Lakers Season Preview

Kurt —  October 27, 2008


Team Name: Los Angeles Lakers
Last Year’s Record: 57-25
Key Loss: Ronny Turiaf
Key Additions: Getting Andrew Bynum and Trevor Ariza healthy, Josh Powell

1. What Significant Moves were made during the off-season?
There weren’t any earth-shaking ones — and there shouldn’t have been. Yes, Ronny Turiaf is now dancing in the Bay Area, and his energy will be missed. But, with the current Laker lineup, Turiaf would have been playing 12 to 15 minutes a game at best, and that is a role that Josh Powell can fill admirably (at a better price). Bottom line, this is a team that went to the finals last year without its starting center and a key defensive player off the bench, and still took a peaking Celtics team to six games. What this team needed was a summer to get healthy, then a preseason (and, really, a regular season) to get everyone on the same page. There was no need for a big move.

2. What are the team’s biggest strengths? Depth, and the versatility that depth provides. This team is 10 deep with guys that could start a lot of places in the league — Lamar Odom is coming off the bench, name another team where that would happen?

That depth provides three advantages. One, the Lakers will win a lot of games because the second unit will outplay other team’s second unit. The Lakers “Bench Mob” led by Jordan Farmar, Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza come in and change the pace, running and being aggressive on defense. Just like a baseball pitcher, that change of pace can be hard to handle. The Lakers are going to stretch a lot of leads out at the start of the first and fourth quarters.

Second, the depth means that when the inevitable injuries come (hopefully nothing as serious as last year), the Lakers are better positioned than most to weather that storm and keep winning. (Although, as last year showed, the Lakers need their key players ready for the playoffs.)

Third and finally, it allows Phil Jackson, the master of lineup tinkering (he so loves to do that, even in May), a lot of matchup options every night. For example, here’s clear example is that I expect to see a lot of: Looking at the tall and long starting lineup for the Lakers, other teams will try to counter by going small. Do that and Jackson can either just try to pound you inside with the size, or put in a lineup like Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom (or Trevor Ariza) and Pau Gasol (or Andrew Bynum) and match the quickness using five guys that can run the floor with you and beat you that way. Jackson has a versatile roster that allows him to match and counter just about anything you throw at the Lakers.

Oh, I suppose I should throw Kobe Bryant in there as a big strength. In case you missed it, he’s pretty good. And Pau Gasol, who got moved to the four due to Bynum and showed that he can thrive in the spot, shooting 66.7% in the preseason and killing it from 15 to 18 feet out. He really opens up a high-low game with Bynum that is hard to defend.

3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses? The thing about these Lakers are less that there are glaring weaknesses than there are questions that need to be answered. Depending on the answer, it could be a weakness, but you can make an argument that the weaknesses exposed last year have been solved.

One of the most talked about is the defense/toughness issue. The Celtics manhandled the Lakers in the Finals. Some thought the Lakers needed to shake up the roster and bring in an Artest-like player to match up with Paul Pierce. (Really? Because Artest has shown how well he plays within a team system?) The Lakers think that the return of a healthy Andrew Bynum patrolling the paint, along with Gasol as another seven footer, solves that problem. At the end of the preseason, even with the defensively questionable Vladimir Radmanovic in the starting lineup, the Lakers defense looked good, and tough. But the question is still there when the games matter.

The other potential weakness is how this team melds all that talent. Can Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol play together? Will Lamar Odom be happy as the sixth man in a contract year? The indications out of the preseason are yes to both questions. But the key here is Phil Jackson, he is better than any coach in history at getting players to figure out for themselves that fitting a certain role or mold is good for them. He got Dennis Rodman to play within the rules, because he got Rodman to realize for himself that was what was best. It was not old school force of will stuff, it was subtle. Phil will have to work his magic on a deep roster where players will want more minutes. But that’s why he gets paid what he does.

4. What are the goals for this team? After last season, there can be only one goal, an NBA title.

5. What do the Lakers have to do to achieve that goal? I have a simple statement for this team, which is fast becoming my mantra:

The Lakers will go as far as their defense will take them.

This team, regardless of how the player rotations shake out, is going to score a lot of points. It will be, if not the most efficient offense in the league, one of the top three. But that is only half the court. The Lakers do not need to be the 2004 Pistons on defense; they simply need to be in the top 10 in the league, they just have to be good. Not totally unlike the Phoenix Suns of a few years back, the offense will be plenty good but when it gets to the postseason can they stop teams enough? Early indications are the Lakers players get that. With a shot blocker in the paint behind them, you see them pressing more and jumping more passing lanes on the perimeter. This is a crazy long starting lineup with Bryant, Radmanovic, Gasol and Bynum (with the also long Ariza and Odom coming off the bench). They will disrupt a lot of shots with that length. Phil Jackson saw all that size and has actually played around with some strong-side zone in the preseason.

If you really want to know how good the Lakers will be this season, watch the defensive stats.

Projected Finish:
60-22, first in the division and first in the conference

Kurt

Posts

52 responses to Lakers Season Preview

  1. This is going to be a season we’ve all been suffering for.

  2. What are everyone’s expectations for Kobe? Same as last year – in both production and role? A bit less productive this year? Not needed the same as a closer on offense – at least not as regularly? Throughout the preseason, I’ve found him to almost be an afterthought in my watching games and thinking about the season, which is obviously strange. I just feel that our size in the paint and depth are ultimately the keys to taking the next step, and not Kobe’s brilliance, and that means a decent shift in the way the team is focused.

  3. Reed:

    My expectations for Kobe are that he will have lower impact numbers, but be much much more efficient (even moreso than last year), have better defensive and assist numbers, AND, as always, in case Plans A through C fail…STOP! Kobe-time *duh da nah nah*

  4. I have only one request of Kobe to begin this season: Please bring defensive intensity to the team on a day in day out basis. I strongly feel that KG and Paul Pierce did this last season and it helped. Kobe did this on the Olympic team and it was contagious. Now with the added offensive firepower, there is no reason for Kobe not to bring it on D every night. Offensivley I am not concerned with him at all, he will be Kobe.

  5. Reed,

    My expectations of Kobe this year are 26 ppg, 8 assists, and 7 rebs. I expect him to let the game come to him more than ever, and to rack up assists more becauseof the easy looks he can get teammates due to their effectiveness and his threat. We all know he’s a great passer, nd he could very well average 10 if he wanted to. I think less shots and more “facilitating” (I’ve always hated that term applied to kobe) means more effort towrds defense and rebounding. i wish i could drop a line to Kobe, because 26 & 10 would lock up a 2nd straight MVP, and make all of his teammates look great. Hands down!

    Also, I agree with you about the preseason. I didn’t care if Kobeplayed 8 minutes or 8 seconds. We know what kobe brings. I needed to see Andrew, Farmar, Vlad….and Andrew and Pau together.

  6. Lakers should win it all this year. Period. Also, andrew bynum needs to stop making it rain.
    http://hoopsoup.com/2008/10/27/andrew-bynum-likes-making-it-rain-in-da-club/

  7. Hm. It looks like he’s just making it rain onto the DJ table, and he’s not in a strip club or anything. And he’s not clearly intoxicated or inciting a riot, so I can chalk it up as a boy being a boy. Is he just using dollar bills or higher denominations? Can he write that off on his taxes?

  8. They just waived Coby Karl. Can anyone explain the reason? I mean, they had 15 on the roster with him and could have kept him anyway. Does it mean Sun Yue will take over the spot of “project” that Karl and farmar had the previous two years by being assigned to the D-league?

  9. Phil’s teams in Chicago always had great defense. Our starting unit’s defense looks pretty good. If we can crank the intensity up to 11, the Lakers will be near unbeatable. Don’t forget that both recent iterations of the Laker championship teams had excellent defense.

    With the skill level of our team this year (so ludicrous, it’s gone to plaid) and the length of our player, we are capable of playing lock-down D against any team.

    I agree with Kurt, this team will go as far as the Defense carries it.

  10. defense is so overrated…

  11. I expect Kobe’s scoring and rebounding numbers to drop, with a small rise in assists and no change in his percentages. Something like 25 points, 5.5 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 45-47% fg. A similar drop occurred when Malone and Payton arrived and the talent demanded a sacrifice from everyone (that year his minutes dropped from 41 to 37, points from 30 to 24, rebounds from 6.9 to 5.5 assists from 5.9 to 5.1). Reasons:

    • Minutes will decrease a little, probably to around 36-37 minutes per game;
    • Less minutes and more talent means less shots (obvious);
    • We won’t see a spike in his shooting numbers because (i) he is who he is (career high of 46.9% fg, which was before he shot 3s), (ii) the paint will be less free for penetration given the presence of one or two bigs in the lane at all times, resulting in more jump shots; and (iii) he shoots more than 5 threes a game at a fairly average clip (mid 30s);
    • Expect very few 40 or 50 point games this year — there simply won’t be a strong need for him to dig us out of deep holes or games where he gets so many early shots that he decides it’s “one of those nights” to go off;
    • The triangle doesn’t favor one player getting a high number of assists; the ball moves to quickly to favor mismatches (thus Kobe’s career high is 6.0 assists, even when he had the greatest offensive center in 20 years to throw the ball to);
    • Bynum, Odom, and Pau will dominate the boards before him, and, the crowd at SF will mean he’ll play there less this year.

    In fantasy leagues, this means: sell high. In real life, it means he’ll be more well rested for the playoffs, be relied upon less to close out games in “Kobe ball,” and have more energy to focus on Jordan/Pippen level defense (both against his man and disrupting in the team concept).

    I agree with all of those who have emphasized the need for the last point — Kobe simply doesn’t need to carry the offense this year and should focus on energizing the team defensively like he did for the Olympic team.

  12. Great post, you saved the best for last with your team reviews. Yea, I have Lakers on all my fantasy teams and will be rooting twice as much this year for them all. I agree with the previous comments about what to expect from Kobe.

  13. The Lakers have always been beaten up in the pre-season – that with Phil giving time to his “kids”. Look at the Lakers in this pre-season… Farmar is showing us he belongs and my mantra has to be his development. Its not as big as “The Lakers will go as far as their defense will take them.” but Jordan Farmar has got to show he is more than just a valuable depth player. He’s got to Rondo-ize himself and “take” the starting position from Fish.

    While its not to be denied that Fish will probably start and end games, the starting position I am referring to is by playing majority of the game (like CP3 WAS the starting PG for the Redeem Team) while Kidd was technically the de Facto starter.

    So my biggest watch this year will be my boiii Jordan Farmar. He is at best our 5th/6th option but that jolt of energy he brings is so contagious that it makes me think Farmar-Sasha-Ariza-Odom-Bynum lineup will beat half of the teams in the whole league consistently.

  14. (Kobe) should focus on energizing the team defensively like he did for the Olympic team .

    I’ll never forget when Coach K was pleading for Kobe to unleash the Mamba during the gold medal game. He can be nasty on D all game long and have enough left eat your dinner during the fourth quarter.

    The gold medal game was Kobe at his best, and the Kobe this team needs.

  15. Reed’s prediction on Kobe’s numbers looks about right to me, as does the reasoning behind them.

    As for the preview, I would specify wing defense as a potential weakness. This team doesn’t have a Fox/Bowen/Prince/Battier/Posey who can take the toughest defensive assignment on the perimeter every night. Of course Kobe can do it, but given the mileage on his body and the scope of his other responsibilities (even with so much talent around him) that may be asking a lot, especially against bigger players. I just wonder if how they will be able to stop LeBron, Pierce, Artest, or even Peja from going off in the playoffs, even with Bynum patrolling the paint. Maybe Ariza can grow into that role and supplant Space Cadet in those matchups.

    Great preview as expected. Depth and defense will be the key factors in the Lakers’ success this season.

  16. BRAVO – Bynum, Radmanovic, Ariza, Vujacic, Odom.

    Can’t come up with any other meaningful five letter jumble, not sure if that lineup will ever show up, but hey, I’ve tried. Kinda works in that order too, if Odom can play PG. Anyway, not too many vowels on our team to be extra creative.

    Who do you all think will be the MIP on our team?

    Farmar seems like the early favorite, mostly because Bynum has been too stellar last season and Ariza barely played. But what about Sasha? Lamar (I can’t give up on this guy)? Mihm? Walton? Vlad?

    That would give us true dominance. A breakout year from one of our 2nd unit guys. A… sal(i)vation…

  17. Kobe’s points will go down, his fg% will go up (he is a better player then in the Shaq years) and his steals will be up a bit. I don’t see a big jump in assists but if the team dominates as it should and he brings the D like Garnet did last year, then he’ll be MVP again.

  18. I agree with Reed on Kobe’s production. In addition to everything he said, I think the fact that he finally got his MVP means he’ll feel less compelled to dominate numerically, and may be more willing to play the role he did in the olympics. His %s won’t be high because when he doesn’t need to a razor sharp focus, he tends to shoot more lazily (like in the olympics or the preseason), but if we are in a close game or fall behind he’ll do what he feels he needs to do.

    So it’s really up to everybody else on the team to determine Kobe’s role.

  19. 2 laker questions before the season starts

    1) Remember how in the Finals the Boston games used to be louder than the ones at Staples? They just seemed more fired up! The first question is, do you think its true the majority of our crowd doesn’t really understand basketball technically? And if it is, how much do you think that affects things in close games and playoff time.

    2) Does Kobe look older or is it just me? Do you think he’s passing his prime?

  20. 21. Re: Kobe. Did he look past his prime in the Olympics, when he earned the USA a gold medal when it was all on the line? It’s the preseason, relax. Kobe will be Kobe when it matters, the preseason is not when it matters.

  21. Hi all,
    Been a long summer, but can’t wait for opening night. Was watching the preseason a bit and noticed the tighter D. Hopefully the coaches have gotten the defensive philosophies down in camp. Last year there was dissonance and Coach Winters was saying how the PNR defense wasn’t sufficient. But it looks like the Lakers are starting to expand and contract a lot quicker. Maybe that’s just playing with each other and working on helping the helper. Hopefully this limits the outside shots and funnels the ball to the heart of the defense where we have two skyscrapers awaiting.

    I just want to see Bynum altering shots than actually blocking. He still looks prone to getting body fouls by not staying on the ground. I’d rather he contest than block, which is something I thought Kareem taught him. I still think it’s a work in progress. He has had some nice defensive plays, but I can’t wait to see what the finished product is. Let’s go Lakers.

  22. 2008 – 2009 Lakers : 66-16

    That is all.

  23. Reed,

    I understand your logic and the explanation on why it’s hard for a player to average high assists, but I think it’s possible Kobe could average 8. He already averages around 6, and this was when he was THE focal point of the offense taking a lot of shots. I see less of that this year, instead using his threat to get Pau and Drew easier baskets. If Kobe decides to use his penetration, defense will have to either leave their man, then get scored on by a big, or stay and have Kobe score. So in that sense, 2 assists more a game seems very likely. 10 would only be possible if he made it a point to.

  24. By the way,

    Has anyone seen the Rock Band commercial with Kobe, A-Rod (?), Tony Hawk, and Michael Phelps? Hilarious. Good PR for Kobe. That was a great move. But A-Rod?

  25. What is the #1 team (in the west) you fear in a playoff series?

  26. I fear the potential of the Rockets. Whether that potential pans out is a huge question mark.

  27. Reed,
    I couldn’t agree with you more about Kobe’s drop in real production. Unlike some of the other great teams that he’s been on (and even the old Bulls teams with Phil and MJ) this team is much more talented in players 4-10. Back in the Shaq/Kobe days, there weren’t other potent scorers (except for Rice in the first title season) and on those MJ Bulls teams there were only 2 other scorers in Pip and Kukoc. This team has 5 other players besides Kobe that can score 20 or more in a given game if they’re feeling their offense that night: Gasol, Bynum, Odom, RadMan, and Fisher. Also, Kobe will not have to rebound as much with at least one of (and usually 2 of) Bynum, Gasol, and Odom on the court at all times. And as far as assists go, I think this team is too good a passing team for Kobe specifically to average more than 5 assists. Sure, there will be nights when he gets 8, 9, or even 10 assists, but on most nights the team will make the extra pass (even in traffic) in order to set up an easier score. I think he could get 8 or more hockey assists a night, but I don’t expect Kobe to rack up the assist numbers unless we became a predominantly P&R team (ala the Suns or Hornets) where Kobe was the ball handler and decision maker. Understand too that we’re going to see a lot more low post isolations from Pau and Bynum where even if Kobe makes the entry pass only the most liberal of stat-keepers would say that it’s an assist if those guys score (just because of the likelihood of there being a delayed move with multiple dribbles).

  28. Reed,
    Any team that I would fear would have to possess 3 different traits:

    1). Very strong, elite level defense. From the West this would include Houston and San Antonio, with potential from New Orleans.

    2). Very strong coaching with experience in either reaching the Finals or winning titles. This would include San Antonio, Houston, New Orleans, and the Jazz.

    3). Two or more strong Perimeter Scorers that could exploit our wing defense (ala Boston in the Finals this past season). This would include Houston (McGrady and Artest), with Potential from San Antonio (if you include Parker to go with Manu), Portland (if you include Fernandez, who I’m very high on, to pair with Roy), and Utah (if you include Deron and Okur as players that do damage from the perimeter/wing; with Okur presenting a different type of challenge due to his size and position).

    Based off this list of qualities cross matched with the teams that possess them, I would say that the Spurs and Rockets worry me the most with New Orleans being a close 3rd and truly a real threat (but lacking the wing scorers to completely scare me) and Utah coming in 4th (due to the fact that they do not have the defense to slow our offense, we beat them last year, and their wing scorers are not elite, only capable, and can be schemed in order to slow them down). Obviously all these teams have their own issues with matching up with us, and for any team there is a health factor, but these 4 teams are the real threats to us, imo.

  29. Odom would come off the bench in Houston as well (behind Artest and T-Mac). They have a very similar bench, which will run like mad dogs with Landry and Brooks.

    Teams would probably prepare the same way for the Lakers as they would for the Rockets: 1st team runs a half court offense, 2nd team just runs and jumps passing lanes on defense.

    Looking forward to the start of the season tonight. Let’s go, Lakers!!!

  30. NBA opening night… where FINALLY!! happens.

    I love this game.

  31. i think 70-12 is better

  32. I got a strange feeling about Kobe this year….he’s got the MVP…but the one he has always said that he wants was the Defensive Player of the Year….he can do it with this squad….not having to concentrate on the O-end of the floor…and that will just fire up (like was said above about KG last year) the rest of the team to play harder defense.

  33. I got chills when I went on ESPN and saw the Lakers as the #1 Pacific division ranked team. For a moment, it just took me back. I think many of us forget just how bleak our situation was a few years ago. Remember the unbeatable power trio of SA, Phx, and Dallas? We couldn’t even hope to win our division with Phoenix running all over the league.

    And now, our first season since 2004 that we begin as title contenders. Pressure, to be sure, but we have so much to be thankful for.

    The pessimistic side of me (sorry, I’m naturally cautious) wants to say that our D looked fine all last year too, until we reached the Finals. It’s when you play a team like Boston that grinds the triangle to a halt, that ‘decent’ D doesn’t cut it anymore. I’m not sure I like our type of defense, gambling for steals, counting on Bynum to be our defensive anchor when all he’s done so far is be 7 foot tall. I’d much rather see a low-steal, high-fundamental, defense.

    Actually, I’m rambling because I don’t want to jinx the Lakers. Only a few hours left until Portland….here we go, fellas…….

  34. 73-9. that’s all i have to say. not this year, but next year. this year they will get to know each other even more, and next year they will DESTROY the NBA.

  35. hey Reed, my worst match up in the west has to be Utah.
    D. Will presents major match up problems, has a step on Fish, and too strong for Farmar, plus he can burn for almost the full 48mins.
    also, their bigs are serious outside threats, pulling at least one of our bigs away from the rim.
    they’ve got some talented slashers and hi-fly acts too.
    so I’m not even counting Boozer, Ashton Kucker or AK47, which we know bring something too.
    of course the Hornets are going to be there too, as well as sevral other potential biggies in the west, it won’t be a cakewalk to the finals, but, by having fought all year in the division, we should be even stronger if we can get to the finals against an eastern team.

    TGI ..T (tuesday and the start of the season!)

  36. 36- I could see him going out and focusing on D like he did in the olympics, trying to pick up that DPOY trophy- provided he stays healthy and limber.

    The team I fear most in the playoffs -right now anyways, which is a contradiction- is the Hornets (and the Celtics obviously). They are playing well together, they defend and execute, and they added Posey. And my feeling with Chris Paul is you just don’t want to get between him and something he covets.

    Last night I rewatched game 5 against the Spurs and it surprised me. The finals made me forget a lot of good things. Kobe was dominant, shot his highest FG% in any playoff series against them, and took over down the stretch of that close game to score 39. We overcame a 17 point defecit (second time in the series) . Our defense was credited with winning the game, and Pau had 17 or 18 rebounds, many on offense. If the Celtics made the Lakers look soft, or Kobe easy to defend (as Bill Simmons claimed), or any number of other things, remember that it was only against the Celtics that this team had those issues.

  37. the other Stephen October 28, 2008 at 10:43 am

    tonight is the night!

  38. Last season, at GS, I remember an instance where Turiaf went up strong and Matt Barnes deliberately shoved him from behind, in mid-air. Turiaf took a nasty spill. And based on my recollection, not 1 Laker took issue with Barnes, not 1 Laker got in his face. I’d like to see a little more solidarity and a bit of a mean streak this year.

  39. I do not see Utah as a significant threat. They are very, very good, and might be the second best team in the West, but I think we are a nightmare matchup for them. The Gasol-Odom combination was too long for Okur-Boozer, shutting down Boozer (their top scorer) and scoring at will. Boozer is simply too small and slow to guard either Gasol or Odom. Add in Bynum, and Utah will be overpowered down low. Bynum also counteracts Utah’s biggest advantage in last year’s series — rebounding. They also lack a single perimeter defender that has any chance of slowing Kobe (or at least making him work for hard perimeter shots like Bowen, Battier, Artest, Pierce, etc.). I know Deron is a big problem and made Farmar an instant -10 disaster in every game, but he does not counteract all of the other massive advantages we have against them.

    I worry about San Antonio and New Orleans. Both teams have the size to somewhat neutralize our twin bigs. If Gasol and Bynum aren’t scoring efficiently (55+% shooting) our offense could slow down and evolve into Kobe ball. Both teams have bigs that could put ours in foul trouble (Duncan, West), although neither teams have the depth up front that we do (with Odom). Both teams have elite wing defenders that can make Kobe work (Posey, Bowen). Both have speedy point guards that we have absolutely no answer for (Paul, Parker). Both have shooters to punish us when their PGs get into the lane (Peja, Peterson, Posey, Ginobili, Finley, Bowen). Both are well coached. San Antonio also has Manu, one of the elite clutch “closers.” Our big advantage over both teams lies in our bench, as neither SA nor NO is particularly deep.

    I think Utah matches up very well with both SA and NO, so it may be a game of rock-paper-scissors, with Utah wanting to avoid us, and us wanting to avoid NO/SA. Although, the truth is that if healthy we will have a small advantage over any of these teams.

    I have no idea what to make of Houston until I see them play several times. They are a complete enigma.

  40. tick tock tick tock

    who is going to win tonight

  41. Utah doesn’t scare me. D-Will is their only advantage. He’s not enough. They need 7 games in Utah with the refs letting them hang all over our guys in order to beat the Lakers. New Orleans will get absolutely killed by our bigs again. The team that has the “potential” to be scary is Houston. I’m not sold on them yet, because I don’t believe that they’ll be healthy all season. I don’t believe Yao or T-Mac have Championship level stones, and I don’t beileve Artest will be the missing piece. BUT this is the team that if those things go right have the potential to play great D. They’ll have two elite and versatile defenders in Battier and Artest, and a 7’6 guy backing them up, and hard nosed players like Landry and Scola. They could be great defensively.

    I’m really not concerned with any other team. None of them got better than the Lakers got, and the Lakers walked through the West Playoffs last year. It’s Houston or no one. And that’s a big “if” with the Rockets.

  42. Reed,

    David West would have the same problems Boozer had with us. He think he would be neutralized. I just don’t see NOH’s bigs matching up with ours. Chandler will get outclassed by Pau and/or Bynum, and who else do they have? Melvin Ely? Posey will help them, but Posey will not have the KG and Perk backing him up. Offensively, CP3 would make us look good, but I expect the Lakers to be much improved, and this year, I expect to see kobe playing Paul, and Sasha playing the other guard. That will make a huge difference this year. NO is good. But not like us.

  43. The reason the Spurs don’t scare me -yet- is because they have the feeling of the Lakers circa 2003 to me, having crested over the hill and slowly letting their reserve players dry up. With Manu out, Duncan has to dominate from early on and that could lead to him being worn down by the time we see them in the playoffs. Everybody has to take up the slack until Manu comes back. So while they don’t make me feel comfortable, I just feel like their old legs will be vulnerable come may.

    I agree with Reed about Houston. Their undefined variables outweigh their known quantities.

    Utah doesn’t scare me because when we faced them last year they were completely healthy and we weren’t. And we beat them. It’s up to them to show how much they can improve before I fear them.

  44. 46 – I see it the other way around. Boozer is slow, he could not get around Pau to score, and had trouble with his length. West is essentially a tall, strong SF, somewhat in the mold of Odom, but with a killer midrange game and possibly even a quicker first step. He is a nightmare offensively. There is no way Pau can stick with his drives to the hoop, and if he gives West too much space, that 15-foot jumper is a 50%+ shot.

    We DO have a player who can guard West – but he might start the game on the bench for us. Odom is the perfect player to match up with West, with his length, speed, and strength virtually mirroring West’s. We actually would have matched up (defensively) better with NO last year, with Odom at the 4.

  45. I think West is much, much better defensively than Boozer. He has several inches on him and is quicker. On the flip side, I think Pau (in addition to Odom, as noted) could guard West fairly well. Pau did a solid job defensively on Boozer, Duncan, and KG, using his length and smarts to force them into difficult shots. Chandler is an elite defensive center — one of the very best. His length, quickness, and athleticism would give Pau and Bynum more trouble than almost anyone else. I agree about putting Kobe on Paul though. Or maybe Ariza.

  46. Reed,

    Ariza would help also. I keep forgetting about him. We might see him over Sasha at the end of close games for defensive reasons.

    Chandler is good. i know that, but I think Bynum and/or Pau is better, and IF Chandler were able to neutralize one, we still have the other. Advantage us. When we played NOH with a healthy Bynum, we killed them. When we played them with Pau, we killed them. Specifically because of the center position. We’ll now have both (let’s pray), nevermind the fact that, they have no one who can match up with Lamar.

    NOH is an awesome team. I just think the Lakers are a very bad matchup for them.

    Snoopy2006,

    Pau is better than you think on defense. West is physical player on offense, which helps, but Pau length provides problems. Though, when I mentioned West, I said it with Lamar in mind covering him, but also agree with Reed. Pau did a decent job against BETTER power forwards. All time great PF’s.

  47. I look at the Rockets and can see two different trains of thought. The first echoes what Reed said. They’re an unknown enigma and we’ll need to see them play before any qualitative judgements can be made on them or their chances. The second, though, tells me that they are the same team that won all those games last year and they’ve added a pretty good player. Sure that player has been disruptive in the past, but he’s still a pretty good player who can really help them (and who, honestly, I don’t see hurting them too much. I mean, if he goes all crazy on them Adleman can just sit him down and suspend him or whatever). So, while I think everyone should be cautious about labeling them favorites, I definitely think they should be in the discussion of top teams just because, (big caveat) if healthy, they have a really strong team: Alston, T-Mac, Battier, Scola, Yao, Landry, Barry, Brooks, Hayes…plus wildcards like (a washed up) Francis, rookie muscle in Joey Dorsey, and Von Wafer (who played pretty well in the pre-season). You add a motivated Artest to that scrappy, tough bunch, and honestly I’m worried before I’ve seen them play.