Last year the Lakers added Ron Artest to their already-talented nucleus to help them contend for the championship in the future. As the year went on, Artest’s presence was an intriguing side story to the Lakers season and provided entertainment to an historic title run. This year the Lakers have added several interesting pieces to their championship roster. At least two of their new players are expected to contribute immediately and will be in their main rotation of players. The other three new players will likely play sparingly at first, but will have roles to fill and their playing time will be dictated by performance and health of other players.
Steve Blake is a perfect fit for the Lakers system. He’s tall, smart, experienced, and is a good shooter as well as capable defender. Whether he starts at point guard or backs up Derek Fisher, he will be depended upon for roughly 20-30 minutes per game mostly at the lead guard position, but could probably see some time at backup shooting guard as well. Although he won’t turn very many heads with his play, he is exactly the type of player the Lakers need. You can pretty much consider him a taller, whiter, younger, Derek Fisher.
Matt Barnes is the other new player on the Lakers roster who will immediately see significant playing time. Although I was against his signing at the time (and I’m still not much of a fan), his production on the court should be unarguable. He will solidify the bench with an additional defensive stopper/pest and will hit open jump shots and slash to the basket on offense. He’s basically a Trevor Ariza type player but a little more physical and meddlesome. His primary role will be backing up Ron Artest but he will likely see some time at backup shooting guard as well. On a side note, I’d be interested to see Artest, Barnes, and Sasha on the court together and see which of them can cause an opposing player to get a Technical foul first.
Theo Ratliff was once a defensive force who was traded for Dikembe Mutombo. He’s old now (37), but he can still block shots at a good clip (1.5 bpg in about 20mpg last season). He will play at backup center but will probably only get around 10 minutes per game (or less). His presence is mostly as an insurance policy in case one of the other Laker bigs gets hurt. It will be interesting to see how much of an impact he can have in his limited minutes, I would think of Ratliff as a much better, smarter, and more disciplined DJ Mbenga.
Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter are two very intriguing prospects the Lakers picked up in the NBA draft. Ebanks is a Trevor Ariza clone who had a productive summer league and could one day be a reliable backup on the Lakers. However, since the Lakers do have Matt Barnes who will essentially play his same role, I don’t see Ebanks having that much of an impact this year. I expect him to only see garbage time minutes unless somebody gets injured, but I do expect him to show flashes of potential in his limited minutes. Derrick Caracter is even more intriguing because like Ebanks, he had a very productive summer league. However, Caracter was once considered one of the top players in his recruiting class with loads of potential. He’s a very talented player who has battled weight and off-court issues throughout his young career. The Lakers have provided him with the perfect opportunity to shed his demons and produce on the world’s greatest stage. Think of Caracter as a “Big Baby” type player, but more talented, more raw, and with much more potential. Worst case scenario he plays garbage minutes this season and never really finds his niche, disappearing from the league two years down the line. Best case scenario, Caracter realizes the opportunity he has been presented with, plays with a chip-on-his-shoulder mentality and produces some big plays when called upon. Eventually he becomes a reliable backup and contributes to our upcoming championship season. As an optimistic Lakers fan, I’m betting on the latter.