It’s time to move on past Dwight Howard. The 6’10” center will take his talents to Houston next season, leaving the Lakers without a potential superstar to build around in the future. Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLA cites a few of the reasons Dwight chose to leave such as, “Howard looked at the Lakers and saw an aging roster, transitioning management…”
It’s true that the Lakers aren’t getting any younger, and that is something that management will need to address in the near future. How will they regroup and rebuild for the future? What are some reasonable expectations for the team this year? Read on to find out.
This Upcoming Season (2013-2014)
The roster will be largely unchanged from what we see today. The Lakers will lean on Nash, Pau and Kobe heavily. Jordan Hill and a small forward yet to be named will likely fill out the rest of the starting lineup. The bench will consist of Blake, Meeks, Kaman, Sacre, and Farmar and whoever else they sign.
It was reported that Metta World Peace will likely be amnestied by the Lakers, leaving them without an SF on the roster. Since the Lakers are capped out, they only have a $1.1M trade exception leftover (via Christian Eyenga trade) and veteran’s minimum to offer as it was recently announced that the Lakers used their mini mid-level exception to sign Chris Kaman to a one-year deal.
That basically gives the Lakers a big body to play while Gasol gets some rest. The Lakers will need to sign an SF for the veteran’s minimum. There are rumors that Sasha Vujacic and Lamar Odom are on the Lakers’ radar. It’s doubtful that either of these guys will make a significant impact on the team, but it will help with depth.
Depth will be an huge issue for the Lakers this season at all positions. It’s pretty much unavoidable, but hopefully we will see more production from the backups. Meeks and Sacre in particular have room to grow. Both players’ development will be crucial for the Lakers to have a decent season. Kobe may not be ready to return at the beginning of the season so Meeks will see starter minutes.
Meeks was only average from three-point land last season with 1.6 makes on 35.7 percent shooting. Sacre will need to provide useful backup minutes for the 33 year old Spaniard. Otherwise, Gasol, who is not a banger, will get beat up in the post over the course of the season. All in all you can expect a Lakers roster that will be limited by age, depth and a lack of athleticism.
To Tank or Not to Tank?
Will the Lakers tank? Definitely not. There’s no way a 35-year-old Kobe is putting in all that work to come back from a torn Achilles just so he can intentionally lose on the court. It’s just not in Kobe’s DNA. And as inept as Mike D’Antoni is at coaching, I find it hard to imagine him getting in front of the team in the locker room and saying, “Alright, so the strategy for this season is to lose and lose big.”
Even if it may seem more beneficial for the Lakers to do poorly this season so they can improve their lottery chances, it’s another thing to imply that the Lakers will intentionally tank. I just don’t see that happening, and it’s ignorant to think that the Lakers organization will deem that strategy acceptable.
Now that we’ve established that they won’t be joining Tankpalooza 2014, let’s examine the other end of the spectrum. Are the Lakers title contenders? Definitely not. They will be a playoff bubble team at best. A quick glance at the West, and you can project that the Thunder, Spurs, Clippers, Warriors, Grizzlies and Rockets will be locks for the postseason.
The Lakers will likely contend with the Nuggets, Mavericks, Blazers, T-Wolves (if Kevin Love is healthy) and the upstart Pelicans for the final two spots. A caveat is that free agency has only begun, and these teams could still change quite a bit. One thing that won’t be changing much is the Lakers roster since they’re capped out. Still I believe a healthy Kobe, Pau and Nash could push for an eight seed. That’s the best case scenario for this years roster.
Now, do we as fans of the franchise want the Lakers to barely get into the playoffs only to get destroyed by the Spurs or Thunder in round one? Given the strength of the 2014 draft class, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if the Lakers didn’t make the playoffs and slide into the lottery.
Next Page: Possibilities in 2014