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Darius Soriano —  November 20, 2013

In FB&G’s latest post in partnership with Draftstreet, we look at recent trends from Lakers’ players. Who’s doing well, who’s not, and some other general forecasting on the team. This Friday, Draftstreet is having another free-roll game that you can sign up for here. Just like last time, the game is free and offers cash prizes to the top finishers. So, again, sign up and see how good a team you can put together and possibly win some cash in the process.

On the rise
*I cannot think of a player with faster rising stock on this team than Jordan Hill. On the season Hill is averaging 10.4 points and 8.4 rebounds, but in the last 4 games as a starter those numbers jump to 18.8 points and 12 rebounds (4 offensive) in nearly 31 minute a night. Add to those numbers Hill’s nearly 2 blocks a game and the fact that he’s shown a willingness to kick the ball out to shooters after catching the ball on a dive out of the P&R, and Hill really is playing a complete game. There really isn’t anything negative to say about him at this point. If Hill can stay healthy and stay out of foul trouble while playing the full hustle style he’s made his name on and I see no reason why Hill can’t continue to be a double-double machine with some 20 point nights mixed in against opponents who don’t have strong team defenses.

*The other Laker who has really elevated his game lately is Steve Blake. We’ve touched on this topic already, so I won’t go into a lot of detail. But it bears repeating that after taking over for the injured Steve Nash as the starting PG, Blake has been racking up the assists and shooting a respectable percentage from the floor. On his best nights, Blake is also good for a double-double and, as long as he’s a primary ball handler, will have many opportunities to put up big assist numbers running the P&R in the half court and by finding teammates running the lane when the team gets out and runs.

Holding Steady
*The most consistent Laker all season has been…Jodie Meeks? If you’d have told me before the season this would be the case, I wouldn’t have believed you. But here Meeks is, leading the team in scoring and shooting insane percentages from the field nearly every night. On the season he’s hitting nearly 53% of his shots overall, including a pretty ridiculous 49.2% from behind the arc on 5 attempts per game. Meeks isn’t a huge rebounding or assist threat, but when he’s scoring as efficiently and effectively as he is this season, that really doesn’t matter.

The area I’ve probably been impressed most by Meeks is in his development as an off the dribble scorer both in the half and open court. Just last season Meeks struggled mightily when he had to put the ball on the floor to create his own shot at the rim, but this season he’s taking a giant leap forward in this area. It’s to the point that when defenders close out hard on him, he can put the ball on the floor and then read whether the D is going to step up or not and then make the correct play by either pulling up for the mid-range jumper or getting all the way to the rim. There are still plays where he loses his handle and commits a turnover, but those occur with less frequency this season and it shows in his overall effectiveness as a scorer.

Sliding down
*This doesn’t have as much to do with his play — though he could be a bit more consistent — but more with the fact that Xavier Henry’s role may be changing pretty soon. Henry is still capable of having big nights as evidenced by 15 point night on 6-8 shooting against the Pelicans just a little over a week ago. But, sooner or later (and likely sooner), Henry is going to see a dip in his minutes and a shift in his role with Kobe Bryant’s return on the horizon. With Wesley Johnson moving almost exclusively to the SF spot and Nick Young showing he’s more comfortable as a scorer off the bench, Henry is the most probable choice to be the guy who sees his minutes diminish and role altered when Kobe grabs his normal spot as the team’s starting shooting guard. And with Kobe now cleared to practice fully without restrictions, the odds are that Henry’s time as a regular rotation player will soon come to an end. This doesn’t mean that Henry will be completely eliminated from the rotation, but unlike Shawne Williams (who also saw his minutes dip after Jordan Hill emerged), there’s just not a natural place to play Henry or in a lineup that makes sense with Kobe, Young, and Johnson solidified into their roles.

Darius Soriano

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