Team Name: Los Angeles LakersLast Year’s Record: 57-25
Key Losses: Jordan Farmar (yes that's a stretch. D.J. Mbenga, anyone?)
Key Additions: Matt Barnes, Steve Blake
1. What Significant Moves were made during the off-season?
Matt Barnes and Steve Blake were added to bolster the bench. Barnes brings additional toughness and overall intangibles to the table. His value will be massive when the Lakers face multiple high-scoring wing players. I love the rest that Ron Artest can get as a result of Barnes. Barnes brings another dynamic to defense at the small forward spot. Unlike Artest, Barnes will not overpower with his strength too often. That being the case, Barnes will employ different strategies on both ends. The Lakers stole a starter on most teams for their bench. That's a scary thing to think about.
Steve Blake will fill Jordan Farmar's role. Derek Fisher should keep his starting spot, but Blake is a great security option if something were to happen. With Blake, they get an overall solid player. Solid as a rock, there's no one thing that stands out about his game, but he can hit three's and should fit nicely in the triangle.
2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?
- Depth. The Lakers have an incredibly balanced team. Their attack starts with two All-Star players in Bryant and Gasol. Then the role players come in and fulfill their purpose, occasionally having a breakout game. You also must think about the size of this team. Bynum and Gasol are seven footers, Odom and free agent signing Theo Ratliff are six-ten. This allows them to pound the ball outside and punish small teams. Additionally, it lets them establish an inside-outside offensive attack.
- Experience. The core players on this team have won back-to-back titles. Kobe Bryant has five rings. Phil Jackson has 11. Is there more that I need to say about experience?
- Raw talent. Talent is plentiful for the Lakers. We know Kobe is a star, but guys like Odom and Artest are amazing too. Odom is one of the few guys in the league who can basically do everything. Sure, his jump shot isn't the most consistent, but he can get hot and be decently effective. Artest provides toughness which the Lakers really need, but he's figured out how to be a team player. Those bad shots that were so common with him are becoming a thing of the past and he came up huge when it mattered last season.
3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
- Mileage on their stars. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol took this summer off to rest their bodies. Nevertheless, they have played full season the last two years, not to mention that both of them are hard workers. Obviously they've been in the gym getting ready for this season. That is their biggest issue. Can they work seemingly all year long and still perform at a title winning level? Let's not forget that Lamar Odom played for team USA this summer, also.
- Bench inconsistency. Last season, the Lakers' bench was on and off. Some games, they looked great and sparked the team to victory. Unfortunately, there were stretches of multiple games where the bench would get the Lakers out of games. That has to be held to a minimum. The better their bench, the more invincible the Lakers can be.
4. What are the goals for this team?
Win a ring. If a title is not brought back to LA, the season is a failure. Sure, the Miami Heat are looking formidable and the Celtics got better. The Lakers have the same core group and even got a little better. So, it's win it all or you win nothing.
5. Can an Eastern conference team steal the Lakers title?
Looking at the West, the Lakers still are the easy pick to head the finals. The Thunder and company might pose a challenge, but getting to the finals is never a simple task. The teams that could knock off the Lakers now are in the East. Two teams stick out: the Celtics and Heat.
Boston is hungry to get back to the finals. Losing Kendrick Perkins and subsequently losing game seven obviously hurt them. They have retooled some, adding Delonte West and Shaq, among others and should be even better. One thing they focused on was adding size. That was in direct response to the imposing Laker length. A smart move, but I feel like the Lakers have more skill and youth in their frontline. A running game could cause problems for Bostons bigs. Either way, the Celtics are the biggest threat to the Lakers. They are rich in talent and experience, and the hunger from losing last year.
Miami is the big topic among many this summer. Yes, they added some great players this summer, but the hype is too much. Though they will be a tremendous squad that is built to win a title soon, they are a year away. The team needs to find an identity for itself and learn how they would like to execute. With all the new guys, it will take most of next year for them to get fully in sync. Surely this is a team that will win, but the time is not this season. Soon after--now that's another story!
If the Lakers' approach stays the same, the upper hand is theirs this season.
Projected Finish: 58-24