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Lakers New Found Depth Breeds A New Team Identity Reviewed by Momizat on . [caption id="attachment_81703" align="alignright" width="300"] Photo Courtesy Of ESPN.com[/caption] When Dwight Howard deciding to leave the Lakers for Houston, [caption id="attachment_81703" align="alignright" width="300"] Photo Courtesy Of ESPN.com[/caption] When Dwight Howard deciding to leave the Lakers for Houston, Rating:
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Lakers New Found Depth Breeds A New Team Identity

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Photo Courtesy Of ESPN.com

Photo Courtesy Of ESPN.com

When Dwight Howard deciding to leave the Lakers for Houston, Plan B was in full effect and management executed their contingency plan.

The Lakers amnestied Metta World Peace, acquired a few players who took less money to play for the purple and gold, and then picked up some more players prior to training camp who unexpectedly made the final roster and have even become major contributors thus far.

Wesley Johnson, Chris Kaman, and Nick Young passed over more lucrative offers to come here. An improved and grown-up Jordan Farmar opted out of his overseas contract to rejoin the Lakers. Shawne Williams and Xavier Henry went from being unknown to most Lakers fans just a month ago to becoming rotation players and Jodie Meeks improved his game significantly from last season.

Yes, the Lakers may have lost the most coveted center in the league, but Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss have transformed this team into a young, three-point shooting (39.4 percent so far), deep team.

As of right now, 11 players are averaging more 14 or more minutes per game — with Jordan Hill averaging the least.

Add in Kobe Bryant, and the team’s number of potential regulars rises to 12.

Here’s a look at the team’s depth chart in traditional terms of point guards, shooting guards, small forwards, power forwards, and centers:

Point Guards

Shooting Guards

Small Forwards

Power Forwards

Centers

Steve Nash

Kobe Bryant (Injured)

Pau Gasol

Steve Blake

Xavier Henry

Chris Kaman

Jordan Farmar

Jodie Meeks

Wesley Johnson

Nick Young

Jordan Hill

Shawne Williams

(For the purposes of this chart, we’ll exclude players who haven’t seen much playing time and likely won’t in the near future.)

However, the team plays a versatile style of basketball where traditional positions aren’t always defined and many players often switch and play two or more positions, as you can see in the above chart. Here’s a look at the depth chart in more ambiguous terms:

Point Guards

G-Fs/Wings

Stretch Fours

Forward-Centers

Steve Nash

Kobe Bryant (Injured)

Shawne Williams

Pau Gasol

Steve Blake

Xavier Henry

Wesley Johnson

Chris Kaman

Jordan Farmar

Nick Young

Jordan Hill

Jodie Meeks

Even with this more ambiguous chart, it’s still hard to define certain positions in Mike D’Antoni’s system. For example, although Steve Blake is a point guard, he’s currently starting as the team’s off-guard. Additionally, Wes Johnson is more traditionally considered a small forward or wing player, but will often be asked to fill the role of stretch four for this team.

Nonetheless, you have Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar all capable of directing the offense. Then there is Pau Gasol doing his thing down low and in the high post along with Chris Kaman and Jordan Hill. There are a couple of designated stretch fours, with scorers, shooters, and athletes on the wings.

Essentially, the Lakers have a lot of players who are capable of producing on any given night. This doesn’t always translate into wins, however, and many of the players are unproven.

Unproven doesn’t necessarily mean good or bad, but does indicate that consistency may be an issue at first, often times when on the road or in crunch situations. However, it also means that these players may be playing with a chip on their respective shoulders and will hopefully add an edge to the team — especially given the fact that most of the players have contracts that expire at the end of the season.

Each member genuinely seems to want their teammates to succeed, and for the team to succeed as a whole. There’s a nice mixture of personality, age, and talent, which makes this team intriguing.

There are changes that need to be made in terms of  finding playing time for certain players, or even shortening the rotation at some point, but the abundance of capable players is a good problem to have. Similarly, when Kobe returns, I’m sure the rotation won’t be extended to 12 and could even drop to as low as nine as the distribution of minutes might not be quite as equal as it is now. As of now, Steve Blake is currently averaging the most minutes at 29.5.

There doesn’t seem to be any discontent regarding playing time just yet, though, perhaps because no one is being left out of the rotation and adding minutes to one player could result in a “DNP – CD” for another. (Following Sunday’s game, Chris Kaman did say that he wants more minutes — alongside Pau Gasol, that is.)

So far, everything seems to be working out well. Yes, the Lakers are currently just 2-2, but they’ve shown flashes of becoming
a solid team — defeating the Clippers on opening night, playing the San Antonio Spurs tough on Friday night, and defeating the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday evening.

The one player whose minutes absolutely need to be addressed, in my opinion, is Jordan Hill. Hill is one of the Lakers’ better players as admitted by Mike D’Antoni, and D’Antoni vowed he would find him more minutes, but still hasn’t managed to do so just yet.

On Sunday night, Hill proved to be a hero for the Lakers with countless hustle plays and offensive rebounds late in the ballgame helping the Lakers defeat the Hawks, 105-103.  Similarly, Hill’s OREB% is currently at an astounding 29.5 percent, which is the highest in the league among players who’ve played in more than one game this season. For edification, Hill finished fourth in the rankings last season (at 18.1 percent in 29 games), but trailed three players whose total games played added up to just 29.

Coach D’Antoni certainly likes tweaking with his lineup and style of play, and normally prefers to play with a stretch four on the floor, but played Hill alongside Pau Gasol during the crucial stretch of Sunday’s game and it paid off. Finding minutes for Hill should definitely be a priority for this team as he can efficiently contribute on a regular basis.

Nonetheless, the Lakers have something they haven’t had in a while: Depth. No longer will Steve Nash be asked to play 30 minutes on a nightly basis, or will Pau Gasol have to total the second most minutes among any NBA player, as he did two seasons ago. Moreover, with all the depth the Lakers have in the back court and on the wings, Kobe Bryant may even be able to keep his minutes low when he returns, instead of feeling the need to play heavy minutes as he did towards the end of last season.

Four games into the regular season, and it appears that the Bench Mob is back and better than ever!

The Lakers may have lost D12, but now they’re legitimately 12 deep.

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About The Author

Suki is a graduate of Cal Poly Pomona and an unsigned contributing writer for Lakers Nation. Follow Suki on Twitter @TheRealSuki and Facebook. You can check out the rest of his work here.

Number of Entries : 178
  • LakersHeatBeef

    I know i am going to sound like a big nerd but i actually think the identity of the Lakers is a scrappy team that is fun to watch.Lakers really are a upstart young team with some oldies.

    • Suki Thind

      Definitely a good identity to have, either way. I love the mix of old and young players. Only problem is all the All Stars are older, but maybe this season will create a consistent player or two.

  • Gregory Choa

    “The Lakers may have lost D12, but now they’re legitimately 12 deep”…good one Suki!

    • Suki Thind

      Haha, that was actually my original title, but I was asked to change it.

      • LakersHeatBeef

        Yes Lakers are a very deep team.This is the deepest Lakers team i recall.I call the Lakers bench the Wolf Pack lol.Yeah they are the best bench IMO.Ya they are dope and fun to watch.The Lakers have created a new culture this season with this deep team.MDA is managing the minutes great.

        Go Lakers!

  • Gregory Choa

    …seriously though, there’s no doubt that this newfound depth is refreshing and gives D’Antoni a lot of different looks he can throw out there…which is good and bad…the roles are going to eventually need to be further defined and the rotation shortened if the Lakers are going to be expected to develope any real kind of consistence…ESPECIALLY when Kobe Bryant returns. Somebody on another thread correctly pointed out that when Kobe returns this business of D’Antoni defining roles will become a lot easier because it’ll simply boil down to which players are best equipped to compliment a starting lineup that will ultimately include Kobe playing 35+ minutes/game.
    And, on that note, I suspect that when all the dust settles the two guys who BEST figure to compliment the core starting unit of Nash, Kobe & Gasol are going be Jordan Hill as what I like to call a strong power forward, and Wesley Johnson as a quick, primarily defensive small forward. Both of those guys are young energy players who I believe can maximize what Kobe, Pau and Steve Nash bring to the table.
    As far as this revitalized “bench mob” is concerned, I’d like to think that we’ll be seeing plenty of Nick Johnson – who has a real chance at setting Staples on fire as an uber-6th-man – X. Henry, Chris Kaman, Jordan Farmar, and Jodie Meeks. Steve Blake is the one guy who has been pulling fairly substantial minutes to this point that I’m not quite sure how and where he fits in when Kobe comes back…unless of course Nash completely breaks down. And then there’s Shawne Williams…I also see him getting lost in the shuffle…and, for that matter, I wouldn’t mind seeing D’Antoni give Ryan Kelly a shot as whatever minutes might’ve been allotted to Williams, presumably in garbage time!

    • Suki Thind

      Good insight. Yeah, when Kobe returns it should be a bit easier. I too see Williams kind of getting lost in the mix, but either Henry or Young will probably get lost also as they kind of play the 2 spot. I’m sure D’Antoni will move either play Xavier at the 3 (or Kobe) so both Young and X can get minutes. Meeks has been playing well too, so he might just do that and keep playing Wes at the 4, but that’ll take minutes from Hill — but if Williams is out, then it actually won’t take too many from him. I think we’ll see different looks throughout the year and sometimes on a nightly basis depending on opposing lineups. Should be an interesting topic all season, for sure!

  • Lakers4Life

    Uh,no. 1 win over Atlanta (not to mention after losing a 20-point lead) and a stupid coach experimenting with his roster at this point each game only proves this team currently has zero identity.

    Suki you need to stop trying to be optimistic and start writing about the reality of things.

    • Suki Thind

      I’m an eternal optimist when it comes to the Lakers. I’m not saying we’re the best team or are going to become one of the better teams in the west, but I am saying we have a much deeper team than in years past. Will it translate into wins? Maybe, or maybe it’ll hurt the team. Personally, I think once Kobe returns there will be a trade or two. I think that management might package an over-saturated position (like SG) with maybe Blake or even Nash (if someone will take him) for a player or two. Some of these guys might show some potential, and even if that doesn’t translate to wins for the team, it might translate into a decent trade or two. Overall, the bench looks very solid…if only the starters were as good as they were back in the 2009-2010 days, we’d be a hell of a team. I understand your point, though.

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