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NBA Title Contenders: Los Angeles Lakers

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October 12, 2012 by shivusharma

Note: I was going to review the San Antonio Spurs as well, but the more I thought about it, the more I cannot see them as a real title contender. It is easy for us to dog the Spurs every year, but somehow Gregg Popovic finds a way to win games. Still, they haven’t been able to hang with teams in the playoffs, and I don’t see that changing against the likes of the Lakers or Thunder.

Projected Starters: Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard

Key Reserves: Jordan Hill, Steve Blake, Antawn Jameson, Jodie Meeks

Strengths: Basketball IQ, Post Scoring, Pick & Roll, Shot-Blocking, Rebounding, Offensive versatility

Weaknesses: quality bench depth, Age, Dwight’s Health, Free-throw shooting, perimeter defense

Outlook

Outside of Staples center are statues of Kareem, Magic, Chick Hern, and Jerry West. I would argue that the 5th Lakers statue should be of Mitch Kupchak. No GM has pulled of the kind of trades that he has. Kupchak upgraded Ramon Session to Steve Nash for few future draft picks. He then upgraded Andrew Bynum to Dwight Howard for Josh McRoberts, Bynum, and Christian Eyenga. Ya…that happened, and the only man that could’ve got it done was Mitch Kupchak. The Lakers now have the most potent starting lineup their franchise has ever had since the Showtime Laker days.

What I love about this starting lineup is their Basketball IQ. On paper, each starter has a unique skillset. There is very little overlap in what Nash, Bryant, Peace, Gasol, and Howard bring to the table. Each player is very savvy and understands how to play off of other superstars. This IQ lets them be very versatile on offense. Nash enables them to have lethal pick & roll/pops with Kobe, Dwight, and Pau. The installment of the Princeton offense will help space the floor for Nash and Kobe. The Hi-Lo combo of Pau and Dwight will be dominant against most teams, especially with Pau’s shooting and passing. To top it all off, the Lakers can still iso Kobe when they need to. They are the only team that has four guys who can create offense for themselves.

The most alluring aspect of this new Lakers team is how much production they will get out of their reserve players with Nash on the floor. Nash made guys like Channing Frye and Jared Dudley relevant NBA players because he found them easy shots. He will easily do the same with Meeks, Blake, Jameson, and Hill.

Where I think the Lakers could struggle is on perimeter defense. Kobe is not the same defender he once was. Nash is kind of a sieve as well. While Dwight and Pau are there to protect the paint, the Lakers will still run into matchup problems when they have to guard smaller lineups. I think it would behoove them to institute a lot more zone defense. This would take a lot of pressure off of Kobe and Nash and force opponents into a lot of jump shots. Unfortunately, Mike Brown hasn’t shown a willingness to play zone, but perhaps the installment of the Princeton offense is a sign that he is open to new ideas.

Overall I believe the Lakers are at worst the 3rd best team in the west. If they are 100% healthy, and jell like everyone thinks they can, I think they make it to the NBA finals.

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