At the start of the season, Phil Jackson had a good feeling about the current Lakers squad. Such a good feeling, that he even made the proclamation that is was his deepest Lakers team aside from the 1999-00 bunch that included the likes of Brian Shaw, Derek Fisher, Rick Fox and Robert Horry coming off the bench.
Okay, so maybe comparing the Lakers’ current bench squad of Lamar Odom, Shannon Brown, Matt Barnes and Steve Blake to the aforementioned squad is a bit unfair, but if there’s definitely more fact than fiction to that statement.
Recently we’ve seen the Lakers’ reserve build leads, blow leads and create an air of inconsistency. They let a 17-point lead dissipate to six in the fourth quarter against New Orleans last Sunday, allowed the Clippers to cut a 16-point lead down to four the previous game and couldn’t put Phoenix away after getting ahead by 21-points, leading to the Lakers’ first triple-overtime game at home since 1969.
These are just some examples of how the bench has fared as of late, it should be noted that the Lakers couldn’t be 15-1 since the All-Star break without at least some contribution of their key bench guys. The regular season is one thing, but the playoffs are a whole different monster.
If Jackson stays true to what he’s done in the past, he’ll stick to a 9-man rotation throughout the playoffs. Assume it’ll be the five starters, Odom, Brown, Blake and Barnes playing the majority of the minutes during the playoffs. You wouldn’t expect Luke Walton to come in unless either Artest or Barnes succumbs to foul-trouble or injury.
So how does the current Lakers’ bench fare to last year’s? Actually, quite well if not better. That is of course setting aside the fact that the bench didn’t set the bar very high last year.