As the great sage Charles Barkley likes to profess to the world, Father Time is undefeated. When it just looked like Kobe Bryant was one Euro step ahead of the Reaper’s cousin, a knee injury derailed the good times. The Lakers – who were actually holding their own before the former superstar’s return – will now be without him for six weeks. Not to mention that as his body further breaks down, there’s no guarantee that another impairment doesn’t follow this one. Father Time is a major downer.
Still, in this most bleak predicament there’s a ray of golden light: most of his teammates will benefit from his departure from a fantasy standpoint. You have to feel bad for Pau Gasol, who was playing much improved since Kobe Bean returned to the court, but just as there will be losers in this mess, there will also be winners.
We look at who will step up in Kobe Bryant’s absence, ranked by how much they stand to improve.
Jodie Meeks – The shooting guard was playing respectable ball until the old sheriff decided to retake his badge. Even with Kobe back, Meeks has been getting his shots and minutes but he’s been shooting the ball like it’s a dumbbell. From beyond the arc, he hasn’t cleared 30 percent in the past five games.
As we explored before, Meeks can be an effective scorer even if his field goal attempts remain in the single digits. As a starter, he’ll have an easier time of falling into the flow of D’Antoni’s offense which should help him on the shooting front. Even if the ball doesn’t make its way into his hands too much he’ll score rather efficiently once he gets his shot to drop.
Jordan Farmar - Farmar isn’t quite the Xmas present Lakers fans would have hoped for in the pre-season but he’ll do. With Young, Henry, and Johnson running the L.A. point, Farmar will be a major addition to this Laker squad. Whenever a team is in desperate need of someone’s return, that means that player is due for big minutes.
Farmar was playing like a point guard worth picking up from the waiver wire in 12-man leagues or deeper before his injury and should continue that worth once healthy. When playing well, Farmar was averaging double-digit points, five assists, four rebounds, a steal, and about a three-pointer with change per game. Expect no different.
Nick Young - The streaky shooter has now scored in double digits for 12 games in a row. Seven of those times he notched at least 16 points. One reason being that he’s shooting like a man possessed. In December he has made 40 percent of his threes and in the last five games he’s impressed with 53.8 shooting from deep. Having a defensive magnet like Kobe on the floor was helping Young but with Farmar close to return his offensive output will now have another conduit: a playmaker who shoots the 3 well. His 3-ball isn’t sustainable at this rate – you know, cause he’s Nick Young – but he’ll continue to score in double digits for the foreseeable future.
Xavier Henry - With Kobe glaring at the basketball gods from the stand, Henry will play some point up until Farmar’s return. Even without running an offense, Henry has proved capable of posting big games, so the point guard duty might help his consistency for a small batch of games. Who knows, there’s the possibility he plays backup point even with Farmar back as a floor general. Take notice, if so.