The Los Angeles Lakers have some good pieces. Their starting lineup will likely consist of D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Kobe Bryant, Julius Randle, and Roy Hibbert. The problem with the Lakers is that they don’t have a reliable small forward. Bryant will have to start at small forward, as their only true small forward on the roster is rookie, Anthony Brown.
Starting Bryant at small forward won’t be the worst thing, as they have a chance to start Russell and Clarkson together. As for the bench, expect it to improve significantly this season.
The Lakers’ bench core will consist of Louis Williams, Nick Young, Jabari Brown, Ryan Kelly, Tarik Black, Robert Sacre, and Brandon Bass. Rookies Robert Upshaw, Larry Nance Jr, and Brown will have a chance to compete for a roster spot.
The problem with the bench is defense. Losing Ronnie Price and Ed Davis, two of the better defenders from last season, will hurt. Their offense will excel, thanks to their backcourt.
The addition of Williams will bolster their offense, as he won the sixth man of the year award last season. Williams averaged 15.5 points with the Toronto Raptors. Despite Young’s disappointing season, he is a terrific scorer off the bench. Young averaged 13.4 points last season after averaging 17.9 in 2013-14.
It will be interesting to see how Jabari Brown plays with Young and Williams. He is also a scorer, as shown when he averaged 11.9 points as a rookie last year. The Lakers will need Williams to play more like a point guard, instead of a as a scorer. It’s hard to imagine Williams turning into a playmaker, but he should average more than the 2.1 assists he averaged last year.
Down low, the Lakers have Kelly, Black, and Bass. Kelly is a skilled offensive player who can shoot, and is an underrated passer. The problem with Kelly is that he was inefficient last year. Kelly shot 34 percent from the field and three-point range. Black is the opposite, he excels on defense and plays with as much energy as any Lakers player. As a rookie Black showed lots of promise, as he averaged 6 points and 5.8 rebounds.
Bass is a nice backup for the Lakers. He averaged 10.6 points and 4.9 rebounds for the Boston Celtics last season. He plays with lots of energy like Black and he is a terrific midrange shooter. The last piece is Sacre, who the Lakers decided to keep in the offseason. Sacre averaged 4.6 points and 3.5 rebounds last season. He doesn’t do anything particularly well, but he isn’t a bad guy to have at the end of the bench.
Upshaw has lots of upside, but it’s unlikely he has a role this season. The Lakers will go with experience over youth and play someone like Sacre and Bass over him. Upshaw was an elite shot-blocker at Washington last season. He averaged 4.5 blocks in 24.9 minutes.
The rookie with the best chance of playing beside Russell is Anthony Brown. Brown has “three and D” potential written all over him. At Stanford, Brown shot better than 44 percent from three in his last two collegiate seasons.
The Lakers have all the offense in the world off the bench, their concern will come on the defensive end.