Editor's Note: #LakersRank rolls on to a big man who's done well in his time with the Lakers despite limited opportunities.
#10. Tarik Black
Average rank: 9.3
Coming in at No. 10 in our #LakersRank we have the third-year big man out of Kansas, Tarik Black. Now, two things to disclose: I had Black listed quite a bit higher than he ended up here. I also may be biased due to us both graduating as Jayhawks, but hear me out.
Much to my chagrin, Black struggled to find playing time under Byron Scott after seemingly showcasing his potential value in '14-15 and doing nothing to lose playing time. This past season, Black played just under 500 minutes, but once again it seemed clear that things were getting done with him on the court. I would argue that of all the players on the Lakers' roster, Tarik Black was the one player where it was obvious the Lakers were better with him on the court. Now, perhaps this may actually say more about Roy Hibbert than it does about Tarik, but the Lakers actually performed better than their opponents over the course of the season when Black was on the court -- something that is quite a feat while on a team as bad as the Lakers.
When compared to Roy Hibbert, the Lakers were 18.7 points per 100 possessions better with Black on the court (Black +0.7, Hibbert -18.0). That +0.7 doesn't seem like an impressive number, but again you have to consider that this means the 17-win Lakers were better than the other actual professional basketball teams while he was on the court.
Black's numbers were solid but not amazing -- he average 9.7 points and 11.4 rebounds per 36 minutes on 54.8 percent shooting -- but his value to the team all had to do with fit. Black was a competent pick-and-roll man in sporadic minutes but was a willing one. When on the court, Black is constantly looking to set good screens and roll to the basket. It doesn't take an extensive audit of the Lakers' roster to see why this helped the Lakers last season -- D'Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson could use these picks to help generate effective looks for the offense, and under Byron Scott, these opportunities were few and far between. The game became simpler with Black on the court. Not only did they become better, but they also became a lot more fun to watch -- especially when we don't have to watch Roy Hibbert fall down over and over.
On defense, Black once again isn't anything that will blow you away, though he had a pretty decent block and steal rate for an undersized center. He was just a competent, athletic, active body that knew his role and helped to protect the rim better than you would think, and limit easy shots. As a result, the Lakers' defense was actually pretty decent in (again, small sample) the time that he was on the court.
Rebounding is an obvious strength for Black. After posting 11.1 rebounds per 36 minutes his rookie season, Black continued to rebound at a fantastic rate in his '15-16 minutes, posting a similar 11.4, and the Lakers' total team rebound rate jumped five percentage points with him on the court.
To me, Tarik Black is more of a known quantity than most any player that's played less than 1,700 career minutes. He might have a low ceiling, but also a high floor. You know what you're getting: An undersized-but-athletic center that plays incredibly hard, rebounds at a great rate, sets plenty of good picks and defends pretty well. There's room for disagreement here, but I think he's a very solid bench big, and I was confident enough in him that I would have been quite alright with the Mozgov signing not happening -- but more on that at a later date.
The Lakers roster is bad, and if you're asking me, a guy like Tarik Black on the bench gives you more value for this coming season than much of the roster.