At the core, the role and significance of a player such as DJ Mbenga is at most, two rungs above that of Adam Morrison on the ladder of value as far as the Lakers roster is concerned. However, if there is one great difference, it’s that Mbenga is a much more crucial player if there is an injury to Andrew Bynum as has been the case the last three years. In 2008, that burden of “fill in and just don’t mess it up” fell heavily upon the shoulders of Ronny Turiaf and Lamar Odom, which ultimately was what hurt the team most against the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals.
DJ plays at a much different tone than Ronny and LO. Mbenga is a serviceable back-up big man and he proved that if he’s out on the floor, what you’re going to get is strong rebounding, shot blocking, hustle and the occasional drizzling of points. One of his stronger outings this past season came against the New Orleans Hornets last November during which he had 10 points (5-9), 12 rebounds and four blocks. Late in the year, when Andrew Bynum went down with the Achilles tendon injury, Mbenga was given a decent chunk of his vacated minutes. In April, at Minnesota, DJ had a solid offensive game with 11 points on 5 of 7 from the field.
Yes, the numbers are not ever going to cause your heart to skip a beat, but bottom line, this guy always stays ready to play. Championship teams need great chemistry and by all accounts, DJ’s teammates have nothing but good things to say about him and he’s even known to be a personal favorite of Kobe Bryant. Lastly, Mbenga also played a pivotal role in challenging Bynum every day in practice, especially in test runs returning from injury rest. Keeping the complete picture in mind, I’ll give the main man of “Bangin with Mbenga” a grade of C, a mark that I find fair and just.
Next: Adam Morrison…