Assuming they do make it into the playoffs, and that’s a big assumption, the Lakers will have a first round match-up against the San Antonio Spurs, a tough but beatable team. Where things get even tougher is not the second round of the playoffs, but the third, which would be the conference finals.
If the Lakers were to beat the Spurs in the first round it would leave them with a possible match-up against the Memphis Grizzlies or Los Angeles Clippers. Two teams who I think the Lakers can beat. But the team they cannot beat would be the two they would presumably face in the conference finals, the Denver Nuggets or Oklahoma City Thunder.
A series against the Clippers would actually be a good thing for the Lakers. No travel and the chance to play against a very good but very flawed team. A potential series with the Grizzlies would definitely be tougher. They are one of the NBA’s best defensive teams, would have home-court advantage and now have vital playoff experience. Additionally Lionel Hollins is one of the best coaches in the NBA and would be able to out-coach Mike D’Antoni in a seven game series.
But, from what I have seen from the Lakers this season, there is no way they are going to beat either the Thunder or Nuggets in a seven game series. Especially since both teams would have home-court advantage when playing the Lakers, and both teams are extremely tough to beat at home.
The Lakers have all the tools necessary to make a deep playoff run, that assuming Dwight Howard will resign in the offseason. Kobe Bryant is playing like his 21 years old, Pau Gasol is playing formidably and the bench is actually showing signs of life. Unfortunately the pieces are not a perfect fit, yet. Just like the Miami Heat of two seasons ago, the Lakers need to figure out the proper way to complement each other on defense and offense.
A very prestigious NBA scout had this to say about the Lakers, “This is a team that has the puzzle parts, but they might not all come from the same puzzle. It shows that putting together a team is not always just a matter of getting the ‘best’ or the ‘most best’ players together. On one hand, you might have been able to get better results faster if you put Nash together with Howard and let them pick-and-roll everybody to death. When you’re mixing in Kobe and Pau, guys who have played a different style in a different system, you’re forcing things.”
These are the same issues the Heat faced in their first season, and they resolved them, but not until their second full season together. For the Lakers, it may even take a little longer, whether time will let them hit their stride and form the superpower Mitch Kupchak envisioned they would, is hard to tell. Kobe is playing well, but he is not getting any younger, and neither are any of his teammates, particularly Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace or Steve Nash.
Give the Lakers a full offseason under Mike D’Antoni, time to get used to each other, carry out D’Antoni’s system fully and have a somewhat good season in terms of injuries, then we will know truly how good they are. Fans don’t have patience, and they don’t want to hear that this thing won’t work out in the first season, but it’s the truth.
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