- NBA Rank: 14
Conference Rank: 10
- Los Angeles Lakers
On paper, the Lakers have the talent to be a .500 team. But in practice, that would depend on Kobe's knees, Nash's back, and Byron Scott's ability to coach. That's a parlay that we wouldn't touch with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole.
There's been a lot of speculation since Jerry Buss died about just what the hell his son Jim is doing. Is the team trying to tank to rebuild? Well, if so, why extend Kobe $50 million for the next two years? Why take Carlos Boozer off of amnesty waivers? Why sign players like Wayne Ellington and Wes Johnson, who've already proven that they aren't going to develop into stars? And, my goodness, why is anybody still paying Nick Young to play!?
Last year's story was similar. After Dwight had left, all the pieces were in place to wipe the slate clean. It woulda been easy to:
- Amnesty Kobe (to save about $20m in luxury tax, more if he'd been claimed)
- Trade Pau
- Extend Jordan Hill (the one right thing they did.)
Other than Nash, the Lakers would have had almost nobody on the books. Stock up on D-leaguers and other young players and find some diamonds in the rough. Instead, the Lakers went on an absurd shopping spree for veterans that nobody wanted.
|Jodie Meeks ||2,556||26||0.081||4.3|
|Pau Gasol ||1,884||34||0.047||1.8|
|Kendall Marshall ||1,564||22||0.103||3.4|
|Jordan Farmar ||912||27||0.053||1.0|
|Steve Blake ||891||34||0.098||1.8|
|Shawne Williams ||751||28||0.016||0.2|
|Chris Kaman ||736||32||-0.017||-0.3|
|Kent Bazemore ||643||25||0.024||0.3|
Indicates that the player is no longer with the team.
Again, bear in mind that after amnestying Metta World Peace, the Lakers were right around the salary cap. So all those dollars spent on guys like Nick Young, Wes Johnson, Chris Kaman, etc., were all essentially twice as expensive after you calculate luxury tax. Yes, run that one by yourself again: the Lakers paid luxury taxes on this train wreck.
The lone shining speck of brilliance for Lakers fans was Jordan Hill. Hill has traditionally been a good player in his limited minutes, but finally got to shine a bit with some playing time. So it is, of course, only fitting that after re-signing Hill, the Lakers signed Carlos Boozer and Ed Davis, and drafted a power forward. With every other position in need of help, it was odd for the Lakers to decide power forward was the place to focus.
|Carlos Boozer ||4.0||2,384.9||33||0.069||3.4|
|Jeremy Lin ||1.0||1,452.9||26||0.133||4.0|
|Julius Randle ||4.0||1,309.8||0||0.076||2.1|
|Jordan Clarkson ||2.0||970.7||0||0.026||0.5|
|Ed Davis ||4.5||775.5||26||0.130||2.1|
|Wayne Ellington ||2.0||718.1||27||0.111||1.7|
Indicates that the player is new to the team.
As you can see, this projection has some crazy optimism in it. It features Steve Nash ending up with 2100 minutes. It assumes a healthy Kobe Bryant returns to form and stays healthy. It's got Jordan Hill getting huge minutes, and it has Nick Young staying mostly out of the way.
I frankly would not count on any of these things happening, much less on all of them. This is one projection where I think algorithms and spreadsheets just let us down. I have trouble believing Nash will break 1,000 minutes. For a while, he looked like the guy who would finally knock out father time, but I think you can stick a fork in him. Kobe's coming back from two big injuries and is 36 years old. I think it's a big leap to assume he will return to form even if he can stay healthy. Assuming he'll do both is asking a lot from the random number generator in the sky, even with questionable German medicine practices. If Kobe loses minutes, that brings Nick Young back on the floor.
Further, Byron Scott can do a lot of damage here. He's already raising eyebrows across the league for refusing to acknowledge the rule that some shots are worth three points. He's also using a defensive scheme that has the team fouling like the 1989 Pistons, only without all the hand checking rules that let those Bad Boys get away with it. All that does is give the other team free points.
The Lakers have some good pieces. Unfortunately, a lot of them have serious position overlap, and some of them have serious injury concerns. A 40-win season is possible in theory, but I think the smart over/under you should be betting on is the number of games until Kobe implodes at all the losing.