The current Laker roster is full of scorers. Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer, Kobe Bryant, and Nick Young are all capable of large scoring nights. Scoring isn’t the only element to winning a game. Rosters that have more balanced units in terms of scoring, defense, and rebounding tend to be more successful. Even James Harden and Manu Ginobili came off the bench behind Thabo Sefalosha and Bruce Bowen.
Robert Sacre though, doesn’t have the offensive talent of James Harden or Ginobili. He isn’t the greatest offensive center out there on the floor. He is a role player; one that can earn a start.
Laker fans may not initially agree, but there are a few things worth noting.
Nick Young and Jordan Hill were given chances to start last year. Nick Young came off to a faltering start at the beginning of the season. His shot percentages were far below his career average. He didn’t look comfortable within the offense. Later, he became the sixth man for the Lakers. He started making plays on the defensive end. He was the go-to-guy with the shot clock running down. He got into his element and averaged a career high of 17.9 points per game in just 28 minutes of play.
Jordan Hill earned his Laker starts. By November, he had a streak of games with extended minutes and played his highest level as a Laker. After a strong two weeks, the energy level wasn’t the same. There wasn’t as much bounce to his step. The productivity slipped. Looking at his game log of last season, it took him a couple of weeks just to regain his strength and energy, and become the high-octane power forward for the Lakers once again. He wasn’t himself until he came off the bench again. The Lakers had to watch his minutes.
Robert Sacre in the starting line up would be surrounded by scorers. The 1980’s Lakers team started Kurt Rambis, who was also surrounded by scorers. While the current team doesn’t have the explosive talent of the 1980’s Lakers team, Kurt Rambis fulfilled his role as a hustle player, rebounder, and fifth option on offense well. His unselfishness offensively did not disrupt the offensive flow of the Laker unit. A.C. Green provided punch at the power forward spot off the bench. Sacre, like Rambis, can play a key role for the starting line up.
The Lakers as a whole need to be a physical team that can play with great energy. Robert Sacre can provide those things for the starting unit. Sometimes, a player just needs to set a hard screen, take a hard foul, and finish effectively in the paint. As a Laker starting unit, the roster is more balanced with Jordan Hill playing to his strengths coming off of the bench. Jordan Hill can still get his 25-30 minutes per game, but it shouldn’t hurt if Sacre got a consistent 10-15 minutes per game as well. After all, he would give the toughness and physical play the starting unit needs.
Besides, Robert Sacre had a few highlight games of his own.
Statistically, Sacre would do well with extended playing time too. His per-36 minute statistics by Basketball Reference show a player capable of 11.6 points per game, 8.4 rebounds per game, 1.6 blocks per game, on an assist-to-turnover ratio greater than 1:1. Our own Jacob Rude had pointed out his recent 13 point, 11 rebound effort for Team Canada against the Turkish team. He’s going to be in game-shape at the start of training camp.
Coach Byron Scott has an offensive plan for the Lakers, but he guaranteed to the fans that the Lakers would play hard and play defense. Robert Sacre may be foul prone, but he plays the game with enthusiasm and tries to make plays defensively. While he may not be an expected choice, there is an opportunity for him to be an example for the team. He can set the tone for the starting lineup with his toughness, enthusiasm, and defense.
He can start for the Laker team. He just needs to be seen as a better fit with the starting unit, not off the bench.