While the starting lineup still includes a few question marks at small forward and center, the Los Angeles Lakers bench will still feature some productive players. Reserves Nick Young, Xavier Henry, and Ryan Kelly have all inked new deals with Los Angeles returning for a second season.
The re-signing of these players bodes well for the Lakers future. One of the biggest keys in long-term success for NBA teams are having quality players that can spare the starters during long stretches of the year. Teams like the San Antonio Spurs hinged their championship runs with strong play and consistency.
Last season, Los Angeles produced the second highest scoring unit in the NBA at 42.3 points per game. Nick Young was the leading scorer for the Lakers and their bench at 17.9 points per game (career-high). His ability to catch fire from long and mid-range made him a viable scoring option, and next season should be no different.
Young will primarily back up Kobe Bryant at the shooting guard position. Los Angeles brought Young back on a five-year, $21.5 million deal, after last season’s strong performance.
Xavier Henry is also one of the main components of the Lakers bench, proving to be quite the surprise for them. After starting his career playing limited minutes for the Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Hornets (Pelicans), Henry finally found consistent minutes (21.1 per game) and followed up with a productive season before injuries.
Henry averaged 10 points per game on 41 percent shooting. He will also see a lot of time at the small forward and shooting guard spots if the Lakers don’t insert him into the starting lineup.
Another interesting element will be the approach that the Lakers take with Julius Randle. Going into the season, Randle was tabbed as the likely starter, but the Lakers have since added Carlos Boozer who will likely anchor the power forward spot.
With Randle coming off the bench, he provides athleticism and interior scoring. Los Angeles will get the chance to bring him along slowly, and relieve some of the pressure of NBA maturation.
Ryan Kelly and Robert Sacre are also two more of the players returning to the Lakers bench. Each player played significant minutes last season, especially Kelly who started several games in his rookie season. Kelly is a class stretch 4 who will look to strengthen up this off-season to bring versatility to the Lakers rotation. Sacre is known for his energy and activity on both ends of the court.
With a lack of depth at center, he can play a valuable role this season.
The Lakers did lose some key players at point guard, including Jordan Farmar and Kendall Marshall. In their absence, Los Angeles acquired Jeremy Lin and Jordan Clarkson. Lin could end up being the Lakers starter depending on the health of Steve Nash.
At 40 years of age, Nash would be better-suited to backup Lin to preserve himself throughout the entire season. He can serve as the primary ballhandler and veteran that provides cohesion for the reserves. Clarkson could also allow Nash to mentor him during his rookie campaign.
In lieu of the uphill battle that Los Angeles face in the Western Conference, the franchise will look to their bench to perform at a high level. Expectations are low in Lakerland, and it could prove to be great for developing players on their roster. New coach Byron Scott will inherit a talented set of reserves that he can hope to combine with healthy starters.