Last season the Los Angeles Lakers experienced a bit of a down year after struggling to win the Pacific Division by just one game over the cross-gym rival Los Angeles Clippers. Then the team received an early postseason exit at the hands of the young, but dominant, Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Semi-finals, four games to one. Those occurrences, along with the fact that Kobe Bryant’s championship window is closing due to age, forced the Lakers to go out and make a plethora of moves in attempts to bolster their roster and make yet another run at an NBA title.
The Lakers new-look starting lineup seems like it is easily the best in the NBA on paper. However, games aren’t won on paper in the league; they’re won on paper’s predecessor, wood. Bryant returns for his 17th season and still has the same fire and determination to win that he always has and always will have. Last season the Black Mamba averaged 27.9 points (2nd in NBA), 5.4 runs, 4.6 assists and 1.2 steals per game and look for him to produce similar numbers this season and until he finally retires.
Pau Gasol is back, despite his name swirling around in trade rumors, and with his return comes the return of his 17.4 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.4 blocks per game as well. Gasol’s rebounding and blocked shot numbers may dip slightly with the arrival of LA’s second Superman but assist numbers may go slightly due to that fact too. Metta World Peace also returns for the Lakers and brings back his 7.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.1 steals per game along with his ability to guard an opposing team’s best perimeter player.
The Lakers have two perennial All-Stars joining their starting lineup this season in the form of Steve Nash and that second Superman fellow Dwight Howard. Last season with the Phoenix Suns Nash put up 12.5 points, 10.7 assists (2nd in NBA) and three rebounds per game and now looks to be the floor general on the court for the Lakers.
It will be interesting to see how the on-court relationship between Nash and Bryant plays out because Kobe has never had a dominant point guard on his team before and throughout much of his career he has been the predominant ball handler in Los Angeles. Last season with the Orlando Magic Howard recorded 20.6 points, 14.5 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 steals per game amidst all of the talk of where would he play.
Now although that talk maybe far from over as he says this is a tryout period to see how he likes his time in L.A. (just one year remaining on his contract) it will interesting to see the chemistry for this Lakers unit and how long it takes them to gel if they do at all.
Along with adding fire power to their starting lineup, the Lakers also made some fine additions to their second unit as well. Veteran forward Antawn Jamison (17.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game last season with the Cleveland Cavaliers) should be a big time player for them and without question a leading candidate for sixth man of the year after starting throughout his entire NBA career. Jodie Meeks (8.4 points and 2.4 rebounds per game last season with the Philadelphia 76ers) is another big acquisition that the Lakers made to give assistance their bench, something that was obviously an issue last season.
The Lakers bench also has Jordan Hill (5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game last season), Devin Ebanks (4 points and 2.3 rebounds per game last season) and Steve Blake (5.2 points and 3.3 assists per game last season) all returning this year to help round out a much improved second unit. These three players were actually the most productive guys off of the L.A. bench last season and along with the other additions that the Lakers made, the team should now have a championship caliber second unit, which is huge come playoff time.
Head Coach/Front Office
Mike Brown is back for his second season as head coach of the Lakers, and he looks to improve upon the year they had in the 2011-12 season. The Lakers finished with a 41-25 record, with a winning percentage of .621, and won the Pacific Division title last year. However, this year their new assembled team should have an even better season.
General Manager Mitch Kupchak gets the award for off-season executive of the year. His lengthy list of addictionshave certainly made the Lakers stronger, but the real question is whether he win prestigious award at the end of this season. Making trades for Howard, Nash, Meeks and Earl Clark, along with signing Jamison and drafting Darius Johnson-Odom long great now but unless they find a way to gel with Bryant and the rest of the nucleus of the team then all of this was done for nothing.