Dwight Howard and Steve Nash are the headliners of Mitch Kupchak’s busy offseason. But Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks are equally important in their own way. Without anyone backing the Lakers dynamic starting five we’ll be looking at another lackluster exit from the postseason.
When it came to bench production last season the Lake Show was at the bottom of the NBA. Sure, you’d get the occasional flash of Matt Barnes brilliance. There’d be stretches of games when Andrew Goudelock earned his Mini-Mamba moniker. Every once and awhile Steve Blake would break through with a performance that made him remind you of why he’s wearing purple and gold.
But for the most part the bench was abysmal.
Of course the biggest reason for the Lakers lack of bench production can be traced directly to the trade of Lamar Odom. You don’t unload the reigning sixth man of the year for a trade exception and expect your second unit to be just as strong.
Mike Brown realized early on how dire the situation was which led him to try and slip Metta World Peace into the sixth man role. That worked about as well as Chad Johnson’s Miami homecoming. It didn’t take long to realize Metta was a mess coming off the bench and once he returned to the starting lineup L.A.’s bench woes were here to stay.
Thankfully Brown gave Jordan Hill a chance and the active big man didn’t disappoint. His energetic and athletic game was perfect to play off of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. So it was a given that the Lakers wanted him back behind Howard and Gasol.
For Meeks and Jamison the mission is simple – put the ball in the hole.
Once upon a time Jamison was a top tier scorer in the league dropping 50+ points in back to back games when he was a member of the Golden State Warriors. With his best days behind him, Jamison has accepted a reduced role and salary in hopes of winning a title. His size and versatility will make for a very valuable asset for the Lake Show.
Meeks was an explosive scorer in college holding the prestigious record for most points scored in a single game in Kentucky history. Despite entering the league with no promises as a second round pick Meeks has stuck in the NBA finding a role as a steady two-guard with an average shooting touch. But even average is an upgrade for the Lakers considering how things went last season.
Mix in the resigning of Devin Ebanks, the trade additions of Chris Duhon and Earl Clark and suddenly the Lakers have a bench worth talking about in title contention terms.
Now nobody is saying the Lakers’ new look second unit can rival some of the deeper teams in the league but any improvement is welcomed after last season’s debacle. Coach Brown now has options to turn to instead of relying on Kobe Bryant to play big minutes and multiple roles. All that remains to be seen is for the often indecisive Brown to find a suitable rotation and stick with it.