The Los Angeles Lakers are coming off a season that stained the franchise’s storied past, and head into the 2014-15 campaign with a completely new look (and mindset?) featuring Byron Scott as their head coach, a returning star player, and a combination of talented upgrades and castoffs from other clubs.
ESPN projects the Lakers to finish 12th in the Western Conference. This would have them finishing four spots out of the playoffs in the stronger conference; not exactly the news that the Laker faithful want to hear.
However, there’s little doubt that the team is better than last year; even simply only adding back Kobe Bryant from injury would make that point defendable. In addition to that return, the Lakers should be looking at a healthier Steve Nash, veteran additions in Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer, and a highly touted draft choice in Julius Randle, among other acquisitions.
So what does this mean? How much better will the Lakers be?
Before we see what the base sets truly look like for this squad under Byron Scott, we won’t have a true sense of what the offense is going to feel like. However, it’s the middle of August, and we’re currently in prime business for some serious speculation.
With the addition of Jeremy Lin, and the strong held hope for some semblance of Nash to return, the Lakers could run an offense predominantly around the pick-and-roll. Keeping Pau Gasol would have been ideal for these sets, being as skilled as he is as a seven footer, but Carlos Boozer should do all right, and Julius Randle has the upside to be quite dangerous in pick-and-roll situations.
Kobe Bryant, assuming he’s still Kobe Bryant (or at least, ya know, really good at scoring), will be responsible to carry this offense in stretches, and probably would try to even if he was not called upon to do so. His facilitation will be the key difference though, as he will need to strike the perfect balance to keep this team competitive in the West.
Overall, I think the additions of Lin, Boozer, and Randle help this team be more consistent offensively. With the older bodies in Bryant, Nash, and Boozer, they were not set up to run as much as they would under D’Antoni, and adding good players at two key positions should help in the pick-and-roll. Offense should not be a huge problem for this team.
This one comes down to how much you believe in two things: the effort of this group of Lakers, and coach Byron Scott.
I, for one, do not believe much in this team’s ability to defend in one-on-one situations, but think the overall cohesiveness of their team defense can be much improved if Scott is able to drive the point home.
With very little wing defending (Wesley Johnson, maybe?), and unproven rim protection, this group could seriously struggle on that front. Ed Davis and Jordan Hill will need to make some strides in terms of defending the rim, though I am intrigued by Davis on this front. Hill is a beast on the boards, and that should continue with his increase role.
The key will be for this team to play together on the defensive end. Without that type of chemistry, there is very little hope for any level of success defensively. Pesky defense will be enough for this squad to stay competitive, no defense will lead to no hope.
How Much Better?
I am a believer that Byron Scott (in conjunction with Kobe Bryant) can help lead this team in the right direction. I think they offense will remain at a competitive level, but the defense will be a work in-progress that requires full commitment from the top down.
So where would this land the Lakers in terms of wins and losses?
I can see an improvement of 10 wins, just with some breaks with health and the additions that were previously mentioned. Considering the guys the Lakers relied on last season, and the ones they have added to the roster, the outlook has to rise just based on the assumption that the talent will be better and more consistent, however marginal you think that talent is.
Will this get the Lakers in the playoffs? No.
But this team will certainly have a better chance than the previous season.
Did the Lakers get better this season? Will they make the playoffs? Drop a comment below to sound off!