Jordan Hill: A-
The low-key most valuable trading chip on the Lakers is Jordan Hill, who has somewhat cooled off after a red-hot start (partially because the lack of point guards has cut off his stream of easy buckets in the post). His PER is 19.8, the highest on the team, an all-star rating. He's a vicious rebounder and has the team's highest shooting percentage by a wide margin (54.9 percent). Perplexingly, he's only playing 20 minutes a game. D' Antoni regards him as mainly an energy guy, a shame, as he gives the team a toughness and physicality that they lack when he's on the bench. Bonus: he wore his dreads in pig tails during last night's loss to the Heat, which gave off mild Pippi Longstocking vibes.
Nick Young: A-
Watching the 2013-14 Lakers without Nick Young is like trying to eat a burrito without guacamole or trying to imagine Migos rapping without being able to repeat the word "Versace." It's possible, but the mere mention of such a quandry can send you into a tailspin of misery. It's best we don't consider these worst of all possible worlds.
If nothing else, basketball is a triumph of aesthetics. No other sport or city places such a premium on style, and Swaggy P drives a Porsche and spends 50K a month on clothing to ensure that he reigns supreme. For all the flash and four-point plays, Young is having one of the best seasons of his career. He's tied for second in the league in points per touch (0.43), just behind all-stars Kevin Durant (0.46) and Klay Thompson (0.46). His defense is never going to win awards, but he did win a game by taking a charge. When we look back on this season a decade from now, the bad memories will fade away and the few good ones will stand out - -and we will call the 2013-14 Lakers season, the Year of Swaggy P.
Robert Sacre: C+
At times, Sacre displays brolic low-post muscle, impressive energy, and a soft touch around the basket. At other times, he plays basketball with the grace of a man who dances like this.
Manny Harris - Inc.
The D-League call-up hasn't played enough to get a complete grade. However, it's important that the world knows that his full name is Corperryale L'Adorable "Manny" Harris.
Chris Kaman - Inc
The lack of Kaman-time this season is sort of baffling. During the brief stretches he's played, he's proven to still be a very solid NBA back-up. And yet, he mostly rides the pine looking like a melancholic cottage-cheese eating beanstalk giant.
On one hand, it's incredibly frustrating that Kobe has only gotten to play six games this season, further curtailing the number of times fans will get to watch him play basketball again. On the hand, he gave us that Gif. It's a toss-up.
He may play again this season. He may not. Either way, he has had the worst luck with nerve damage since Ken Griffey Jr. came to play on the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant softball team.
Before his hamstring troubles, Farmar was having one of the best seasons of his pro career. It's no coincidence that the Lakers slide started shortly after his injury.
: See Jordan Farmar - except replace "hamstring" with elbow."
See the previous two entries, except replace "hamstring" and "elbow" with knee. Make the Kobe eye-roll face.
Mike D'Antoni: B/ B-
To many Lakers fans, the mere thought of giving Mike D' Antoni a passing grade is unthinkable. He became coach early last season and was immediately met with impeachment cries, mainly because he had the misfortunate of not being Phil Jackson. And, yes, there are flaws in his coaching style. He doesn't seem to communicate enough with his players about their roles. His substitution patterns are erratic. His concept of the game can be ideological and he struggles to find time for deserving players who don't fit his system (Jordan Hill, Kaman), while his lack of a crunch-time defensive plan against Chicago this week was indictment-worthy.
Yet he's also been waylaid by roster-obliterating injuries that have never allowed him to achieve any consistency. It's clear that the Lakers are an abysmal defensive team, but it might unfair to pin the blame on the head coach. Last year, he had Steve Clifford running the defense. Clifford was previously the defensive coordinator for Stan Van Gundy when the Orlando Magic had a top 3 defense (in spite of every player not named Dwight Howard). This year, Kurt Rambis, one of the most respected men in the game, is in charge of the defense. And still, they rank 26 out of 30 teams in defensive efficiency. It's likely that this team simply doesn't have the personnel to be a good defensive or rebounding squad.
As for their offense, he runs a system based on having good point guards and has lost all three of his opening-night ball handlers. Lesser coaches would have lost their team by now. Instead, D' Antoni has the Lakers battling hard every night. They've hung with the Miami Heat on two separate occasions and were above .500 until the engine started to combust. He may not be the solution, but he's not the problem either. In many ways, his coaching stint deserves an incomplete grade too.
No letter grade necessary - - just go watch that Kobe Gif again.