Positional Breakdown: Power Forward
Other Positions: Point Guard | Small Forward | Center
The Lakers offer a variety of talents a power forward, with the passing of Lamar Odom, the long distance shot of Brian Cook and the physical intensity of Ronny Turiaf. In addition, Kwame Brown and Chris Mihm might grab some minutes at the position against more physical match-ups. With Odom likely to get minutes at small forward, everyone else will be looking to show that their unique skill set is what the Lakers need at the four.
What We Already Know: The 6’10” Odom is one of the most versatile players in the league, owning a diverse skill set that few players in the game possess. Odom has spent significant time at both forward positions, but has served primarily as power forward for the Lakers in his three seasons with the team. Though undersized when compared to some of the bigger players at the four spot, Odom is a matchup nightmare for teams as he is able to handle the ball with ease and serve as a key distributor on the offensive end. While his inefficiencies on the defensive end make him an easy target for bigger, stronger forwards, he is an able rebounder and Odom remains one of the league’s most talented players.
Last Season: After Odom’s strong play in the playoffs versus the Phoenix Suns two seasons ago, the forward entered the 2006-2007 season beaming with confidence and with a new set of expectations. Odom did not disappoint in the first half of the season as his all-around play led to the Lakers surprising 26-13 start. However, injuries derailed much of Odom’s second half as he was forced to play through a painful shoulder injury. Still, Odom persevered to dominate once again in last year’s playoffs, setting the tone for this season.
Moving Forward: For the Lakers to be successful, they will need Odom at full strength. While he has yet to provide the one-two scoring punch next to Kobe Bryant, the forward’s value is immeasurable in all other areas of the game. Odom not only led the team in rebounding last season, but also served as a secondary point guard from the power forward spot—a role the Lakers hope Odom will reprise this season.
What We Already Know: Turiaf is one of the most energetic players in the league, igniting the Lakers bench in his first two seasons with the team. Like Lakers star Kobe Bryant, Turiaf is a true warrior, having come back from open-heart surgery to recapture the form that spurred the Lakers to take the forward with their second round pick two summers ago. On offense, Turiaf owns a surprisingly soft touch for a man that plays with his level of aggression. He is also a bruiser on the boards, consistently battling larger opponents for rebounds underneath the basket.
Last Season: While Turiaf was not a regular fixture off of Coach Jackson’s bench, he provided a great deal of energy and toughness when he was on the court. The Gonzaga graduate was also a vocal leader on and off the court for the Lakers all season long—a less glamorous, but equally important role filled by the forward. In his limited fifteen minutes of playing time, Turiaf averaged just over five points and four rebounds for the team. His minutes were limited by his youth as he was learning to play in this league and also a propensity to draw quick fouls. However, when able to stay on the court, Turiaf usually took advantage as the forward had several breakthrough games that could foreshadow more prominent minutes this season.
Moving Forward: Coach Jackson praised Turiaf for his energy and hustle during training camp this year, even predicting that the forward may end up starting at the four spot for the Lakers, with Odom moving to small forward. For Turiaf to be successful, he will need to avoid the early foul trouble that has plagued him in his first two seasons and hit the weak side jumpers that the triangle provides. Regardless of whether or not he ends up starting, if he can stay on the court, look for Turiaf’s role to expand this year.
What We Already Know: Cook is one of the lone holdovers from Phil Jackson’s first stint with the team. However, the forward still has not proven his ability to serve as a reliable two-way player off the bench for the Lakers. The former Illinois star is a dead-eye shooter that often provides instant offense for the team. But, he is a liability on the defensive end of the court, resulting in extended stays on the Lakers bench.
Last Season: Cook’s 2006-2007 season was much like his previous campaign as the forward provided scoring in bursts, but failed to prove his worth when guarding bigger, stronger opponents. Had the team not been plagued with so many injuries to key players, Cook’s minutes likely would have been reduced. Whereas other players with his experience level have elevated their play in recent years, Cook’s game has largely remained status quo.
Moving Forward: For Cook to regain Coach Jackson’s trust and become one of the first men off the bench for the Lakers, he will need to bring more intensity on the defensive end. While Cook has generated a league-wide reputation for his instant offense, the Lakers remain unimpressed as power forwards continue to dominate Cook on the other end of the court. If the forward is finally able to work out his issues, he could leapfrog similar players like Radmanovic on the Lakers depth chart.