) I don’t see it as a problem.

    Sure I would like a better bench, but let’s be real. We should be looking at how to best use what we’ve got and not worry about what we could’ve gotten had there been no salary cap and whatnot.

    Assuming we play the starters 30-35 minutes each, our bench guys (assuming 5 bench players) will have to play 13-18 minutes each.

    How we can stagger those minutes with at least two starters each will be tricky, especially since we want our starters play with each other as well.

  13. Please everyone before I get jumped on I would like to say my peace and then move along, it is time to let Pau go so he can be the main post presence on another team. Thats where he excels, he is a great passer, intelligent, articulate, two time champion of this league, but he is lost on the perimeter. Thats where he will stay because he might have had a slim chance or gripe about wanting more touches in the paint with Drew around, now with Dwight the paint will be a distant memory. Where is the Pau of the Olympics, taking it to Lebron, Chandler and whoever else stood in his way. IT IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN WITH THIS TEAM. Too many alpha’s for him to assert himself without second guessing his decision. Pau has proved that the post is his love child, and it is time for them to be reunited somewhere else.

  14. nash meeks ebanks jamison howard
    duhon/blake brynt artest hill gasol
    and thats 2 startn line ups

  15. #15, Correct. now we just have to get someone to point that out to coach brown. Except I’d rather have Glock with the kobe artest hill gasol lineup. People forget that glock avg’d ppg in blake absence last year. Glock as a pg is far and away better according to PER prodcuation as a pg than Blake/duhon. Let Nash and Howard leave at the 6mins mark to run the bench. Let Glock (6’3) replace Nash. Glock, Kobe, Artest, Hill and Pau (center). Pau gets a chance to be a center.

  16. I agree with the bench comparison to last year and said as much about 3 weeks ago. We have nowhere to go but up, when it comes to the bench. I think you guys are forgetting how bad our bench was last year. Kapono, Murphy, McRoberts, Luke? How quickly we forget. Well, I have not forgotten. Perhaps it was a few of us posted daily last year, about how bad our bench was and how we lacked talent. This is no longer the case. We have the best starters in the league, and our bench is improved from last year (not saying much – granted). In any case, 1/2 of this board was predicting big things for the Lakers last year, so how can the pessimism be so rampant this year? We were “6th” last year, so with the improvement that has been made, a rational fan must conclude that we are a serious title threat. Of course, if you are an irrational/entitled fan such as myself, you can expect nothing less than the start of a new era (which will be the third of KB’s career).

  17. How is size an intangible? Seems like it would be the most tangible of all basketball qualities.

  18. The interesting thing that I took from the NBA GM survey: GMs voted Brian Shaw the #1 assistant coach in the league. Hopefully he’ll have the big chair soon.

  19. I wish I could watch the Lakers so I could weigh in on these topics. This new channel not being on DirecTV sucks the big one.

  20. paypa wrote on October 22, 2012 at 6:46 pm
    nash meeks ebanks jamison howard
    duhon/blake brynt artest hill gasol
    and thats 2 startn line ups

    Everyone on here, on lakers ground and many blogs agree with this. If mike brown does do this as our bench line ups he needs to go. They compliment each other soo well! I want to see a little more of Duhon, he is much better of a defender than Blake and can’t be any worse on offense (they are actually both great 3 point shooters on thier past eams)

    Also another line-up I would love to see against the heat and te thunder (I read about it on silverscreenandroll) is the small ball Killer line up of Nash Meeks Kobe Artest Howard. That line up gets me excited they would be great defensively and offensively

  21. If mike brown doesn’t do this**

  22. Good article. Its still a work in progress, but I am slowly beginning to like this team. My only gripe is still with the tv announcers. I have to mute pretty much the entire game. Those corny bozo’s have got to go. Get some edge man!

  23. Isn’t it a little bit early for trade chatter? I’m starting to agree with (gasp) Hollinger. This is a 4th place team. They look lazy because it’s just preseason but, I don’t think they will take the season as serious. I thought it was Drew and LO, but it’s a team problem. OKC, Denver, and the Clippers all are deeper and way more atheletic.

  24. Not having Time Warner just sucks – however, I hate the company, so there is that.

    One other benefit might be that I wasn’t able to watch the preseason. Therefore, I really can’t get as riled up as the rest of you.

    My late mother was schizophrenic and Laker fans remind me of her – or perhaps it is the manic/depressive syndrome. This summer this fanbase was so high it was almost impossible to avoid a letdown. Now the letdown is so extreme that I am surprised someone isn’t suggesting we trade Dwight Howard to give Pau a chance to shine.

    I know this blog is a place to let off steam, but we haven’t seen a team with this much talent since this blog started. So now every player becomes our “Smush Parker” and the coach is “Del Harris”. Geeeeeeesh!

  25. If this blog is a place to let off steam, I have not seen a freaken game yet, everything I try is blacked out, and I unfortunately have very low expectations that any cable or satellite company that I can get in my area will be having a Lakers channel to watch this season. I really should keep a glass is half full attitude, though.

  26. Lighten up, Francis!! The defensive anchor, who is brand new to the team, has played for one game. The primary bench “big” has been hurt. The point guard is new to the team. The backup point guard was hurt for a significant portion of training camp. 4 of the top nine players are brand-new to the team, a 5th has been with them for less than half a season.

    They are doing fine at this point.

    5-5 after 10 games of the regular season would be fine, if everyone is healthy and they are making progress.

  27. i just hope they will do well during the regular season…this is a different team now compared two years ago…go lakers!!!

  28. I don’t think the roster that starts the season will be the roster that ends the season. We have a glut of PG’s and a small logjam at the forward positions. My money says Mitch finds a way to turn 2 nickels into a dime for a talented bench player at the trade deadline. Hey, he got Sessions for Walton and Kapono last season, he can get something for Orlando’s castoffs.

  29. I’m pretty confident that Hill, Ebanks & Meeks will deliver us quality play and mins off of the bench. And while I still have faith in Blake to be able to man the point once Nash takes a breather, the back-up PG position and Jamison are definitely concerns for me.

    Blake will need to be more assertive and less hesitant when called upon to produce. On way too many occassions, he’s passed up wide open jumpers since arriving in L.A. We’ve seen ‘glimpses’ of the Steve Blake for which the FO descended upon him a 4yr – 16 mil contract. This season, more than ever, we need much more than ‘glimpses’; we need Positive Consistency. Will he live up to the contract, of course not. Have past injuries contributed to his ineffective play, IMO, not really. BL (Bottom Line): He has to make an Impact.

    In regards to Jamison, I’ll take a ‘wait n see’ approach. While I believe we can all agree that he won’t produce points wise for us as he did for a terrible Cavs team, it’ll be interesting to see How much he gives us offensively. Especially considerin’ the fact that he’s a defensive liability (to say the least). I won’t go as far as Aaron has in the past and state that he’s washed up, but like Kevin has stated recently, if he doesn’t show up, Earl Clark should be given an opportunity to contribute.

  30. Everyone has said that Jamison is a defensive liability, and I’ve watched the games and just don’t see it. He’s given a good effort most of the time and has kept mistakes to a minimum. That being said, he’s had some definite matador moments. I wonder if all the negativity is more based on his reputation than what we’ve seen this preseason. Others’ impressions?

  31. I agree with #14 PulledPork. Gasol is lost on the perimeter. It happened last year with AB and it is not going to get any better this year with Dwight in the post. Why not use this “asset” to upgrade some other position on this roster? Just asking.

  32. There are bright spots in this team exhibited by the starters, remember this is their first game together, so essentially the preseason just started the other night. As they go along, those passes will be more precise and no more guessing where they should be standing. I saw a little of veterans playing in sync but more of a pick-up game in the park with lots of hotdoggin’ and loose exhibition. Perhaps, they are also searching their roles in this new Princeton Offense. The second unit is the same, they were spending more time on lateral passing, waiting for someone to do the cuts before penetrating or else try those lucky strikes on the outside. No rebounds, no box in and all moving to each his own.

    I wonder what would happen if you let them play loose and designed their own pick & roll games between Nash and Dwight; Nash and Pau; double screen for Nash, isolation for Kobe then kick it out to Metta, alley hoop from Kobe to Dwight, Metta penetrating defenses with his strength while setting up Dwight. There are so many variations you can think of, avoiding duplication of their skill set. All their specialties can be incorporated into a new system that is unique and unheard of as the New Laker Offense. I]s like to compare the starters as Grandmasters in Chess. They can design their own system, incorporate it with the system of the other and improved on it. No need of being spoon fed or change what has been working over the years. On the other hand, they’d need motivation and self correction, communicate more. However, if they insist in teaching the old alpha-dogs with P.O., it would take sometime, maybe February before everybody would be in the same page.

  33. Azzemotto,
    The Lakers put Gasol on the Market for an entire season… As it turned out because of his age, declining athletic ability, and contract other teams weren’t willing to give up enough to make the Lakers bite. Gasol isn’t going anywhere because He is more valuable to LA than he is to other teams.

  34. I agree that Jamison has been playing mostly solid initial D to my eyes this preseason, but somehow players just light up and go at him. His reputation causes whoever he’s trying to defend to swell up with confidence and thus they are hitting well guarded shots. In addition, even if his initial defense is serviceable he’s not getting the loose balls on second efforts or on the weakside. I have seen very few contested defensive rebounds that he’s come up with.

  35. Good point Aaron. I had not thought about how Gasol was on the market for the entire season last year. That said, he is still lost on the perimeter. Maybe we need to use him differently? Maybe more with the second team? Just saying.

  36. As I stated in my deleted post, haha 🙂 . MB needs to utilize Gasol on the block vs 2nd units in the 15 minutes that Howard will be resting.

    And, I’m not so sure, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Mitch held Gasol out for the possibility of a bigtime deal (howard). (It’s all speculation just as arron’s post was above about trying to trade gasol last year)

    Seems to me there are some teams that are close that would love a post option (Gasol) and that have depth that they could part with.

    (This post can’t get deleted, right?)

  37. Azzemotto,
    I’m one of the few who don’t think Pau is lost on the perimeter. He plays there for his national team and with the Lakers for the last few years. I thought he played well last season. He was one of the better outside shooting PFs in the league. His problems have been in the postseason where he stops being able to hit that 18 footer.

  38. 1- I totally agree. Darius Morris is awful and I don’t honestly even see much potential. Goudelock may be an NBA player, but he’ll never be above replacement level in my opinion. I don’t understand the Lakers move from a potential standpoint.

  39. Darius – Do we have any reason to believe that Devin Ebanks will be able to take a step forward this season, on either offense or defense ? Did he work his 15 footer over the off-season, or pick up his defensive conditioning and footwork ? In short, why do you think he’s be better than Barnes was last season ?

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