The Los Angeles Lakers took a heavy blow this off-season, losing Dwight Howard to free agency and ultimately the Houston Rockets. While that is a huge loss, there are many that believe it will be an addition by subtraction to the Lakers’ 2013 season. Kobe Bryant is making a remarkable recovery from his torn Achilles last season, and could very well start the Lakers’ season opener. His status has not been declared yet, but there is a solid chance that he plays on opening night.
While the Lakers didn’t make any huge free agency splashes, they did add a few very solid players. Nick Young, Jordan Farmar, Wesley Johnson, Chris Kaman, and Shawne Williams are the players who have shown that they can play at the NBA level. The Lakers also signed Xavier Henry and drafted Ryan Kelly to fill out the rest of their new additions.
Chris Kaman is expected to come in and be the Lakers’ starting center without a doubt. Standing at 7’0″ he’s a beast in the low-post, and is able to knock down the mid-range jumper at a decent rate as well. He’s going to be asked to fill the shoes left by Dwight Howard, and while he won’t be able to step up to the plate on the defensive side quite as much as Howard does, he’s a very solid replacement, especially for the price. Kaman averaged 10.5 points and 5.6 rebounds in very spotty playing time last year with the Dallas Mavericks.
Nick Young could be the biggest pickup for the Lakers as far as scoring help for Kobe Bryant goes. He is coming off of a season with the 76ers in which he averaged 10.6 points and 2.2 rebounds. There’s no doubt that he has a lot of work to do this off-season to come in and play at a consistently high level with the Lakers, but Kobe Bryant has always been vocal in his support of Young. Maybe the “Black Mamba” will be able to mentor this young man to become a better player. Young will certainly be an intriguing player to watch this season.
Jordan Farmar, Wesley Johnson, and Shawne Williams are all players that will be asked to play in roles off the bench. Farmar is returning to the Lakers after time overseas, and will be welcomed back with open arms by the city of Los Angeles. Wesley Johnson is coming off of a solid season with the Suns were he averaged 8.0 points per game. He was drafted with the fourth overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft and has great talent. Maybe a change of scenery to the Lakers will be what he needs to get his game back on track and reach his potential. Shawne Williams is a three-point specialist, and will be used in situations to stretch opponents out on defense.
Kobe Bryant will have to be his usual self. There’s no doubt that L.A. needs him to come back and be 100% early on in the season in order to play at their highest level. Even at the age of 35, Bryant is able to defeat the younger, more athletic players in the NBA. He’s such an interesting player with unique moves that make him nearly impossible to stop. Last season, he averaged 27.3 points, 6.0 assists, and 5.6 rebounds per game. Those are great numbers for a player in their mid-late 20′s in their prime, but Bryant is accomplishing those numbers in his mid 30′s. You can expect to see Kobe slow down a bit this season, but you can never count him out. His health will certainly be a concern for the Lakers, but I don’t see Bryant allowing his health to keep him out for too long.
Pau Gasol is the key to this year for the Lakers. Will he play strong in the post and dominate like he should? Or will he continue to disappear in big games when they need him the most. There is no doubt that he is one of the most talented big men in the league. He has excellent post moves, and a great game from both mid-range and three-point distance as well. If the Lakers want to make a run at the Playoffs this year, they will need Gasol to step up in a big way. He’s coming off of a down season where he averaged just 13.7 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. The Lakers will need him to step that scoring total up to at least 17-18 per game, and they’ll need right around 9 rebounds per game from him as well.
The Lakers will also need a consistent season from point guard Steve Nash. He was brought in last season and was expected to take control of the Los Angeles offense and get both Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant to work well together. When he was healthy he put up decent numbers, averaging 12.7 points and 6.7 assists per game. The Lakers are going to need a healthy Nash for the majority of the season in order to play at their highest level. According to reports, he’s looking good and is preparing for his 18th NBA season with high intensity. Expect a much more motivated Steve Nash coming out of the gates this year.
This Lakers team is certainly a prime example of a “hit or miss” team. They have the talent to make a postseason run, but they also have the question marks that could have them falling short of the Playoffs. Certain players must step up, and they must stay healthy in order to make one last serious run with their current core. Kobe Bryant doesn’t have too much time remaining to get another ring, and this year is more than likely his best shot.