Playoff Result: Lost in First Round
Key Additions: Chris Kaman (free agent), Nick Young (free agent), Wes Johnson (free agent)
Key Losses: Dwight Howard (free agent), Metta World Peace (amnesty), Earl Clark (free agent)
Projected 2013-14 Record: 35-47 (11th in West)*
What to Expect: So much of LA’s season depends on when Kobe Bryant comes back from his Achilles injury and if he can still contribute at the highest level like we are so accustomed of seeing from him.
Just my thoughts on the matter: Kobe will be slowed a little bit, but he’ll still easily have the game to be a high-scoring player. His post game was as good as we’ve ever seen from a guard last year, and I expect him to be more reliant on that than ever. However, his ability to get to the basket will definitely be effected. I think he ends up with less free throws and buckets around the rim than in the past, but he’ll still have enough post and mid-range game to get his 20-plus points per game.
I think Kobe misses at least the first month of the season. Over that time, the Lakers will be pretty bad, even with Steve Nash and Pau Gasol still in tow. On the bright side, we could see some 20-shot nights from Nick Young, which could easily be the most entertaining sight in the league.
Even when Kobe comes back, though, the Lakers still have a lot of problems. For example, who are they going to start at the three and four positions? The best lineup I can seem to come up with is something like Nash-Young-Kobe-Pau-Kaman, which is… weird. They would be limiting Pau’s effectiveness by pairing him with another center. (again) Wes Johnsonc could start at the three to keep Kobe and Nick Young in their more natural spots, but then they’d have be starting Wes Johnson, the guy with a career 48.5% true-shooting. (that’s bad)
There’s a certain part of me that says the Lakers should keep Kobe out as long as they can and effectively tank the season, but we all know Kobe isn’t going to let that happen. Either way, they have a high chance of missing the playoffs. They might as well play for the better pick in a loaded draft, right?
Matchup with the Hawks: For the sake of simplicity, I’m just going to assume that Kobe is healthy, even though the Hawks and Lakers play on November 3rd and December 16th. (I think Kobe’s back by the 2nd game, but you never know) Basically, writing “the Hawks should win in a rout” isn’t as fun. (which, if Kobe isn’t back yet, they should do) So here it goes:
The Hawks still have no one to guard Kobe.
Which is fine. most teams really don’t have a guy that can slow down Kobe even at his age. Because of his performance in last season’s game in Atlanta (where Kobe went 11-for-30 shooting), John Jenkins could get his fair share of playing time to try and matchup with Kobe. John’s 3-point shooting could also create a lot of havoc with Kobe’s lack of awareness on off-ball defense.
However, the Hawks make up for that with the Millsap-Horford frontcourt pairing. Pau and Chris Kaman still have some skill left, but Millsap and Horford match that skill and have a sizable speed advantage.
This is a game where I’m going to want to see a lot of Dennis Schröder. With Dwight gone, the Lakers should be running more pick-and-roll with Nash. With Teague’s reputation on defense, this could quickly become a problem for the Hawks. In response, I could see Coach Bud turning to Dennis Schröder to try and completely limit Nash’s game. Teague and Dennis splitting minutes 50/50 in this game could definitely be the most effective strategy.
For once, I believe the Hawks should take both games from the Lakers. Even when Kobe returns, the Hawks seem to have very clear advantage at every position except… well, Kobe. And this time around, I don’t think Kobe is going to be enough to swing it for the Lakers.
*predicted record based on my ESPN Forecast projections for every team