Although the season is 63% done , the all-star break has traditionally been looked upon as the halfway point for NBA teams. And in tradition (my tradition that is) we will grade the Lakers so far to this point.
Steve Blake = C: Blake started the year as healthy as one can hope. Early in the year Blake was able to step up in Nash’ absence and play the best basketball in his 4 years here. But just as he was finding a nice groove with the mishmash of Laker players and D’Antoni’s system, Blake went down with a painful elbow injury. Without suffering the injury, Blake would have probably kept performing at an A-, B+ level.
Kobe Bryant =N/A: We would have loved to see Bryant in full force, but just 8 games back into the season from Achilles surgery, Bryant went down with a knee injury. Only time will tell if he will come back this year, or if he will use the rest of the year to get his body back in order. Either way, whenever Kobe comes back, we can expect to see an A++ performance from him on the court.
Jordan Farmar = C: Jordan has also been a victim of the injury bug. But before he went down with several hamstring injuries, Jordan proved that he belongs in the NBA (after playing overseas last year). He showed that he can take over games in stretches. His quickness to the rim, shooting range, and his ability to run a pick n’ roll were tons of fun to watch before he went down. Without the injury, Jordan would have kept performing at a B+ level.
Pau Gasol = B: Considering that Pau has also suffered through injuries, on top of that, trade rumors, and mix that with D’Antoni’s inability to mesh one of the best offensive power forwards into his schemes, Pau has done well by us. If Pau comes back, enjoy every game he plays because it will probably be this two time champions’ last games in Laker gear before the trade deadline or the end of the season.
Xavier Henry = C-: I have almost forgotten how much promise, ability, and energy Henry provided for us early in the year. He went through a couple of inconsistent stretches, but one can only wonder what a fully healthy and engaged Xavier would have brought to the Lakers this year.
Jordan Hill = A-: Considering that D’Antoni has completely forgotten how to coach big men. Jordan Hill has been the consummate professional on and off the court this year. Whenever he is on the floor, he is the hardest working man out there. He does not take any plays off and is consistently our best rebounder. Which leaves a lot of Laker fans scratching their heads as to why he does not get some more PT!?!.
Wesley Johnson = B-: Wesley Johnson is still an enigma. Considering that he is the most athletic player on our roster, and he has been steadily improving throughout the season, we can still not make a sound assessment as to whether he is a NBA starter or a bench role player. Can he become a defensive stopper/ slasher/ 3 point shooter a la Eddie Jones/Trevor Ariza, or will he be a forgotten what could have been in a couple years.
Chris Kaman = A : The Man Child gets an A, simply for his entertainment value in a season that has been lacking in such. Whether it is his post-game quotes, “Never did I think I would come here and not play, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have come.” Or his notorious Bench Nap. Or his hilarious twitter posts @ChrisKaman. Kaman is another victim in D’Antoni’s pursuit of rendering every big man he ever coaches useless. Kaman, however, has shown great basketball IQ and a willingness to make great passes in his short playing stints.
Ryan Kelly = C : Although, I fully believe that D’Antoni is convinced that Ryan Kelly is actually Kevin Love, Kelly has played well, for a rookie, considering that he was not expected to play this many minutes when the year began. Somewhere Gregg Popovich is planning to swoop Kelly up, and elsewhere Matt Bonner knows his days are numbered. Red Mamba out.
Kendall Marshall = A+: Kendall started the year out as a nominal starter in the D league, and he has used the tsunami of Laker injuries to become perhaps the Most Improved player in the league. Using his smarts and clever style of play, Marshall has kept the Lakers watchable, and he is leading the league in 3 point % to boot.
Jodie Meeks = A+: If the adage “hard work, pays off” would apply to any Laker this year, Jodie Meeks would be it. Jodie put time into his game this off-season and it is paying off in droves. Before he went down last week, Meeks was our most consistent player. His three point shooting has been on display, and he has kept defenses off balance by his new found ability to drive and finish at the basket. Meeks has definitely played himself into an important NBA roll player.
Steve Nash = N/A : All Laker fans knew that we were not getting the two time NBA MVP, when we signed Nash last year. But as he has shown in flashes, we knew we were getting one of the most intelligent, savvy players that has ever played the game. Take the injuries away and he can still produce at a high level for 18-25 minutes a game. However, unlucky injuries have kept us from seeing the wizardry of Nash in a Laker uniform. Will we ever?
Robert Sacre = A : Robert Sacre has taken the torch from high energy, frenzied big men of Laker past. Had this been a complete Laker team, then, like Mark Madsen in the early 2000’s, Sacre’s job would have been to cheer the loudest on the bench and to have kept the locker room full of laughter and positivity. But, as expressed before, he has played in longer stretches than expected, due to injury, and has performed to is optimal ability.
Shawne Williams = C : Because Mike D loves undersized big men that can shoot and play no defense, Shawne Willams has enjoyed two pretty productive stints with the Lakers. He can be counted on to play team ball and knock down the occasional three. Take into account that the Lakers did not pick up his contract 2 months ago, and the fact that he came back with no bitterness, ready to ball, has to count for something? RIGHT?
Nick Young = A- : It has yet to be determined if Nick Young can be a 2nd or 3rd option on a good team built for a playoff run. But if your team is built to run and gun during the regular season, then Nick Young is your man. In his half year with the Lakers, Nick Young has proved that he is entertaining, can shoot the bejeezus out of a basketball, and is an overall good guy. What he has yet to prove, however, is if he can be an important piece in a championship team before his career is over.
Mike D’Antoni = F: Mike has proven this year that his time in New York was not a fluke. Yes, Mike brought an era of amazing basketball, and entertaining offense to the league, and he proved he could win at a high pace with his high pace. On the other hand, once the rest of the league caught up to his spread them out shoot them out scheme, he has been unable to tweak his philosophy, even a little, to the abilities of his roster. He has no idea how to use a post-up player, and has probably forgotten the name of everyone on his roster that is over the height of 6’11”. Mike will get the rest of his payday from the Lakers this year, and maybe next. But after this stint, his NBA days will likely be over.
Mitch Kupchak = A: Considering his hands were tied by an indecisive owner, difficult cap rules, and 1 year contracts, Mitch did a great job recruiting and putting this Laker roster together. Bringing Marshall up has proved invaluable, and he continues to be a consummate professional with the players and the media.
Jim Buss = D: His aloofness and silly baseball caps have not endeared him to Laker fans. Magic Johnson continues to call out his decisions publicly, and he was not able to convince the biggest free agent this summer, Dwight Howard to stay with the Lakers. His two coaching decisions have been busts and will cost the Lakers a lot of money. On top of all this, he disrespected a hall of fame coach in Phil Jackson, when he offered him the job then swept it from under his feet in the middle of the night. It seems that Jerry Buss’ worst decision as Laker owner was his last, to leave Jim in charge. Jim better get his act together very soon or fans, season ticket holders, and TWC Laker channel will be calling for his head, and for Jeannie Buss to take over.
I am G. Marlon Gutierrez lover of Lakers, Bacon, and Sunday afternoons. Follow me or hit me up @theGMarlon, or email me at [email protected]