The Los Angeles Lakers go to work this season with a new head coach who won world championships with the franchise as a player. Kobe Bryant is back, but how strongly and for how long a period of time?
The Lakers welcome Kobe Bryant back to the active roster after an injury-ruined 2013-2014 season. Kobe is going to be on a minutes restriction at the start of the season, as the Lakers wisely try to nurse him along and make sure his body isn’t overextended amidst the grind of the NBA and its brutal travel schedule. Kobe might be a more limited player, but having him on the floor as opposed to the bench will automatically and immediately add value to whatever else the Lakers are doing, and whatever they might have planned. Kobe on the court is a better player-coach than Kobe off the court. The Lakers need him in action, and that should happen this season. Other players should get better shot opportunities as a result of Bryant’s presence, and that could have a positive ripple effect throughout the lineup.
The Lakers also drafted well, taking power forward Julius Randle from Kentucky. Randle could stand to shed a few pounds, but he is so light and quick on his feet that he can still blow by strong defenders in the low post. He’s going to be a very good NBA player in due time. He will need some adjustments this season, but he’s going to provide a lot for the Lakers in the coming months and will only continue to get better afterward. The addition of Jeremy Lin at point guard enables the Lakers to move on from the Steve Nash years and all the injuries the Canadian has picked up. With Lin filling in for Nash, the Lakers will become better and quicker on the court.
There just aren’t many really good players on this team. Lin is an okay point guard, but he’s nowhere near the level he displayed in New York as a member of the Knicks. Lin struggled with the Houston Rockets, including in the playoffs against the Portland Trail Blazers, so while he’s better than Nash’s broken body at the point, he’s still not the guy the Lakers need in order to become a truly powerful and explosive team. Randle will need time to develop at power forward, but in the meantime, who is playing center for this team in the coming season? Robert Sacre? The loss of Pau Gasol really limits this team’s options in the paint. A rim protector on defense is going to be hard to come by. Ed Davis, a role player with the Memphis Grizzlies, is new on the roster. If he’s the best rim protector on the squad, that’s a real concern, because Davis is not a complete player or anything close to it.
Nick Young is this team’s best small forward – that’s a real problem, since no one would call Young one of the better players in the league. Carlos Boozer arrives in L.A. from Chicago, and after the way in which his stint with the Chicago Bulls went straight downhill, it’s hard to be excited about Boozer’s presence in this lineup.
When you evaluate your NBA picks this season you have to understand the Lakers are shipwrecked. They have Kobe and no place to go. Kobe can’t do all the work himself with his limited minutes and his older body, but that’s the only real way the Lakers are going to be able to win enough games. It’s an impossible situation, one that won’t end well this season.
Odds To Win Division: 50/1
Odds To Win Conference: 28/1
Regular Season Win Total: 33.5
NBA picks: Will Fail to Make the Western Conference Playoffs