Los Angeles Lakers: 2013-14 Season Preview

Lakers 2012-13 Vitals

45-37, 3rd in Pacific Division, 7th in Western Conference

Swept by the San Antonio Spurs 4-0 in First Round

102.2 PPG/101.0 OPP PPG

 

Steve Nash, Lakers

Steve Nash, nearly 40 years old, has to remain healthy if the Lakers have any chance at seeing the playoffs. (Bridget Samuels, Flickr.com)

2013-14 Roster

Steve Blake – PG

Kobe Bryant – SG

Jordan Farmar – PG

Pau Gasol – PF

Elias Harris – SF

Jordan Hill – C

Wesley Johnson – SG

Chris Kaman – C

Ryan Kelly – SF

Jodie Meeks – SG

Steve Nash – PG

Robert Sacre – C

Nick Young – SG/SF

 

Offseason Additions

Nick Young (FA), Wesley Johnson (FA), Chris Kaman (FA), Ryan Kelly (2nd round, 48th overall), Elias Harris (Undrafted FA), Jordan Farmar (Turkey)

Offseason Subtractions

Dwight Howard (FA-Houston), Antawn Jamison (FA), Earl Clark (FA-Cleveland), Chris Duhon (FA), Devin Ebanks (FA), Andrew Goudelock (Russia), Darius Morris (FA), Metta World Peace (Amnesty Clause)

 

Season Outlook

The atmosphere of the Dwight-mare has come and gone and it appears the Lakers don’t always get what they want.  Dwight Howard has landed in Houston and he made sure to give Kobe Bryant yet another piece of rehab motivation.

Everything disastrous that could have happened for Los Angeles last season DID, to everyone’s surprise, happen.  Steve Nash suffering a broken leg in the second game of the season and ultimately missing 32 games certainly didn’t help the team’s case to obtain a better playoff seed.  The injuries continued to compile as Pau Gasol missed 33 games during a vital January through March stretch for the Lakers.  Luck still didn’t want to fall in the Lakers’ favor in April, as 34-year-old Kobe Bryant suffered a torn Achilles, an injury that is still not fully healed and rehabbed.

Pau Gasol and Tyson Chandler, Lakers

If coach D’Antoni doesn’t allow Pau Gasol to play to his strengths, this will be the last season the Spaniard is in purple and gold. Photo Credit: Bridget Samuels, Flickr.com

The first major decision of the Jim Buss ownership and management of the Lakers took some serious heat after the hiring of coach Mike D’Antoni, a coach that clearly didn’t know how to properly use Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol to his team’s advantage.  With Howard now in Houston, all eyes are going to be on D’Antoni’s offensive system.  Will he finally swallow his pride of the high octane 3-point offense?  Can Pau Gasol get more opportunities where he feels comfortable?

This upcoming season, the Lakers look to be in better shape if D’Antoni is going to remain on the sidelines.  Their biggest addition this season centers on the 28-year-old wingman, Nick Young.  With an ability to shoot from the perimeter (something every D’Antoni team MUST have), Young is going to completely fill and exceed Metta World Peace’s void on offensive end and provide the youth this team has missed since the days of Shannon Brown.

The bench depth is still horrid, but a bit of an improvement from last season.  Backing up Bryant and Young will be the four-year guard Wesley Johnson, a shooting guard that brings his maximum effort night in and night out.  While he won’t amaze the fans, he’s one of those role players that is happy to do anything for the team while learning from Bryant and Nash.  At point guard, the Nash and Blake combination is actually a great veteran shooting combo, but just lack the athleticism and youth to keep up with the quicker guards in the league.

Nick Young

Nick Young has a chance to make a huge impact in the starting lineup, replacing Metta World Peace. (NBA.com photo)

Understanding that issue, the Lakers brought back Jordan Farmar from Turkey.  Already having a friendship with Bryant and Gasol, Farmar will feel very comfortable with this team and provide 12 to 18 minutes per game until he proves to be a better backup option than Steve Blake.

Lastly, the defense is going to be hard for any Lakers’ fans to witness.  Losing the best defensive center in the league in Howard, Mitch Kupchak decided to take a chance on Chris Kaman, a veteran who was once an All-Star.  While Kaman has a great shooting touch for a center, the defensive duo of himself and Gasol will not be able to hold up against the better frontcourts in the league.  For the Lakers to have a chance at the playoffs, Jordan Hill must bring his beloved energy and defensive awareness off the bench and provide good minutes for this club.

Overall, life after Dwight Howard looks to be exciting and wide-open for anything to happen.

 

Best-Case Scenario

Bryant returns healthy, whether it be in the season opener or mid-November, and succeeds in proving doubters wrong.  Nash can find himself staying healthy for 65-68 games and not have his team suffer without a play-maker.  Mike D’Antoni will develop a close relationship with Pau Gasol and we will all finally see a change to his coaching style that wasn’t apparent in Phoenix or New York.  Nick Young remains happy to be a Laker, but for the reason of Bryant and Nash trusting him whole-heartedly with the ball.

The defense will still allow close to 100 points per game as expected, but Kaman and Gasol work better together than the previous frontcourt experiment.  Bryant wins the scoring title and propels the Lakers to 52 wins and a fifth seed in the Western Conference, only to be eliminated by the Houston Rockets in the first round.  Convenient first-round matchup to say the least.

Worst-Case Scenario

Media overhyped Bryant’s rehab progression and he doesn’t return at full strength until December or January.  Even then, it’s possible we don’t see the same player we have always known.  Twenty-one points per game at the most for Bryant, meaning the Lakers have to rely on a lot of non-existent bench depth to pick up the slack.  The explosive backcourts in the league continue to have a field day on Nash and his lack of being a defensive threat, topping it off with Gasol and Kaman allowing way too many points in the paint to gather wins.

Kupchak’s support of Mike D’Antoni soon disappears and he is ousted before the All-Star break.  Only managing 33 to 38 wins, the Lakers miss the playoffs and prove most of our columnists right.  Not many expect the Lakers to contend for the West’s eighth seed, which is easier to believe than my view.

Predicted Finish

49-33, 3rd in Pacific Division, 7th in Western Conference

We’ll remember this, Twitter universe and fellow co-writers:

 

 

 

Tags: Chris Kaman Kobe Bryant Lakers Los Angeles Mike D'Antoni NBA Nick Young Pau Gasol Steve Nash Wesley Johnson Western Conference

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