2012/13 NBA season previews: Los Angeles Lakers
For the past two seasons, the Los Angeles Lakers have been eliminated in the Western Conference semi-finals. This does not sit well with such a proud ball-club.
There is no shame in losing to a better side, yet this is an organisation that deems anything less than a championship season as a failure.
That may seem like a harsh mentality, but it also ensures that Lakers management are willing take risks and gamble in order to win. And frustratingly for other teams and their fans, the cards almost always fall purple and gold’s way.
Once again, the Lakers hierarchy delivered in the off-season, as All-Stars Steve Nash and Dwight Howard were welcomed to Hollywood for the small concession of Andrew Bynum and draft picks.
These moves translate to the Lakers once again starting an NBA season as one of the favourites.
The biggest questions for the Lakers in 2012/13:
No one questions the talent at the Lakers disposal, but do all the parts fit?
In short, yes.
Unlike some other rosters that have been put together on talent alone – namely the 2011 Miami Heat, and the Carmelo Anthony/Amare Stoudemire pairing for the New York Knicks – the Lakers personnel actually meshes together perfectly, albeit it on paper.
Excluding egos and personalities and looking at the Lakers talent purely from a basketball point-of-view, it’s hard to imagine what qualities you would change or upgrade from a starting five of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace (formerly Ron Artest), Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard.
In the backcourt you have a pass-first point guard who executes brilliantly in the half-court or transition, always finds the open man, and is a deadly perimeter shooter. Nash will be be teamed with one of the best wing scorers in NBA history, and a five time NBA champion in Bryant.
In the frontcourt, you have a lock-down wing defender. World Peace has lost a step of pace, but can still trouble most small forwards in the league. You also have one of the top three power forwards in the game in Gasol, who is extremely skilled and can play in the high or low post. And now rounding out the starting five, the best centre in the NBA; the pre-eminent rebounder and shot-blocker in Howard.
For the bench, the Lakers made a sneaky-good move in acquiring Antawn Jamison. No player is better suited to playing with Steve Nash, for Jamison has a knack for being in the right spot at the right time, and Nash has a skill for hitting open teammates.
Overall, it’s not hyperbole to say that the parts don’t just fit, they fit perfectly.
Can Kobe and Nash co-exist?
Of all the doubts about the Lakers heading into the 2012/13 NBA season, the often-posed question about Kobe and Nash co-existing should rank the lowest.
Nash is a traditional point guard who loves passing and would be more than happy not taking a single shot during a game. He’s literally that unselfish.
Meanwhile, Kobe is a shooting guard in every sense of the word ‘shooting’. Which is a nice way of saying that Kobe loves to jack up shots. He’s never been labelled unselfish in his career. Additionally, as he moves into the twilight of his career, he has become slightly more of a catch-and-shoot scorer.
Even a basketball novice should be able to recognise that those two skill sets will complement each other.
Though, to be fair, I don’t think anyone is questioning the meshing of skill sets, but rather a potential clash of leadership. Point guards, by nature of their role on a basketball team, are leaders. They’re the coaches on the floor; they call the plays and tell people where to go. However, this is Kobe’s team, and he’s made that quite clear to the press in the pre-season.
So, are Nash and Kobe going to step on each others toes? I don’t think so. Nash is smart enough to know that Kobe is the captain, that it’s ‘his’ team, and that he’s the overall leader.
Meanwhile, Kobe is smart enough to know that Nash’s greatest strength is running the offense, and also being one of the best ‘chemistry’ guys in the league.
These guys are experienced campaigners who know how to play basketball, and they wouldn’t have agreed to play with each other if they didn’t know how to make it work.
So, if it’s all so perfect, what could go wrong?
Sport is littered with countless examples of great teams, on paper, that didn’t win. In fact, the Lakers themselves provide a recent case study. In 2003, the Lakers trotted out one of the best line-ups in NBA history when Karl Malone and Gary Payton joined Kobe and Shaquille O’Neal.
However, not only did their skill sets not quite mesh, but egos proved a considerable issue. Though the team made the Finals, they were humbled by the Detroit Pistons, and lasted just one season together.
The Lakers will need to ensure history doesn’t repeat, and that all personalities are kept in check.
The other concern is that, despite the talent, this is not a young team. Nash is 38. Kobe is 34. World Peace and Gasol are 32. Jamison is 36. The older you get, the more susceptible you are to injury, and whilst all those players look after their bodies, Father Time has never been beaten by anyone. A major injury to any of their stars will bring the team back to the pack.
Additionally, younger teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat have the potential to cause the Lakers many headaches with their speed and athleticism.
The Lakers bench is also a little skinny.
So whilst this team is strong on paper, it’s far from perfect.
Los Angeles Lakers Snapshot:
- 41 wins, 25 losses
- Finished 3rd in the Western Conference, and 1st in the Pacific Division
- Lost 4-1 to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semi-finals
Statistical leaders in 2011/12:
Points: Kobe Bryant (27.9 ppg)
Rebounds: Andrew Bynum (11.8 rpg)
Assists: Ramon Sessions (5.5 apg)
Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, Antawn Jamison
Andrew Bynum, Ramon Sessions, Matt Barnes
Career Record: 313 wins, 163 losses
Predicted finish in 2012/13:
- 1st in the Western Conference
- 1st in Pacific Division
- Win the NBA Championship
Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.