The Los Angeles Lakers’ biggest weakness all season long was unquestionably their bench.
All year when Coach Mike Brown put in the second unit, it was very likely that the bench players would get outscored. After losing their best bench player from last year, Lamar Odom, the Lakers were left to fill his big shoes.
At the beginning of the year, Metta World Peace started on the bench, rookie Andrew Goudelock was getting playing time, and Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy were the back-up center and power forward. Towards the end, Coach Brown changed his rotation enough that McRoberts, Murphy, and Goudelock did not play unless the Lakers got into foul trouble.
With a year under his belt as the Los Angeles Lakers’ head coach, and his first true pre-season camp, Mike Brown should know his team well enough to set a specific and consistent rotation with his returning bench players. So let’s take a look at the team’s bench players and how they fit into the team’s rotation.
Back-up point guard Steve Blake had a roller-coaster type of season. He started off a little slow but then became a consistent scorer off the bench for the Lakers. He was knocking down outside shots and setting the tone for the bench play. It was not until he broke a rib mid-way through the season that his level of play dropped dramatically. He was hesitant to shoot and lacked confidence.
However, late in the season and throughout the playoffs, Steve Blake found his shooting touch and consistently knocked down three-pointers and played tough defense. If he can return to the Lakers with the confidence he had in the playoffs, he will be a solid back-up point guard, and even better if he could average anywhere from 9-12 points per game.
Hill certainly made a lasting impression on the Lakers fans when he got his big break in the second to last game of the season versus the Oklahoma City Thunder. He played 35 minutes, including most of the fourth quarter and all of overtime as his energy helped stage a double-digit comeback to beat the Thunder. He racked up 14 points and 15 rebounds.
His energy level and hustle can spark a lackluster Lakers bench that starts a Laker run. He never quits on a play, he battles for rebounds, and plays physical enough down low to frustrate the opposing players. He is the type of player a team needs as a back-up center or power forward, and look for his minutes to go up significantly this up-coming season.
Josh McRoberts is an expendable player. If the Lakers are looking to make a trade and need to free up money, he is someone who might not be on the team next year. Although his high-flying antics can really get the Lakers going, that seems to be all he has. He is a sub-par defender, a bit undersized for a power forward, and a lacks a true offensive attack. McRoberts is a hustle player and works hard every time he is on the court; unfortunately, his lack of defensive skills is a disadvantage for the Lakers.
Last year’s first pick of the draft for the Los Angeles Lakers, point guard Darius Morris, has some large expectations to fulfill. He was a little bit of a disappointment his first season, but we have to remember he was simply a rookie. Not many players can come into the NBA and be spectacular, but with a year under his belt, and Ramon Sessions testing the waters as a free agent, it is his time to shine.
Morris needs to learn to use his 6’4″, 190 lb body to his advantage. His size, vision, and knowledge of the game are what got him drafted. Now he needs to work on his shot, defense, and confidence. Depending on what the Lakers do this off-season about the point guard position, this is Morris’ year to show the Lakers that he was worth the second round pick.
The Lakers second pick of last years draft of shooting guard Andrew Goudelock was brought in to be a reliable knock down perimeter shooter. A top scorer in college, Goudelock struggled at the beginning of the year but soon after found his stroke. He began to show the Lakers that he is a shooter and quickly became Kobe Bryant’s back up.
When teams started noticing him and taking away the three-point shot from him, he showed everyone that he can score in other ways–by driving to the basket and shooting what soon became his signature shot; the floater. At times, Goudelock was out of control and dribbled too much, but he could be an important part to the Lakers, that three-point shooter they have been missing for years.
Christian Eyenga spent 98 percent of last season with the Lakers D-League affiliate, the D-Fenders. He was called up for the last game of the regular season and the playoffs to fill the seat of the absent Metta World Peace. Not playing much at all, nine total minutes in the playoffs, this was a good stint to get his feet wet playing in the NBA. It could be just the edge that he looking for to help him make the team during the off-season. Racking up a few minutes of playoff basketball for the Lakers can go a long way in becoming ready for the NBA. However, as a small forward, and a position the Lakers are not lacking, it will be difficult and not surprising for him to find a roster spot on this team.