Baller Mind Frame

NBA Season Preview: Los Angeles Lakers Team Preview

2014-15 NBA SEASON PREVIEW CONTENT LIST

Atlantic: Celtics | Nets | Knicks | 76ers | Raptors |Division Preview
Central: Bulls | Cavaliers | Pistons | Pacers | Bucks | Division Preview
Southeast: Hawks | Hornets | Heat | Magic | Wizards | Division Preview

Pacific: Warriors | Clippers | Lakers | Suns | Kings | Division Preview
Northwest: Nuggets | Timberwolves | Thunder | Trail Blazers | Jazz | Division Preview
Southwest: Mavericks | Rockets | Grizzlies | Pelicans | Spurs | Division Preview

Top 10 by Position: PG | SG | SF | PF | C
Top 10 Lists: Sixth Men | Sophomores | X-Factors | Rookies | Games to Watch | Comeback | Contenders | Breakouts

Articles: Assessing the Cavaliers Trio | Important Season for James Harden | Return of Paul George? | Trading Rajon Rondo | Are the Nuggets This Season’s Suns? | NBA’s Best Starting Five | NBA’s Worst Starting Five | Now or Never for Durant and Thunder After Injury

Fantasy Basketball: Top 10 PGs | Top 10 SGs | Top 10 SFs | Top 10 PFs | Top 10 Cs | Sleepers, Studs, and Sinkholes | Analyzing the Schedule | BMF Mock Draft | Cavs and Cav-Nots | Like A Bosh | Rajon Injury Impact

Media Day: Clippers | Hawks | Kings | Knicks | Magic | Mavericks | Nets

Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Lakers/Facebook.

Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Lakers/Facebook.

Most Important Player: Kobe Bryant
This seems like a throwaway. Of course the easy answer is that Kobe Bryant will be the most important person on the Lakers, but it really is true. The Black Mamba is not only in the twilight of his career, looking to solidify his legacy, but he also wants to further it by winning another championship. However, due to his recent injuries, Kobe only played six games last season, leaving much to be expected of him this upcoming year. Further, Kobe is not the same Mamba he was before. He’s has thousands of hours on his legs, and while he doesn’t need to take a backseat, he needs to take more of a godfather role on the team, nurturing the other players, which is something he hasn’t had to do as much up until this point.

Also, if Kobe does come back and takes the NBA by storm, how does that not help the Lakers?

X-Factor: Jeremy Lin
The biggest move the Lakers made this offseason resulted in the acquisition of point guard Jeremy Lin, and he could possibly make or break how the team does. Ever since his breakout season in New York, Lin hasn’t exactly lived up to the ‘Linsanity’ hype. That said, he’s no scrub.

Last year with the Houston Rockets, Lin had his worst year in the last three, which resulted in 12.5 points and 4.1 assists per game, something that is confusing for some people because he’s a point guard. However, the role of the PG in the modern NBA has changed to an overall skilled player. It’s clear that Lin can facilitate when that’s what the system calls for, but more importantly he can score.

If Lin can confidently conduct the offense (whether he starts in place of Steve Nash, plays alongside him, or comes off the bench), then the Lakers can be much better than people believe they will.

Rotations: The Lakers’ rotation will hopefully be a 10-man rotation, utilizing as many players as possible, while giving them consistent minutes, which is something that was lacking last season. With an essentially new roster, as well as a new coach, it’s hard to say what kind of rotation the team will be looking at, but a few things are certain: One is that the Lakers got considerably younger, which means they have more talent to move around. The other is that Coach Byron Scott will make defense a priority, which will factor into the rotations as well, depending on who their opponent is.

What Needs to Go Right: If the Lakers are going to do well this year, there needs to be some kind of defense played, and if you think differently, then just look at what happened last season. Also, the ball needs to be moved around more, ultimately passing up the three and working to get high-percentage shots in the paint. Statistically, it always makes sense to get the ball inside, so that must happen.

It’s Really Bad If: The Lakers gave most of their guys short, one or two-year contracts. This means that the majority of them are playing for a contract next season. So, if they start to play like that, looking to inflate their own numbers instead of helping the team win, then there will be disaster.

Bold Prediction: Julius Randle will make a HUGE impact on this Lakers’ roster on both sides of the ball. He’s big, a real man-sized player which isn’t always what teams get with their draft pick. Also, he was a Lakers fan as a kid, so he’ll likely want to do everything he can to help the team, and the fans will be proud to wear the purple and gold. Expect BIG things from him.

PLAYER PROFILES

Carlos Boozer, PF
Strengths: While clearly in decline, Boozer can still contribute about 13 points a game (going off his stats from last season) but that’s about it.
Weaknesses: Defense and consistency are Boozer’s kryptonite as he continues to age and nears the end of his career.
Season Prediction: Just like when the Lakers signed him, don’t get too excited. Boozer has put up declining numbers in recent years, so even 13 points a game might be a stretch for him.

Kobe Bryant, SG
Strengths: Everyone knows Kobe’s strengths, but at this point in his career, they are more intangible than previously. This year, look for the Black Mamba to make a difference in the locker room, facilitating, and by keeping the team motivated, no matter how many detractors they have.
Weaknesses: Kobe’s health is his obvious weakness. After only playing in six games last season, staying healthy and not over-playing will be crucial for him.
Season Prediction: This won’t be Kobe’s best year ever, but he’ll still be one of the best in the league. He’ll also be more of a team player, taking a veteran role in the locker room.

Jordan Clarkson, PG
Strengths: As a rookie, don’t expect too much from Jordan Clarkson yet. Though, the Lakers draft pick said he expects to help the team out on defense, which is absolutely the Lakers’ greatest weakness. He’s also very quick, and at 6’5” he’s a big guard.
Weaknesses: Clarkson admitted that over the summer he’s been working on having a more consistent shot, so hopefully this doesn’t continue to be a weakness for him.
Season Prediction: Clarkson will make it off the bench a few times this season, mostly in garbage minutes, and how he does in those moments will determine whether he catches Coach Byron Scott’s eye or not.

Ed Davis, PF
Strengths: Ed Davis has bopped around the NBA over the last few years, never really finding his stride anywhere. That said, he’s good for about five to seven points per night, which with the unpredictability of the the team the Lakers have put together will be very valuable. However, he also has some value defensively, which is what the organization may have been thinking as well.
Weaknesses: There aren’t many. For whatever reason, Davis hasn’t gotten a chance to showcase his talents very much, so this may be his big break.
Season Prediction: Look to see big things from Davis. He’s young, talented, and has a lot to prove. He should see significant playing time.

Xavier Henry, SG/SF
Strengths: If there’s one guy on this team — besides Kobe — who hustles hard, it’s Xavier Henry. While he can shoot well, Henry’s real value is in his defensive energy and desire to make sure his man never makes a basket.
Weaknesses: Unfortunately, X’s shooting was streaky last season. That could but a problem again this year, though hopefully it won’t be.
Season Prediction: X will probably have a season very much like he did last year. Nothing fantastic, but also not a bust. He’ll definitely help out and be a game-winning asset at times.

Jordan Hill, PF/C
Strengths: It doesn’t matter who has the ball, if it’s in the paint, Jordan Hill wants it! His rebounding and quick put-backs will be essential to not giving up easy points and getting ones the Lakers need.
Weaknesses: Outside of the paint, Jordan’s shooting is spotty, but there’s really no reason for him to be shooting from out there anyway.
Season Prediction: After dealing with injury issues last season, Jordan will hopefully be ready to compete like he always has for the purple and gold. Expect a lot more of the same aggressiveness we’ve seen from him in the past.

Wesley Johnson, SF
Strengths: Energy and speed are two things that Wes brings to the table for the Lakers. He isn’t fantastic on defense, but he’s quick and can bug the heck out of his opponents. Also, when is shooting is on, it’s on.
Weaknesses: Wes is easily one of the least consistent players off the Lakers’ roster from last season. This is a huge weakness for obvious reasons.
Season Prediction: Hopefully, Wes has learned tools to become more consistent over the off-season. If he hasn’t, then we’ll see what we got last year: a few freaking fantastic games out of him.

Ryan Kelly, PF
Strengths: Ryan Kelly is a double threat down low since he can not only play the three-four, but he’s also seven feet tall so he can play in the paint as well. His ball handling skills in this area are largely to thank for his offensive achievement.
Weaknesses: While tall, Kelly isn’t necessarily as strong as a lot of the other guys who play this position. He occasionally gets outmuscled when he’s going to contested rebounds.
Season Prediction: Kelly will improve from his stats last season, but not a ton. He’ll still be a big contirubtor though.

Jeremy Lin, PG
Strengths: Look for Lin’s speed and penchant for getting to the hoop to be a big reason why he’s able to help out the team. Also, he feels he has something to prove, that ‘Linsanity’ wasn’t just a flash in the pan, so expect good, if not great things.
Weaknesses: Obviously defense is a big detractor for Lin, but he recently posted on his Instagram that he’s specifically been working on that all summer long, so there’s hope.
Season Prediction: Lin should look much better, and more effective than he did in Houston. If the team works together well, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him ball out.

Steve Nash, PG
Strengths: *Crickets* Okay, fine, Steve Nash is still a very good facilitator, but that’s about it. He’s lost his quickness, and clearly he has health issues, but on the plus side, Nash is still a veteran presence for the team, which could be good.
Weaknesses: Defense, staying healthy, getting to the basket, being quick, the list goes on and on. Frankly, I’m still not sure how Nash wasn’t put into medical retirement.
Season Prediction: Nash will have a few key plays this season that will make people say, “He’s still the old Steve Nash!” Unfortunately, those will be few and far between before he rides off into the sunset.

Julius Randle, PF
Strengths: So many! Randle was a perfect pick for the Lakers. He’s big, strong, and most importantly, his biggest asset has always been his defensive presence along with his rebounding abilities. After a year like last season, this is of the utmost importance to the Lakers.
Weaknesses: Consistent shooting and scoring are the biggest knock against Randle. Luckily these are things which can be fixed with practice.
Season Prediction: Even though he’s a rookie, the Lakers will make use of Randle’s abilities right away. They need a guy who can be aggressive and grab rebounds more than anything. If his shooting can improve, that’s even better.

Robert Sacre, C
Strengths: Size and energy off the bench are Sacre’s biggest assets. His ball handling isn’t incredible, but he wants it in his hands under the basket anyway, no matter which basket he’s under. It’s not uncommon for Sacre to be the only Laker on the floor trying for a rebound.
Weaknesses: Sacre is kind of clumsy, and isn’t all that quick. That said, he’s smart and can usually get the ball where it needs to go almost every time.
Season Prediction: Sacre’s presence in the paint and stats should only continue to increase. He’s got an incredible attitude, and is always an awesome teammate off the bench. Hopefully he does great things.

Nick Young, SG/SF
Strengths: Young was one of the most exciting players on the Lakers last year, and coming off the bench, he’s unstoppable. Look for a lot more of what he did last season because now that he’s gone Hollywood, he’s got to live up to it.
Weaknesses: Kobe was on Nick all offseason to work on his defense, and he seems to have gained some muscle, but that’s definitely an area of worry with him, and another reason why he’s better off on the bench.
Season Prediction: While this is a bold prediction, if Nick really worked as hard as he said he did, then expect to see Swaggy P turn into Swaggy D(efense), with the same amount of points we love seeing from him.

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