Lakers, Lakers, Lakers. No matter how good or bad they are expected to be, the L.A. Lakers are always a hot topic going into the season. There’s always some significant story to be focused on. This year, it’s two (negative) things: Kobe Bryant’s recovery from his torn achilles and the loss of Dwight Howard in free agency. Hey, the Lakers are the Lakers. They’ll overcome all that, right? I’ll let you know what I think in this Lakers season preview:
Guards (B): Steve Nash, Jodie Meeks, Jordan Farmar, Steve Blake, Xavier Henry, Kobe Bryant (IR)
If you haven’t noticed by now, the grades for each position take the extent of a player’s injury into account. If Bryant were healthy, I would give the Lakers guards an “A-.” I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Kobe quickly recovered and played as if he never tore his achilles. He’s 35 years old, but Kobe Bryant defies the rule of just about everything. With that said, Kobe is (somewhat) human and will likely be impacted by the major injury in some capacity. I know Steve Nash is 39 years old and all, but the Lakers really can’t afford to sit him out too many games if they’re serious about making the playoffs. We saw Nash bothered by injuries last season, as it seemed his old age finally showed. Nash needs to try his best and play through the pain. His teammates really need him (to make them better players.) Jodie Meeks is going to have a much larger role than ever before. Now, his job isn’t only to stand on the arc and hit threes. While he’ll still do that much of the time, he’ll also have to create for himself with Kobe out of the lineup. Farmar has been out of the NBA for a couple of years. I’m looking forward to seeing him return as more than just a serviceable bench player.
Forwards (B-): Nick Young, Pau Gasol, Wes Johnson, Shawne Williams, Ryan Kelly
Nick Young was signed for the following reasons: offense, offense, and more offense. Young is one of the more exciting players in this league to watch when given the opportunity. With Kobe out and a coach that preaches offense, Young is almost sure to get that opportunity. Young’s biggest problem, beside his lack of defense, is his inconsistent shooting. However, Young could potentially average right around 20 points per game while Kobe’s out of the equation. Shawne Williams is reportedly starting at power forward in the opening game. That might work for a few games, but in the longterm, I don’t see that being the pattern. I see Gasol getting a lot of time at power forward with Kaman as the center. Wes Johnson will be a bench player with a lot to prove. Thus far in his career, Johnson has been a bust considering he was selected 4th by the Wolves in the 2010 draft. Maybe this year will be his coming out party.
Centers (B+): Chris Kaman, Jordan Hill, Robert Sacre
As much as Mike D’Antoni loves the idea of playing small ball, I really don’t think the Lakers signed Kaman to bring him off the bench. He immediately becomes one of the most valuable players to this questionable Laker team and they’ll need him to play around 30 minutes per game. I like Jordan Hill a lot. He’s very mobile on both offense and defense and is often caught stealing another possession for his team.
Defense (C+): Kaman and Gasol on the court together make a pretty legit defensive duo but I doubt it’s enough to save the rest of this troubled defensive team. Defensive stops are certainly a must as you obviously can’t win without getting stops. But D’Antoni’s gameplan is going to revolve around his high-tempo offense and, for the most part, he’ll let the defense be.
Shooting (A-): Making shots on a consistent basis is the only way the Lakers survive as a competitive team this year. I don’t doubt D’Antoni’s offense and the players’ offensive mentalities will make it happen. And when Kobe comes back, he is probably going to make some incredible Kobe-like shots in the clutch.
Experience (A): Nash, Kobe, Gasol, Kaman…these guys have all had quite the journeys in their extended NBA careers.
Standing – 9th West: Most people are expecting the Lakers to miss the playoffs. I really think even without Kobe, they’re going to surprise the rest of the league. You best believe Kobe is holding team meetings on a weekly basis, setting it straight. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Lakers make a blockbuster trade and make a push all the way into the playoffs. I also wouldn’t be surprised if they finished as a clear lottery team. This result is just my gut feeling.