The Lakers final championship piece nears his return

Perhaps the best thing Barnes will bring the Lakers is stability in two areas. These areas are the small forward position and the bench, both of which have been terribly shaky since his injury.

The small forward position has been a weak spot for the Lakers since the injury to Barnes. Due to this, the Lakers were rumored to be in the market for a small forward such as Gerald Wallace, but Mitch Kupchak ultimately kept the team status quo.

The position still has question marks though, as Ron Artest has struggled with his shot, but possibly even more alarming is the fact that the former Defensive Player of the Year has been shaky on defense at times too. A great example of this was the Boston game in Los Angeles, in which Paul Pierce was able to do whatever he wanted.

Inconsistency has been a trend throughout Artest’s career, but he has looked slow at times, and is showing that age may be catching up to him. Artest also seems to have a lack of focus and at times seems more concerned with his ventures outside of basketball.

Barnes will not take Ron’s spot in the starting lineup, but Barnes will be called on to play important minutes if Ron struggles. The Portland game was an encouraging one for Artest, but he has just been too inconsistent to trust this season.

Barnes will provide the stability the Lakers need at the small forward position, not only through his toughness and defense but also his three-point shooting. This will be a must in order to giver Kobe and Pau room to operate, rather than having defenses collapse on them.

Perhaps Barnes’ greatest contribution will be stabilizing the Lakers’ bench. Despite a great start, The Renegades have struggled in this season. Although an all-star caliber player, Lamar Odom, joined the group, the Lakers’ bench has been on a milk carton for many of the Lakers’ struggles.

Although Walton is a great passer and a smart player, swapping him for Barnes in the rotation will unquestionably be a huge upgrade. Walton is a liability on defense and has struggled with his outside shooting, while Barnes thrives in those areas. Barnes’ return will also help to limit the number of minutes Kobe Bryant has to play at small forward also.

With the addition of Barnes, the bench can hopefully return to the form they had during the Lakers’ hot start to the season. Shannon Brown and Steve Blake have struggled recently, so hopefully the addition of Barnes will enable this group to play to its potential.

Next: An overlooked piece

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