Heading into this summer, the biggest area of concern for the Los Angeles Lakers was upgrading the point guard position. They successfully did that with the acquisition of Steve Nash.
Now the team is switching its focus onto something a little less flashy: adding depth.
Any which way you want to look at it, Los Angeles has a fierce first five. When you trot out Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum to start out a game – few can match up with that sort of star power. Granted, there are some questions about how all these pieces will mesh together and how long that process will take, but that’s one of those good problems that teams with a bevy of talent like to have.
You can work out developing chemistry, you can’t work out having no talent.
Far more concerning than how the Lakers’ starting five will play together is what happens when any or all of those guys head to the bench. L.A.’s group of reserves is unimpressive – to say the least. Sure, some individual pieces are okay. Steve Blake is a solid, veteran backup point guard. Devin Ebanks is a very nice developing three. And…well, that’s pretty much it. Those two guys are the extent to which you can praise L.A.’s reserves.
Hence that being an area of concern.
So, who is the team scouting this summer in an effort to shore up the bench? Via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:
…appearing on the Lakers' "short list" of names they are hoping to add to the roster for the veteran's minimum are Antawn Jamison, Elton Brand and Jermaine O'Neal, according to a source familiar with the team's thinking…Not only is adding a backup big man a priority because signing Hill might not work out, but because Josh McRoberts and his expiring $3.1 million contract have drawn interest from other teams in potential Howard trade scenarios.
Brand and Jamison could both be very legitimate contributors to the Lakers next year. O’Neal? Not so much. The latter big man averaged five points and seven rebounds through 25 games with the Boston Celtics last season, before ultimately having his year cut short by an injury. He could actually be moderately productive if he weren’t so injury prone but, unfortunately, he is that injury prone.
As far as Brand and Jamison go – it’s very unlikely that either ends up in L.A. The only way that Mitch Kupchak and Co. even get a shot at the recently amnestied Brand is if no teams currently below the salary cap scoop him up first; however, at least three under-the-cap teams are reportedly looking to put in hefty bids for him. Meanwhile, Jamison is commanding a lot more than the veteran’s minimum that L.A. is offering from his other suitors.
The Lakers had a very sorry bench last year, and it’s hard to envision them being able to bolster it too much in the next few months. When your starting lineup is as old as L.A.’s is, a lack of depth can really hurt you in the postseason.
This situation is worth keeping an eye on.