The Los Angeles Lakers aren’t accustomed to the predicament in which they currently find themselves. Caught between wanting to rebuild and contend, the current roster doesn’t give fans much hope of being good enough to win or bad enough to lose.
No matter which way the Lakers go, the bench will be the biggest determining factor.
‘The Bench Mob’ will likely be led by Nick Young. Young was in the running for last year’s Sixth Man of the Year Award after scoring a career-high 17.9 points per game. Playing behind Kobe Bryant might bring that number down slightly, but so long as he is the leader of the second unit, he will be putting up his fair amount of shots.
Young’s ability to heat up from beyond the arc was one of the bright spots of an otherwise disastrous season for the Lakers. He isn’t one for dishing out assists, but with having either Steve Nash or Jeremy Lin alongside him, the discrepancy will even out.
Xavier Henry wasn’t out of place bringing the ball up the floor last season after the Lakers had lost all four point guards before him. As it would happen, he was next to go down with an injury, cutting his career best year short. Henry averaged 10 ppg throughout the season after scoring 22 on opening night. Improved shooting and a no fear attitude when attacking the rim was something that was lacking with him on the sideline to end the season.
Ed Davis is one who will see an increase in playing time after making the move from the Memphis Grizzlies. His time at the Grizzlies stalled the development of his career, as he became a bench warmer, but filling the backup big man role left vacant by Jordan Hill will ensure he sees the court far more regularly. Hill thrived in the role of hustling and cleaning up the boards, something Davis will be eager to replicate.
Carlos Boozer expects to start, Julius Randle thinks the same. No matter which guy takes the court for tip-off, having two starting caliber power forwards, even at opposite ends of the careers, is going to create the competition that gets the best out of them.
The two aren’t too dissimilar. Both will bring physicality and compete for rebounds, but neither will be a top option on offense. Boozer is coming off the worst season of his career when scoring the ball, and Randle is a raw rookie who will be looking to get accustomed to the NBA style of play. The pair of them will likely spend time as both starters and role players off the bench, but regardless of who it is, they will be a valuable part of the second unit.
It’s understood that the Lakers have every intention of beginning the season with Nash as the starting point guard. Whether or not that is true, it seems as though Lin will be adding onto the 28 minutes a game he received his last season in Houston. Comfortable as the team’s primary ball handler when on the court, his chemistry with Young will be key. If Lin can get the shots Young expects, while also distributing the ball elsewhere, the mob of 2014-15 will be able to match last season’s second best scoring bench in the NBA.
Jordan Clarkson, Ryan Kelly and Robert Sacre will all see time, but it won’t be as consistent as Young, Henry, Davis, Randle/Boozer and Lin.
Clarkson showed in the Summer League that he is deserving of court time in his rookie season, and with no Farmar and Marshall, it might come early on. Kelly returns after signing an extension before his sophomore season. Considered a surprise performer on a terrible team, his versatility guarantees that he won’t be watching many games in street clothes. The same goes for Sacre, who became a favorite for Mike D’Antoni due to his size and physical presence down low.
With their first round pick top five protected, the Lakers will have the playoffs as their goal. If they are to come close to reaching that, the bench will be what gets them there.
With most players on one-year contracts, they have not only the team, but their careers to play for. This Lakers season might lack wins, but it certainly won’t lack effort.