NBA / Oct 28, 2008 / 2:31 pm

Highs and Lows: L.A. Lakers

Kobe BryantKobe Bryant (photo. Chris Sembrot)

The season is here. While we waited for the ’08-09 schedule to officially start, we went team-by-team, from 1 to 30, exploring where each team’s ceiling is for the upcoming season and where their basement is. In other words, what are the realistic best-case and worst-case scenarios for each squad?

Additions: PF Josh Powell, PG Sun Yue.

Losses: PF Ronny Turiaf, SG Coby Karl, SF Ira Newble.

Ceiling: NBA championship
Despite last spring’s Finals face-plant that included the biggest blown-lead in Finals history and getting embarrassed in Boston’s Game Six clincher, the Lakers roll into this season as the popular pick to win the whole thing. The strongest pro-L.A. argument is the return to health of Andrew Bynum, who was a beast in the first half of ’07-08 before a knee injury took him out. Seeing as the Lakers’ biggest problem in the Finals was getting dominated on the glass when it mattered most and not getting enough from Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol inside, Bynum’s presence should be the missing ingredient. On paper, Bynum and Gasol are already the best big-man combo in the game (although a motivated Shaq and Amare could lay claim to that title, and defensive Jazz fans will yell at you if you don’t at least mention Memo and Boozer), and when the L.A. duo figures out how to effectively play off each other, it’ll be a problem for the rest of the League. You know what you’re getting from Kobe Bryant: at least 28-30 points per, plus he gives you a chance to win every single night because he is the best player on the floor 90% of the time, and whether he chooses to play-act the whole “Smiley Mr. Fun Teammate” thing or not, he’s your best playmaker and passer. If Odom plays ball and accepts coming off the bench — which he says he’ll do — he’s a Sixth Man of the Year candidate who can pull down 10 boards a night if he plays a lot of minutes at PF. Worst-case scenario, L.A. has arguably the best player in the game, arguably the best coach, arguably the deepest bench, arguably the most versatile forward in the West, and arguably the best pair of big men. How bad can they be?

Basement: Second-round exit
Good as they are, Gasol and Bynum still don’t equal one In-His-Prime Shaq; no one is outright scared of them, and the opposition’s defensive game plan still revolves around Kobe 100% of the time. And as good as KB24 is, we saw in the Finals that the right scheme can neutralize him. There is high potential for the Odom/Phil Jackson dynamic to sink this team, if L.O. has ulterior motives (contract year) and Phil is steady trying to prove a point rather than trying to work it out. While the bench is deep, that’s more a testament to its strengths in the backcourt (Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic) and on the wings (Luke Walton, Trevor Ariza); the frontcourt depth leaves something to be desired, since Chris Mihm can never stay healthy, newcomer Josh Powell is nothing to write home about, and D.J. Mbenga is a YouTube clip and a not-hard-enough foul waiting to happen. And is the fact that Kobe refused to have offseason surgery on his finger — and that he’s coming off his longest season since the three-peat era plus the Olympics — going to come back and bite L.A. in the ass? And is Bynum really as great as everyone wants to believe? He still hasn’t been signed to the big-money extension he wants, so he’s got some Sulk Potential right up there with Odom. The Lakers should be good for at least a Top-3 seed in the West, but as strong as the conference is, every round will be a battle.

’08-09 NBA preview archives
10/27 — Boston Celtics
10/23 — Houston Rockets
10/22 — New York Knicks
10/21 — Denver Nuggets
10/20 — Philadelphia 76ers
10/17 — Dallas Mavericks
10/15 — Indiana Pacers
10/14 — Golden State Warriors
10/10 — Detroit Pistons

10/9 — San Antonio Spurs
10/8 — Chicago Bulls
10/6 — Oklahoma City Thunder
10/3 — Washington Wizards
10/2 — Utah Jazz
10/1 — Charlotte Bobcats
9/30 — Memphis Grizzlies
9/26 — Toronto Raptors
9/25 — New Orleans Hornets
9/24 — Atlanta Hawks

9/23 — Sacramento Kings
9/22 — Miami Heat
9/19 — Portland Trail Blazers
9/18 — New Jersey Nets
9/17 — Minnesota Timberwolves
9/16 — Cleveland Cavaliers
9/15 — Phoenix Suns
9/12 — Milwaukee Bucks
9/11 — L.A. Clippers
9/10 — Orlando Magic

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  • http://www.breakindownthegame.com D.Miz

    The big question right now is, can Bynum and Pau co-exist on the court. I think they will. They only have one of the best coaches ever. Phil will work it out, no doubt. The bench has improved by adding Lamar as the 6th man. As long as Kobe stays healthy, you can count them in for the WCF.
    http://www.breakindownthegame.com

  • marcus the great

    i’m no toronto fan, but you’ve gotta include Bosh/J.O. as one of the best big man combos

    rip tyrone
    true thugs never lie
    marcus

  • Drink the Haterade (KB24 Chip 09)

    LAKERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I can’t wait for tonight… KB24, Ariza, Pau, AB, Farmar, LO, LUUUUUKE, D-Fish, The Machine…

    The best part is when they play fast break ball and put Kobe at the three with LO and Pau up front. Sometimes they put on a show with Luke passing reminds me of Showtime

    GO Lakers

  • AB_40

    The lakers have a chance to be amazing this season but they’ll just be realy good. Bynum, Gasol and odom on the court looks nice on paper but it ain’t gonna work. ah phil jackson knows vlad rad is starting again. Odom can win sixth man award this season but he could’ve been all nba material if he just got his gead straight. I hope he get’s traded not for the lakers sake but for his. Don’t agree with mee watch the finals again

  • K Dizzle

    Bynum, Gasol and Odom ain’t gonna work?
    And that’s based on what exatly since they’ve never played together?
    The best part of the Lakers depth is that based on matchups, the starting 3 can be Odom, Vlad, Ariza or even Walton dependin on what the opp does. All the Bynum haters and geniuses that were throwin out the “Bynum wouldn’t have made a difference in the Finals” are about to get a taste…

    The time for talk is over

  • control

    marcus beat me to it. JO/Bosh > Gasol/Bynum. LA fans have to quit setting Bynum up to be the saviour, the guy might end up being decent…but right now he ain’t quite there.

  • karizmatic

    Trade Lamar Odom, Radmanovich and Ariza for T-Mac!!!! lol. GO LAKERS!!!!

  • Ian

    i rather have
    jo and bosh
    shaq and amare
    duncan and whoever

    but thats just me

  • Tbeezy

    @ control

    Wrong.

  • srb

    why is this one ahead of the celtics? i thought you were going in order of last year’s finish?

  • Ian

    srb
    u r kidding right man
    didnt the rockets knicks sixers throw u off?

  • control

    Tbeezy

    I know you are, but what am I?

    Ian has it right, jo/bosh, shaq/amare, duncan/keg of gatoraid. Any of those would be better than gasol/bynum right now.

  • Timmy D

    They will be a really good team for a few years. Yet never win it all b/c they will always be too soft inside. Kobe is one of the best ever but you have to have an enforcer on the inside to do well and I think Bynum already has to much of a chip on his shoulder to truly understand what he needs to do to for the Lakers to win. He also isnt worth 17 million dollars a year and I hope that becomes a major problem.

  • Kermit the Washington

    The potential is there, and I’m amp’d about this season and the legitimate chance for a ring, but there’s ALSO the potential for big disappointment for these reasons:

    1.) INJURIES…this team is cursed somehow, see the past 3 years.

    2.) THE PLAYOFFS…the west is NASTY, and only got stronger this off-season. Each round is going to be a huge battle; they’re going to have to play perfect ball throughout the postseason.

  • craig990

    Damn Righ!, Kermit the Washington!

    This isnt like the East where Boston fooled around with the Hawks in 7 and was almost beat by the Cavs to realize what they had to do.. in time for Detroit and L.A in the finals

    No slip-ups out West… cuz if you don’t come correct you can loose to the Jazz, Spurs, Rockets, Suns,and the very scary Hornets!

  • craig990

    Hey Dime… who do you think is the scariest team in the L right now?
    A team that strikes fear into the opponents when they look on the schedule to see their upcoming games.

    i think its the Hornets!
    I’m a Houston fan.. and the only team that terrifies me in the playoffs are the Hornets.
    I believe with this Rocket team now can beat S.A, Mavs, Suns, and the Jazz, and give LA an extremely tough 7 game series.. in which anyone can win, but the Hornets scare the shit out of me!

    You neva kno what Chris Paul is gonna do!.. he and David West can give you 60 points night!.. plus Peja’s deep shooting and the clutch James Posey!

    Damn those Hornets!

  • doug

    Austin Burton sounds like an idiot what is this new propoganda that Kobe is not the best player on the planet anymore what more does this cat have to do,MVP,Scoring Title,practically every scoring record,defensive first teams,nba first teams,championships,gold medal, Kobe is the best player on the floor all the time not 90% of the time,” Kobe Bryant: at least 28-30 points per, plus he gives you a chance to win every single night because he is the best player on the floor 90% of the time, and whether he chooses to play-act the whole “Smiley Mr. Fun Teammate” thing or not, he’s your best playmaker and passer”
    This cat must be from boston

  • Ian

    doug
    comon man just because someone doesnt think your fav player is the best hes not an idiot.
    guess what man for MY team give me a big man (duncan) or a pg(paul) everyyyy day over a sg of sf. i think big or pg are the two most imp positions in a championship team and as a lakers fan theres NO way u can tell me otherwise because for the first time ever the best laker is a sg and he hasnt won.

    and no hes not the best playmaker and passer when he wants to goh with that.

    craig
    what u say about houston is true but i think they have a better chance cuz of matchups against the lakers than the spurs. yao trying to guard timmy will be ugly.

    u lakers fan and say hes the best ok fine no prob but a hornets fan a cavs fan a spurs fan will tell u something else.

    kermit
    the lakers are cursed u gotta be fucking kidding me its like a yankee fan sayin the yanks are cursed because they havent won lately. shit man everytime theres some luck involved to win a series u can bet your car the lakers are on the winning end.

    control
    lol nice

  • craig990

    right Ian

    damned cursed!
    L.A won there last Championship..like what.. 5 years ago?

    thats no long!

    If anything Houston is cursed!.. can we finally see a healthy Yao and t-mac for an entire season and not have a banged up or depleted team come playoff time?

    Heck.. even the Clips fans can claim they are cursed.. but geeeesh!.. No the Lakers!

    You got the best player in the Game, the best coach, the 2nd best franchise, and a big shot to go back to the Finals and win this time.. and you talk about being cursed!.. have you been living that good a life?

  • Ian

    yeah craig comon how can u be cursed after a three peat 5 years ago u know laker fans are spoiled.

    and no craig they dont have the best coach hehehe sorry but spurs and jazz do phil is overrated. about having the best player well i like this i read a while ago from a sports writer
    “You say Kobe, I say LeBron. Or vice versa. Both of us are right. Neither of us is wrong. And neither is the guy who still prefers Tim Duncan”
    im the last one