COMMENTARY | The Los Angeles Lakers' bench left a lot to be desired in 2011-2012, and that's an understatement.
The second unit was last in scoring and averaged 21.3 points per game during the regular season, and much of it was due to struggling in the areas of athleticism, youth and perimeter shooting. Shannon Brown, now with the Phoenix Suns, left the Lakers during the offseason prior to 2011-2012, and was making significant improvements in his outside game -- Lakers fans remember what he could do when attacking the rim (if not, this may refresh your memory).
Enter 2012 second round draft pick Darius Johnson-Odom, who brings plenty of similar skills to the table as an undersized shooting guard at 6-foot-2. What he lacks in stature, he makes up for in leaping ability, because like Brown, he can jump out of the gym.
Besides being athletic, Johnson-Odom can shoot the ball well from deep. He was a career 40 percent three-point shooter in three seasons and 105 career games at Marquette.
Interestingly enough, he may be more of a pure scorer than Brown, who deserves credit for improving in that area since joining the Lakers via trade in 2009. By 2010-2011, he averaged 8.7 points per game in 19.1 minutes through 82 games (16.3 points per 36 minutes).
Does athleticism alone translate into wins? Of course not, but the Lakers' subs struggled to stop anyone consistently, as evidenced by their 32.3 points per game allowed by opponents. The ability to hold leads is going to be critical in maintaining the freshness of aging stars Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, and the Lakers will need them in order to make a postseason run. Quickness and team speed matter on defense.
Brown became a fan favorite because of his other-worldly dunking ability, but he truly endeared himself to the Lakers faithful because of his improved production. Johnson-Odom has the ability to make that same impact early in his career. The new Princeton Offense will test his NBA range early on, as he figures to get plenty of looks from the perimeter given the size of the team up front. If he can keep people honest with an outside shot, then Staples Center may get to see a purple and gold version of Lob City.
For a team that needs some youthful playmakers, it couldn't come soon enough.
Michael C. Jones is a Yahoo! Featured Contributor in Sports and covers the Los Angeles Lakers as a Southern California-based sports journalist, editor, and blogger. You can read him at SB Nation, Bleacher Report and Examiner.com. He is also the Editor and Founder of Sports Out West.
You can find him on Twitter @MikeJonesTweets.
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- Los Angeles Lakers
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