Our thanks to Celtics Blog for working us into this huge season preview bonanza.
Team Name: Los Angeles Lakers
Last Year’s Record: 65-17
Key Losses: Trevor Ariza
Key Additions: Ron Artest
1. What Significant Moves were made during the off-season?
The only real significant move was Ariza out, Artest in. Retaining LO and Shannon Brown was important, but I predicted that would happen. I think the Lakers front office is being bold. They had a nice, relatively young core and decided to take a risk and bring in Artest. They tweaked what was already very solid.
2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?
- Starting Five. Whoever they decide to start, the Lakers have one of the best starting units in the league. Kobe as the leader, Gasol as a great guy to throw down to in the post, defensive-minded Artest and Odom or Bynum.
- Length. The Lakers are a tall team. Bynum, Gasol, Odom, don't forget that Kobe is 6-6. They've got seven guys that are 6-8 or taller. Tell me that won't cause teams with slim front lines problems.
- Best closer in the game. Kobe Bryant is still the best closer in the game. I still strongly believe that and of course, when LA needs a basket, he's the guy to go to make it happen. I have a feeling that this year someone else besides Kobe will be the one to make an important shot. The defenses will be more prepared than ever for late game heroics from Kobe, so expect more clutch shots from Derek Fisher and others.
- Young Bench that isn't too young. I love the age of the Lakers' bench. You've got semi-young backup PG's in Farmar or Brown, a 25-year-old Adam Morrison who needs to prove himself, and a great triangle guy who's in his prime, Luke Walton. They're not so young that they'll be inconsistent, but aged enough to contribute throughout the entire year.
3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
- Bynum's Health. As healthy as Bynum may say he is now, his health will always be in question. Can he maintain a full healthy year? If so, then bring it on, Drew. If not, then the Lakers are a little slim up front. That won't be good enough to win the Larry O'Brien trophy.
- Stars have lots of mileage. Kobe and Pau have racked up tons of mileage over the last two years. Kobe had a summer to recover, which was much needed, but he's still logged a ton of minutes and he's 31. Pau played in Eurobasket with Spain this summer and played in the Olympics two summers ago, not to mention trips to the finals the last two seasons. A big part of Phil Jackson's early season duties will be to make sure Kobe and Pau get their rest. Save them a bit for the playoffs.
- Not as many vets as Celtics. The Celtics have done a great job of assembling a group of experienced players. The Lakers are close to that level, but aren't at that spot. Their talent levels are very comparable and the Lakers can still beat them, but the C's are a deeper team overall.
4. What are the goals for this team?
The goals are to win the title, or the season will be a failure. Nothing less will suffice. The Lakers are a team that should contend for a title and my mentality is similar to Kobe's, if we win it, let's live it up, if not, it's back to the drawing board real soon.
5. Who do you feel happier for, Sasha for his new hair, or Odom's marriage to Khloe Kardashian?
While I'm very happy for Lamar, I gotta say, Sasha got a much needed new look. It's cleaner, different and he better hit more jumpers because of it. If so, I will begin to advocate shorter hair for all inconsistent jump shooters.
Projected Finish: 67-15
A note on this projection: this is assuming the Lakers are as close to 100% health-wise as possible. If Kobe, Bynum, Gasol, or Odom miss lots of games, they won't win 67 games.
(Photo By: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images North America, from here)