The Los Angeles Lakers need Kobe Bryant to be a great problem solver this season in order to be able to make the playoffs. They don’t need Kobe to play his best to be reliable for our NBA picks. They do need the cast around him to get much better, though.
1. Kobe’s Brain Has Had A Full Season In Which To Process What Needs To Be Done
The Lakers are going to benefit from Kobe having a fresh mind, not just a fresh body. Kobe had been worn down by the constant grind of playing long seasons, and last year, it all caught up with him. After playing only six games, though, Kobe was able to take in a lot of games from the bench or in other situations that took him away from the court. This new vantage point gave Kobe a very deep and specific understanding of what the Lakers need this upcoming season. The team has some new faces, such as Jeremy Lin (from the Houston Rockets) and Julius Randle (in the NBA draft), but Kobe was still able to make sense of where he needs to make his best contributions and how he can best help his teammates. This knowledge could enable Kobe to play an even more intelligent kind of basketball, one that’s going to lift his teammates and surprising ways and represent the heart of the reason why the Lakers can make far bigger gains than a lot of the experts think.
2. Kobe’s Body Has Also Enjoyed A Full Season Off
The ability to recharge his brain is accompanied by the need to give the body a fresh start. What surgery and a lot of rehabilitation have set in motion could give Kobe’s body one more really good season. He will enter this season not as the survivor of an 82-game death march, but as a player coming off a season in which he played only six games. Kobe’s minutes are going to be managed in the early part of the season, and if he comes through December in good health, he should be a good bet to play the whole of the season or something very close to it (a minimum of 70 games). If the Lakers can get Kobe at his normally productive self, averaging over 20 points per game and being able to hand out six assists while gathering five rebounds, the Lakers are going to be competitive in most games they play. Kobe, if he can hit big shots at the ends of games, will put the Lakers in play for a winning season, which could get them to the playoffs.
3. Julius Randle And Carlos Boozer Stand To Benefit From Kobe’s Presence
Those who bet on NBA odds know that the skills of Kobe are valuable in themselves, but they have to lead to a bigger, better season for his teammates if the Lakers are going to go to the playoffs. Two of the players who have to be central parts of the Lakers’ push to the postseason in the coming months are Julius Randle and Carlos Boozer. Randle is important because, as a rookie, he’ll be in position to play a lot of minutes and give the Lakers energy that they might not have in other places. Randle also has so much upside in his game, and while he’s not likely to put everything in order this season, if he can post a strong rookie season worthy of a top-seven draft pick, Los Angeles could win a number of games that it might not have won last season. Kobe’s passing into the low post could help Randle a lot.
Boozer is an important player because, after fading out of the picture in Chicago, he needs to show that he can land on two feet as he approaches the end of his career. Old-man centers and power forwards have helped teams get to the NBA Finals before. Think of Kurt Thomas with the 1999 New York Knicks. Think of Bill Cartwright with the early-1990s Chicago Bulls. If Kobe can work with Boozer and get the veteran some free-throw line jumpers, Boozer needs to hit them. If he does, the Lakers’ offense could be much better than expected.