Apr 10, 2013; Portland, OR, USA; Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Jodie Meeks (20) shoots over Portland Trail Blazers point guard Eric Maynor (6) at the Rose Garden. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

The 6th Guard

It has been a busy off-season for the Laker squad.  The addition of Jordan Farmar, Chris Kaman, Wesley Johnson, and Nick Young has brought athleticism, experience, skill, and youth to the team.  Looking at the roster, the team looks particularly guard heavy.  The point guard position is fine with Steve Nash, Steve Blake, and Steve Farmar… err, Jordan Farmar.  For a second there I thought the requirement was to be named Steve to play point guard for the Lakers.  No?  Jordan’s middle name isn’t Steve?  I stand corrected.

The shooting guard position is loaded with talent, especially with players that can play both the shooting guard and small forward position.  Kobe Bryant, Wesley Johnson, and Nick Young fill that position well.  But the name that is somewhat forgotten after the acquisitions were made is Jodie Meeks.

Where does Jodie Meeks fit?  His best strengths are spot up perimeter shooting and providing active defense along the perimeter.  While the same can be said of Wesley Johnson, it seems that Mike D’Antoni is going to rely heavily on three-guard lineups.  There are many advantages to that.

Defensively, it becomes easier to switch defensive assignments.  Instead of fighting through screens, the Lakers can simply change the defender without giving up defensive talent.  Jodie Meeks, Wesley Johnson, Nick Young, and Kobe Bryant are all interchangeable defensively.  Another advantage is simply having more foot speed.  The Lakers were among the worst teams in forcing turnovers and getting fast break points.  Having players that can recover quickly, cut into the passing lanes, and fill in transition lanes with flat-out speed should fix those issues.

Offensively, it creates better spacing with 3-point shooting ability from multiple players, but also lays out different places to attack.  In the 2000s when the Lakers were winning their championships, everything went through Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.  Something I felt that was missing from those championship teams was a 3rd element; a James Worthy type or a great bench scoring 6th man.  It would have alleviated pressure from the franchise players and add a dimension to an already dominant team.  With Gasol and Bryant later in age, they have adapted their game to be better overall facilitators while scoring when necessary.  Clearly they are the pillars of offensive firepower for the Laker team.  This time, Nick Young has the opportunity to be the extra offensive dimension.  The same goes for Chris Kaman and Jordan Farmar.  But while they’re attacking the defense, the guys left open will be Wesley Johnson and Jodie Meeks.  Anyone else okay with Johnson and Meeks taking open jumpshots?  I am.

The current Laker roster is fortunate to have depth at the guard spot.  While I think Wesley Johnson and Nick Young will be playing a lot of small forward this season, I also think that Mike D’Antoni has the luxury of shortening the playing time of Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash while playing talent off the bench.  If Mike D’Antoni is able to carry out his system well, perhaps the team will have a few more games like they did last season vs. Denver at home.  I remember a lot of 3-point bombs from Jamison, large lead stretches, and Dwight Howard hitting a 3-pointer.  Those are the games that the mid-2000 Suns had often.  Luckily, Jodie Meeks fits into that system well, on both ends of the floor.

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