The Los Angeles Lakers had only one goal last season and they were
able to accomplish the supreme feat of winning back to back NBA
Championships. It was an up and down season, but in the end, they wrote
their names in the Larry O’Brien trophy once again.
They started the season without Pau Gasol in the first 11 games, but
they had an unbelievable easy schedule early on with 17 of the first 21
games being at home! By the time the Lakers went on the road, they had
already separated from the rest of the competition with an 18-3 record
Ron Artest struggled to get in the same page offensively, but he
made an instant impact on the defensive end. Several players had to play
through nagging injuries and Kobe Bryant had injuries in his finger,
knee and ankle that forced him to miss some regular season games.
Late on the season, the Lakers “rested” and finished the month of
April with a 3-4 record and when the playoffs arrived, they had some
problems to regain the best chemistry on the floor. Suddenly, they were
2-2 against the 8th seed Oklahoma City Thunder, but then they won 7
consecutive games in the playoffs.
In the NBA Finals, the Lakers had the guts to show up every time
they had their backs against the wall: they won in Boston after losing
the home court advantage by losing game 2 and they won games 6 and 7
after trailing in one playoff series for the first time in 2 years!
2009/10 Advanced Stats:
Pace 13th 96.2
Offense 11th 105.8
Defense 4th 100.7
Rebounds 7th +2.13
Projected Depth Chart:
PG: Derek Fisher, Steve Blake
SG: Kobe Bryant, Shannon Brown, Sasha Vujacic
SF: Ron Artest, Matt Barnes, Luke Walton, Devin Ebanks
PF: Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Derrick Caracter
C: Andrew Bynum, Theo Ratliff
In my honest opinion, this is the most complete and powerful team
that the Lakers has had in the last 20 years and so, there isn’t any
other goal than to “Three-peat” going for this season.
Last season the Lakers showed some problems in the Point Guard
position because Derek Fisher simply didn’t have the legs to go against
the younger and explosive guards and Thunder’s Russell Westbrook
exposed such deficiencies in the playoffs. To solve this problem, the
Lakers signed Steve Blake, who is a serviceable point guard that can
defend and shoot from the outside.
Also, Ron Artest was forced to log major minutes because Luke Walton
has struggled through injuries and the Lakers signed SF Matt Barnes in
this offseason to provide more depth in this position.
If the rest core of players remains healthy, then the Lakers will
simply dominate the Western Conference during the regular season.
However, this won’t be easy to achieve because center Andrew Bynum is
already injured and he will likely come back only in December if
everything goes right.
Despite all the greatness, Kobe Bryant had really a tough season
last year, as multiple injuries bothered him all season. During the
months of January and February, he shot only 41.2 and 44.5% from the
field and if there was any doubt that this Lakers team is much more than
just Kobe Bryant, I just need to say that without him the Lakers went
4-1 in January including defeating Portland (on the road), San Antonio
and Utah (on the road) by double digit points! Kobe is now 32-years old
and he is entering his 15th season as a pro. Nevertheless, he is one
of the best players in this league and arguably the most dangerous
player down the stretch. He plays as well some great individual defense
and certainly he is fired up to against the new powerhouse team that
was built in Miami this past offseason.
If Kobe Bryant is arguably the most dangerous player down the
stretch, then Pau Gasol is arguably the best Power Forward in the league
right now. Gone are the days in which Gasol was labeled as being a
soft player and a perennial loser. Gasol averaged a career-high 11.3
rebounds - good enough to make him a top-five rebounder in the league
and his 3.4 assists per game mark are amongst the top between the big
men. With Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett in decline, with Dirk Nowitzki
stacked in Dallas and with Amare Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer going into
the Eastern Conference, Pau Gasol is set to dominate the West with
While Gasol has been dominating and steady consistent as of late, on
the other side Andrew Bynum has been consistently…injured! His
inability to stay healthy must give Lakers owner Jerry Buss some
headaches after committing him to a $57-million contract in 2008 because
Bynum has missed 96 games in the last 3 years. When healthy, Bynum is
an automatic dominating center due to his size and skills and granted
the Los Angeles Lakers will hardly be able to Three-peat without him on
Luckily for them, they have Lamar Odom who’s versatility and
durability has helped the team when must needed. Last season Odom
averaged 10.8 points, 9.7 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 0.7 blocks in 31.5
minutes per game and his role was between being the 6th player coming
off the bench and being the starter at the Power Forward position. He
still has some games in which he “disappears” and his presence simply
isn’t there, but he is part of the foundation of the team.
When Ron Artest signed with the Lakers in the previous offseason,
the word “chemistry” was often used by the national media to mention the
potential problems that he could cause. In fact, Artest had some
problems to figure out the Triangle Offense, as actually he attempted a
career low 9.6 Field Goals per game, while connecting only 41.5% FG.
However his defensive presence was a huge upgrade even when compared
with Trevor Ariza and curiously his contribution in the playoffs was
abnormally indispensable: he gave Kevin Durant huge problems, he hit the
end-of-game shot against Phoenix and he was lethal in the pivotal NBA
Finals game 7 with his three-point shooting display. Now with one year
of Lakers’ pedigree in his belt, we can expect the same hard noised
defense from him while on the offensive end he should be more confident.
Derek Fisher is the remaining piece of the starting lineup and he is
the leader and captain of this team. However his physical condition is
diminished and he has been constantly outplayed by the best young Point
Guards of this league. Last season he shot only 38% from the field and
dished only 2.5 assists per game. The Lakers badly needed a consistent
Point Guard to help Fisher, something that Jordan Farmar couldn’t do
when he was in LA and they have found Steve Blake, who is a solid
defensive player and during his career he has hit almost 40% behind the
arc – that is what the Lakers need for that position.
The Lakers also signed Matt Barnes and Theo Ratliff to solidify
their second unit and on the paper this should be a more competitive
unit than the last ones the Lakers had.
The NBA Champs are ready to fight for another title and it won’t be
easy to dismantle them especially in the Western Conference. Injuries
will take a role part during the run because the Lakers (like the
Celtics) are a veteran and experienced team, but still with material to
dominate the league.