The mantra of every NBA analyst has been “depth”. As in the teams with the most depth will have a better chance to weather the storm of this cramped schedule.
Now, I’m not here to say that after one game the Lake Show has proven they’ve got what it takes to go 12 deep on any given night. After seeing the Lakers author yet another Christmas catastrophe it is clear there are still holes to be filled in order for this tank to hold championship waters.
But the bench was an unexpected strength against the Bulls, hopefully a sign of things to come.
Now let’s just talk about the elephant in the room right here and now.
Metta World Peace officially has one foot planted firmly in hoops obscurity. This tale will either end with Metta making Mike Brown look genius for appointing the former Ron Artest with the 6th man role or World Peace will find his way to the end of the bench in Toronto. It is that kind of an at-the-crossroads season for World Peace.
Certainly you can see the potential for World Peace to be a contributor off the bench. Taking advantage of favorable matchups, providing a defensive presence and hitting the occasional clutch shot are all within reason for expectations of Coach Brown’s most bold experiment. However getting these things out of Metta on a consistent basis is the real challenge.
Good luck with all of that, Coach Brown. After Christmas I’m not holding out high hopes for Metta the sixth man but we’ll need all we can get from him which hopefully is more than 4 points on 33% shooting.
Moving on to the positives…um…Steve Blake anyone?
Finally we saw the Blake that was expected to fit like a glove in PJ’s triangle. Blake didn’t hesitate to shoot and was confident even after a few open misses. In all Blake dropped 12 to lead all bench scorers including jacking up 6 threes. While you’d prefer to Blake shoot a better percentage from deep it was very refreshing to know he’s not shying away from bombing. This too is a crucial year for Blake. After one game it is pretty clear who the real leader of the second unit is. Here’s a hint: his name is not World Peace.
With regards to the frontline, things look promising as well. Once Andrew Bynum returns the Lake Show will have the luxury of mixing and matching Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy in different combos along with Pau Gasol and young Drew.
McRoberts is a serviceable starter. He is aggressive, hits the boards and can finish at the rim. Defense isn’t exactly a strength but that won’t be as big a factor if Bynum can remain healthy.
Murphy showed some of that sweet stroke of his yesterday while also providing another presence on the boards. Between Murphy and McRoberts the Lakers got the equivalent of one Bynum. Not a bad value considering both men have barely been Lakers for a week now.
Of course there will also be a wildcard off the bench too. Right now that is Andrew Goudelock. In order for the Lakers to make any title strides somebody is going to have to be the unexpected contributor. Goudelock got a chance to show the world what he can do on Christmas day and he made the most of it. The sharp shooter went two of three from downtown and was one of Brown’s first men off the bench.
Clearly Goudelock will have to prove much more going forward but you can already tell that the coaching staff likes what they see.
Now if depth is the key then Matt Barnes should provide just that. Barnes got no burn whatsoever yesterday. A telling sign but not one that will not continue indefinitely. Brown is going to need Barnes in the coming days. With six games in eight days the Lake Show is going to have some tired legs. Barnes will get into games soon enough. So too will Jason Kapono.
All in all, the bench looked much better than anticipated. There is plenty of room for improvement but that is true of all teams right now no matter how they looked on opening day. For now Coach Brown has got to feel some comfort in knowing he’s got a solid foundation to build on.