Will Laker Role Players’ Impact Be the Same Without Fans?


With a return to play now hatched, the environment in which NBA players will compete will be much different than what was last seen on March 11th. It will likely be similar to the action seen in European soccer or UFC mixed martial arts. The feel of these games will be informal no matter how engaged the players appear. The electricity transferred between the benches, crowd, and players on the court will be sorely missed.

While some stars ignite and feed off crowd energy, it is often role players excelling in front of home crowds. Russell Westbrook and LeBron James are two stars whose energy are both contagious and receptive to buzzes in crowds. Patrick Beverley and Marcus Smart are two veteran role players who normally feed off crowd energy and instigate opposing players into unnecessary fouls. However, home teams will likely miss such intangible benefit for this postseason.

The question is whether the absence of crowd energy will impact the play of role players. It is possible that without the normal impact of crowds in imposing home court advantage that some abnormal production patterns will emerge. The elimination of crowds could also reduce some distractions for players adjusting to playoff scrutiny. It may even be possible that the circumstances negatively impact star players and role players have increased roles.

The production of role players will be interesting to follow as the NBA season resumes. The following is a player-by-player analysis of one skill area to watch for each Laker role player. While Anthony Davis and LeBron James play huge roles for the Lakers, this analysis will feature other players on the roster. Dion Waiters will be excluded since he has yet to suit up for the Lakers, along with Avery Bradley, who has confirmed that he will not be joining his squad in Orlando.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: Perimeter Defense 

Caldwell-Pope currently averages just under a steal per game. His energy on defense, which often leads to transition baskets, has been noticeable. He will likely draw key perimeter assignments (Harden, PG-13, etc.) throughout the returned season. He has been in a playoff series before in Detroit and should be ready to go.

Dwight Howard: Close-Range Scoring

Dwight Howard has been really efficient scoring the ball around the rim. His field goal and two-point goal percentages are both above 70% for the season. His lengthy playoff experience, including a run with the Lakers, should prepare him for a return to play.

Danny Green: Three-Point Spacing

Danny Green may be the most important floor spacer on the Lakers. His ability to knock down three-point shots will be key for the playoffs. Moreover, his championship experience with San Antonio and Toronto give the Lakers a valuable locker-room leader in an altered playoff format.

JaVale McGee: Rim Protection

McGee is one of three Lakers (Davis and Howard) that are averaging at least one block per game. Like Howard, McGee’s ability to finish at the rim make him a valuable two-way player. His recent runs with Golden State should have him ready for a different playoff format.

Alex Caruso: Perimeter Defense 

Caruso has played well on defense, where he averages a steal per game. If he continues to play well on defense against the league’s best perimeter talent, then he will likely continue to be in the rotation. He has yet to play in the postseason, which could limit his minutes. However, if his minutes remain high then his defense will likely be a reason.

Kyle Kuzma: Perimeter Scoring 

Kuzma is the team’s third-leading scorer at just below 13 points per game. His ability to score in a multitude of ways will be key as the Lakers prepare for a playoff run. However, his inexperience in the playoffs will be something to watch.

Rajon Rondo: Playmaking

Even when playing limited minutes, Rajon Rondo remains one of the game’s best facilitators. His ability to create easy chances for others will be key when he’s on the floor. His championship experience and mental toughness suggests he will be a key contributor as the season resumes.

Jared Dudley: Three-Point Spacing 

Dudley has been in a few playoff series and will likely be ready to go when play resumes. His three-point spacing has the capability to create easy opportunities for his teammates.

Quinn Cook: Perimeter Defense

Cook has championship experience with the Warriors and could thrive in these circumstances. His ability to put pressure on opposing ball handlers will be something to watch as play resumes.

Markieff Morris: Perimeter Scoring 

Morris’ ability to score the ball could add valuable playoff depth for the Lakers. His playoff experience with the Wizards and Thunder suggest he should be ready for these circumstances.

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About Tamba Mondeh

1st-year law student. Stillman College, The University of Alabama, and Duke University alum.

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