Positional Breakdown: Shooting Guard
Other Positions: Point Guard | Small Forward | Power Forward | Center
With the best player in the game in Kobe Bryant manning the two-guard spot for the Lakers, the position is the team’s greatest strength. Although most of the minutes at the position are already divvied out to the first-team All-NBA guard, Maurice Evans and rookie Coby Karl will still be looked upon to spell Bryant when he needs a breather.
What We Already Know: As one of the premier basketball players in the world, Bryant is an incredible force at both ends of the court. With an expansive array of offensive moves, uncanny athleticism and a fire that few sports figures can emulate, Bryant has reached a point where he is virtually unstoppable on the court. To make matters worse for opponents, Bryant also has a killer instinct that truly places the superstar in a league of his own. Still, Bryant has shouldered the load for the Lakers for three years running and will need his teammates to help pick up the slack if he hopes to extend his prime well into his mid 30’s.
Last Season: For the second consecutive year, Bryant wowed fans and fellow players with his unmatched offensive game. While Bryant’s legendary 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors two seasons ago was an incredible display in and of itself, Bryant arguably surpassed that landmark when he scored 50 or more points in four straight games last year. The streak allowed Bryant to pass incumbent scoring leader Carmelo Anthony in the second half of the season, giving Bryant his second scoring title in a row.
Moving Forward: After averaging almost 33 points per game last year, Phil Jackson has asked Bryant to assume a more facilitator-like role this season. That is not to say Bryant will not be relied upon to keep the Lakers afloat should the triangle offense stagnate. Instead, it is more a testament to the heightened “team” approach Jackson preached throughout training camp this year. If Bryant is able to take on his new role with ease, it could do wonders for the team as evidenced when the Lakers took a similar approach during their seven-game first-round series against the Phoenix Suns two seasons ago and at the beginning of last season. Bryant will also be asked to set an example for teammates on the defensive end, much like he did while starring for Team USA this summer.
What We Already Know: Aside from Kobe Bryant, Maurice Evans may be the second most athletic player on the team. Although the guard has bounced around throughout the NBA and Europe during his initial years in the league, he seems to have found a home with the Lakers, spelling Bryant at the two spot. Evans’ main asset is the incredible amount of energy he brings to the court, using his pogo stick-like jumping ability to tip in shots and soar over taller defenders for rebounds. Evans also brings a solid defensive repertoire to the table. If he improves his streaky outside shooting and suspect ball-handling skills, Evans will be a valuable commodity for the Lakers.
Last Season: In his first season with the Lakers, Evans proved a formidable backup to Bryant despite his limited playing time. Although his outside shot wavered at times, Evans had several breakout games throughout the year that could foreshadow a more prominent role with the team this season. Better yet, it appears as if Evans has earned Phil Jackson’s trust in his short time in Los Angeles as the coach took advantage of the guard’s solid defense during many close games throughout the season.
Moving Forward: Once again, Evans will be counted on by Lakers coaches to relieve Bryant during the season. Whether or not his role expands beyond the superstar’s primary backup will hinge largely on how Evans utilizes his limited time on the court. If the guard shows more consistency on the offensive end, look for Evans to become a more prominent fixture of Phil’s rotation this year. Evans could also play with Kobe, grabbing minutes at small forward as he did last year.
What We Already Know: The “other” Kobe, Coby Karl—son of Denver Nuggets coach George Karl—is fortunate to have been granted a camp invite with the Lakers. With a superior stroke from outside, impressive range and solid ball-handling skills, Karl has proven that his invite was no mistake and that he is worthy of a spot on the Lakers 15-man roster. While his offensive game is solid, Karl does not possess natural-born lateral quickness or speed, making him somewhat of a liability on the defensive end.
Last Season: The 6’5” guard—who can play both guard positions and small forward—averaged almost 15 points in his senior year at Boise State. Karl was awarded with a spot on the All-Western Athletic Conference’s first team. Karl’s final season with the Broncos left a lasting legacy on the school as the guard finished as its career leader in games played and ranked third all-time in points scored.Moving Forward: Karl is in line to become the fifteenth and final member of the Lakers roster. While the guard may initially seem like a long-shot on the roster, do not count the Boise State alum out. Karl is a natural motivator, persevering against cancer to compete for a spot with the league’s premier team. Should he make the roster, Karl probably will not see much playing time, but could play an important behind-the-scenes role for the Lakers. He could also see some time in the D-League with the D-Fenders, with an opportunity to be recalled if the Lakers need his shooting or if an injury occurs.