Five ways Antawn Jamison improves the Lakers’ bench
The Lakers front office keeps hitting a pretty good percentage at the plate.
First, they drastically upgrade the team’s point guard spot by acquiring veteran elite guard Steve Nash. Then, they significantly bolster their bench by securing veteran forward Antawn Jamison without spending a significant amount of money (veteran’s minimum). It remains to be seen whether the Lakers will follow that up by acquiring Dwight Howard. But considering the constant criticism it faced in the past season, sometimes in this corner of the blogosphere, the Lakers’ brass in Mitch Kupchak, Jim Buss and Jerry Buss deserve loads of credit for a pretty productive offseason.
Here are five reasons why Jamison’s arrival significantly improves the Lakers’ bench.
1. Jamison provides the Lakers needed scoring punch. It’s safe to predict the Lakers’ bench won’t rank last anymore in points as it did last season (30.5). Jamison’s whole calling card involves scoring points. His 17.2 points and 6.3 rebounds may mark a decline relative to his career averages (19.5 points, 7.9 rebounds). But considering the 36-year-old is entering his 16th year in the NBA, it’s clear Jamison has mastered staying efficient.
To a small degree, the Lakers points per game average as a bench unit is misleading simply because the team’s identity features a star-studded starting lineup. Both Lakers coaches Mike Brown and Phil Jackson had in seasons past mixed plenty of combinations that featured the reserves with the starting lineup. Still, the Lakers finished 27th in the NBA in overall efficiency (27.2), and plenty of that rooted in the Lakers lacking a consistent scorer.
The Lakers may not be fretting Lamar Odom’s absence as much these days since the trade exception from his trade eventually landed them Nash. But the Lakers still couldn’t find ways to directly compensate for Odom’s loss. WIth Jamison’s arrival, it appears the Lakers have filled that vacuum relatively speaking.
2. Jamison’s experience will pay off in various ways. His Sixth Man of the Year award may have happened only eight years ago. But it generally requires a player to adopt the right mentality in coming off the bench. That often requires a player knowing how to feed off the rhythm of the game and contributing regardless of when he enters the lineup.
The Lakers may not experience such heavy roster shuffling as they did last season since Brown will have more familiarity with his roster. But in terms of the unit gelling together, Jamison’s experience shows he’ll have little issue in adapting to any new role. Add in previous history with Brown (half season with Cleveland in 2010) and Steve Nash (Mavericks teammates in 2004), and it appears Jamison will have minimal hiccups fitting in with the Lakers.
3. Jamison’s defense may be suspect, but he may indirectly help that effort. Jamison doesn’t fit the defensive characteristics Brown gushes over. He’s not scrappy. Jamison doesn’t intimidate opponents in the lane. In fact, he doesn’t defend much at all. These weaknesses mostly have to do with abiility, though. So don’t expect Jamison to elevate his defensive focus just because he’s on a championship-caliber team. But he can upgrade it in another way.
Jamison’s scoring will inevitably create more ball movement and more offensive chemistry. Because that unit wll be more engaged, it will be more likely to channel that extra enthusiasm into staying disciplined on defense. All in all, the scoring and added chemistry he creates will offset any baskets the Lakers concede.
4. The Lakers have an insurance policy in case they can’t re-sign Jordan Hill. The Times’ Mike Bresnahan reported the Lakers still hope to sign Hill, but won’t spend too much money to ensure that happens. Ideally, the Lakers would pursue Hill considering his scrappiness gives the Lakers an added element on their frontcourt depth. But the Lakers are already strapped pretty tight by securing Nash and possibly obtaining Howard (and a possible additional weighty Orlando contract) that it’s just unrealistic.
Jamison has a completely different skill set than Hill. But his presence still ensures that the Lakers aren’t completely thin on the frontcourt. Should this scenario unfold, it’s critical Josh McRoberts can provide the energy he once did at the beginning of his arrival.
5. Jamison could also give the Lakers minutes at small forward. For now, Jamison is presumed to play heavier minutes at power forward. The Lakers declined to waive Metta World Peace through the amnesty provision. Although the Lakers haven’t signed a deal, Devin Ebank’s agent told The Times recently the two parties agreed to a one-year deal worth a little over $1 mllion. Still, the Lakers could experience a void at this position.
They’re not expected to re-sign veteran forward Matt Barnes. Even if I witnessed World Peace appearing to be in good shape at a workout Tuesday at UCLA, his play always remains unpredictable. It’s possible Ebanks’ increased role could yield some speedbumps. As a last-case resort, the Lakers could lean on Jamison to play at small forward if these scenarios unfold.
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