With their latest acquisition of Carlos Boozer off amnesty waivers, the Los Angeles Lakers have created a logjam at power forward.
Even more so, management continues to show their indecisiveness as to which direction they want to take the franchise.
For Kobe Bryant’s last two years under contract, the thought process was to build a roster that’s capable of making a playoff run. Instead, the Lakers whiffed on signing any of the top three tiers of free agents, re-signing Nick Young instead and trading for Jeremy Lin.
Owner Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak drafted Julius Randle with the seventh overall pick in last month’s draft, and since then they have brought back power forward Jordan Hill along with the recently signed Ed Davis and now Boozer. Ryan Kelly is also still on the roster.
That leaves the Lakers with five power forwards and only one true center, Robert Sacre.
Where They All Fit In
Randle was expected to make a contribution immediately, possibly as a starter under Bryant’s leadership. At just 19 years old, he may already be the team’s best rebounder, leading the nation in double-doubles last year as a freshman at Kentucky. He now faces stiff competition at the position and his playing time is guaranteed to be altered significantly.
Of the five players at the position, Boozer, who averaged 13.7 points and 8.3 rebounds last year for the Chicago Bulls, is most likely to challenge Randle as the starter. He’s 32 and is known to play little to no defense (evidenced by Tom Thibodeau’s benching of him in fourth quarters), but does give the team a veteran who can mesh well in a lineup with Bryant.
Randle is the most versatile option and possesses an intriguing face-up game with the ability to handle the ball in the open court and finish in the paint. He will present the next coach of the Lakers (presumably Byron Scott) with a unique skill set to develop in the frontcourt.
Davis is not much of an offensive threat and in fact, his style of play is very similar to that of Hill’s. He’s got long arms and can contest shots, though he’s not necessarily the rim protector at the NBA level that he was at the University of North Carolina. The 25-year-old averaged just 5.7 points and 4.1 rebounds in over 15 minutes per game in Memphis last year. Both Davis and Hill are not tall enough or big enough to be considered full-time centers like Sacre.
One of the lone bright spots for the team last year, Hill did turn out to be a very efficient player minute-for-minute. He posted a career-high 28 points twice in the month of March and grabbed 16 rebounds against the Milwaukee Bucks, also a career-high. In 20.8 minutes a game, he averaged 9.7 points and 7.4 rebounds.
Kelly returns for his second season after showcasing some potential as a stretch-4 in Mike D’Antoni’s system. He was best suited for that type of offense built around an uptempo pick and roll game, so it’s unknown how he will fit in with the new coach’s offensively philosophy.
Randle and Boozer will be the team’s biggest position battle entering training camp come September, while Hill, Davis and Kelly have proven capable of coming off the bench. If no other big man is signed, Hill and Davis may contest Sacre for playing time at center in certain situations.