NBA Season Preview: LA Lakers

Last Season: 27-55 for last in the division, Leading scorer—(17.9); Leading rebounds— Pau Gasol (9.7); Leading assists—Kendall Marshall

Changes: Added—Jeremy Lin (trade), Jordan Clarkson (draft trade), Julius Randall (draft), Ronnie Price (signed); Resigned—Nick Young, Xavier Henry; Lost– Chris Kaman (free agent), Jodie Meeks (free agent), Jordan Farmar (free agent), Kent Bazemore (free agent), MarShon Brooks (free agent), Pau Gasol (free agent), Ryan Kelly (free agent), Wesley Johnson (free agent)

Positions

Point Guard: Steve Nash, Jeremy Lin, Jordan Clarkson, Ronnie Price

If this was the 2007 version of Steve Nash then the Lakers would be the deepest team in the league at the point. Whether Nash will even play and how much he will be able to provide, however, are completely up in the air.

Jeremy Lin is probably the 35th or 36th best point guard in the NBA. That means he is one of the top 3 or 4 backups, which is pretty much exactly where I predicted he’d end up when the whole Linsanity thing went down a few years back. He will be great as long as he is in the backup role, and average in the games he starts.

Clarkson is a second round pick and Price is a bottom of the bench guy. Neither should see any playing time unless Nash misses time, then one or the other will earn a few backup minutes.

Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant, Wayne Ellington, Xavier Henry

I think Kobe is less of a question mark than Nash, but there are still the inevitable questions about how much he will be contributing. I’m of the mindset that Kobe will be in the “score as many points as I can to get as close to Kareem’s record as possible” mindset for the next two years, which will result in him looking better on paper than the translated wins. But someone on this team will need to score, and it won’t be any of the other guards on the roster.

Henry can shoot, but does very little else. He is a below average backup. Ellington was about the same level of player a few years back in Cleveland which is the only time he cracked 10 minutes a game. If Kobe misses time either would be woefully underqualified to start.

Small Forward: Wesley Johnson, Nick Young

Swaggy P has spent his career putting up empty stats on bad teams. Once he gets back from an injured thumb he should be able to resume doing so, though he may have to battle Kobe for those bad shots. Johnson has been a sub-average backup. He won’t be very good as a starter until Swaggy returns. This position will also be a glaring defensive hole for the Lakers, and with Kobe unable to defend the elite of the league the Lakers project to allow nearly the most points in the league, especially against Durant and Lebron—look for those matchups if you want to witness potential 50 point games.

Power Forward: Carlos Boozer, Julius Randle, Ed Davis, Ryan Kelly

Boozer is another Lakers starter who is a shell of what he used to be. He will still pull some scoring and rebounding, but his defense (never good) will be even more atrocious in this lineup—he’s been hid by the Chicago/Boston defense that uses team concepts to get around individually poor defenders, without the ferocious defense of Noah and Butler around him Boozer will look incredibly inept on that end of the floor.

I don’t know a lot about Randle other than that he was drafted very high, and he is supposed to be raw. Hopefully the Lakers will be able to groom him and develop him to be a future star, but despite getting a lot of minutes this year (most likely), I find the talent around him to be most likely toxic to his development. There are veterans here, but not the kind prone to mentoring or that you would want mentoring a young star.

Davis and Kelly were both fairly efficient in their minutes last year, if unspectacular, but with Boozer and a lottery pick I doubt any get significant playing time, and the Lakers will be looking to unload if they can get anything for either.

Center: Jordan Hill, Robert Sacre

Hill is athletic and efficient, but not a scorer and an average to below average rebounder. Sacre is our “true seven footer” stiff, but a good defender. This combo will put the Lakers right about the bottom of the league in center production, as neither can score and while competent defenders, neither have the game changing defense of a player like Roy Hibbert or Dwight Howard.

Outlook: I expect the Lakers to be in the lottery again. Most likely they will be right around the 7th pick next year, though they might mange to lose more and get even lower since they will be playing more west teams while most of the other lottery chasers are cursed with the East schedule.

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