7 Reasons Los Angeles Lakers Must Be Considered Title Favorites
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First Steve Nash, then Antawn Jamison, then Dwight Howard.
Everyone knows the Lakers had one of, if not the busiest offseasons this summer. In a matter of weeks, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchack transformed his team from a playoff squad to a serious title contender.
However, with a roster as stacked as the Lakers, you've got to consider the Lakers as a title favorite.
As the anticipation for the 2012-2013 NBA season grows, here are seven reasons why the Lakers should be considered title favorites.
1. Starting Five
Dwight Howard Lakers Press Conference
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Let's start with the obvious.
Once the Lakers acquired Steve Nash, most believed that this Lakers team had improved significantly from last season. They finally has a true point guard who can direct an offense. More importantly, their team leader Kobe Bryant would be playing with undoubtedly the best point guard he has ever played with in his career.
Once adding Howard to this roster, it really took the Lakers over the top.
In the trade for Howard, the Lakers miraculously kept Pau Gasol, and the addition of Howard gives the Lakers arguably one of the best power forward-center combos in the league.
Essentially, the starting five of the Lakers is deadly from top to bottom. Opposing coaches will have problems trying to stop Bryant, Nash, Dwight and Gasol. With this set of starters, the Lakers have the ability to dominate both the paint and the perimeter.
Let's not forget about Metta World Peace and the physical defense he can still utilize to frustrate opponents.
At one point in their career, every member of this starting five was part of an All-Star team. With so much firepower in the starting five, the Lakers can really do some damage this upcoming season in the NBA.
2. Improved Bench
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Considered one of the league's worst benches last year, the Lakers have added significant depth and improvement to their roster.
Averaging a league-low 15.6 points a game last season, the bench really struggled to keep the Lakers in games, which eventually led to Kobe Bryant playing more minutes.
With the additions of Antawn Jamison, Jodie Meeks, Chris Duhon and Earl Clark, the Lakers have added more talent as well as more experience to their roster.
Gone from last year’s team are reserves Matt Barnes, Josh McRoberts, Troy Murphy and Christian Eyenga. Returning are Steve Blake, Jordan Hill, and young players Andrew Goudelock, Darius Morris and Devin Ebanks.
Antawn Jamison may be the biggest addition to the bench as he averaged 17 points and six rebounds last season for the Cavaliers. Even at the age of 36, Jamison can still contribute, and the Lakers will benefit greatly with his veteran experience off the bench.
Jordan Hill, one of the younger players returning to the Lakers, showed good signs last postseason. He showed that he can hustle as well as grab boards, a skill that is vital to any team.
With a good mixture of youth and veterans on this bench, it is a sure upgrade from last season, and Lakers fans hope that they can provide good minutes to provide rest for their starters.
3. Full Offseason with Mike Brown
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As the Lakers transitioned from the post-Phil Jackson era into the Mike Brown era, some forgot that the Lakers did not get to have a full off-season with coach Mike Brown.
The NBA faced a lockout last season, which cut the offseason short and delayed the start of the regular season.
As the Lake Show transitioned from the triangle offense to a more traditional offense that required setting screens and less ball movement, they struggled at times to get an offensive flow going.
A full off season and training camp under Mike Brown will allow players to gel and develop team chemistry prior to the season's start. If all players are on the same page, the Lakers should be a well-oiled machine, and hard to beat not only during the regular season, but also come playoff time.
It is important to note that Yahoo! Sports reported the Lakers will hire Eddie Jordan as an assistant to Mike Brown, as they look to transition into the 'Princeton offense.'
The 'Princeton offense' is noted to be similar to the Lakers old offense, the 'triangle offense'. With some familiarity on the court, the coaching staff hopes that the offensive efficiency of the Lakers will increase.
With the addition of Jordan, Mike Brown will more time to focus on the defensive side of the ball, where he excels.
4. Princeton Offense
New Lakers Assistant Coach Eddie Jordan
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By running the Princeton Offense next season, the Lakers will become more versatile on the offensive side of the ball.
The Princeton Offense requires a concept very similar to the Triangle, where players must react to whatever the defense is doing. This means plenty of player movement as well as ball movement.
Rather than set plays, the Lakers will be forced to improvise their offense to whatever the defense if showing them.
With high IQ players like Nash, Bryant and Gasol, the Lakers should be able to adapt to their new offensive philosophy.
What makes this offense so scary is that, although they can improvise through the Princeton offense, the addition of Steve Nash allows them to run a few set plays here and there.
Nash, known as one of the best facilitators and pick and roll point guards will give this offense flexibility in running both the Princeton and set plays. This versatility will hopefully allow the Lakers to be efficient, as well as give defenses trouble.
It doesn't hurt that Nash can run the pick and roll with arguably the best center in the league in Dwight Howard.
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Kobe Bryant can proudly say that he owns five championship rings. Many are lucky to say they own even one. Just as a refresher, some of the greats that never won one include Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Reggie Miller and John Stockton.
In an interview done by Yahoo! Sports, Kobe has said that he is nearing the end of his NBA career. We all know that Kobe is still chasing that sixth ring, which will even the tally between himself and the great Michael Jordan.
With such an elite supporting cast, Kobe must utilize whatever he has left in the tank (and it still seems like he's got a lot left) to chase his ring.
There are other veterans on this team who have not been as lucky to win a NBA title including Steve Nash, Antawn Jamison and Dwight Howard.
With their best chance to win now, it's easy to see that Nash and Jamison will be more hungry than ever for their first title as their careers come to a close.
On the other side you have Dwight Howard who wanted to leave Orlando in pursuit of a ring, and he was given a perfect opportunity to do so in Los Angeles.
Kobe Bryant is known as one of the greatest competitors to play this game. The great leader that Kobe has become, you've got to believe that his strive and hunger to win will be contagious throughout the Lakers locker room.
6. Improved Defense in the Paint
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In his eight years in the NBA, Dwight Howard has managed to win the Defensive Player of the Year Award three times. His ability to block shots in the paint really makes teams second guess driving into the lane.
Last season, the Lakers were exploited when quick guards would blow by defenders and get easy baskets in the paint. Even though Metta World Peace and Kobe Bryant are great perimeter defenders, age has caught up to them where speed is not their friend.
Now the Lakers have Dwight Howard, who for his career has averaged 2.2 blocks per game.
With D12 down low in the paint, Bryant and World Peace can rely on him to alter or block shots. Howard's athleticism makes him to be very mobile in the paint which allows him to be one of the best pick and roll defenders in the league.
Although the Lakers may not possess the youngest starting five to slow down quick players, whoever decided to drive into the lane will have to answer to Superman before scoring.
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Sure, the Lakers lack youth and younger players, but one thing they possess is experience.
With plenty of NBA veterans that make up this core, many have both playoff and championship experience, which is something that will prove to be vital in the playoffs.
Between the core of Bryant, Nash, Howard, Gasol, World Peace and Jamison, the Lakers have 78 seasons and 53 trips to the playoffs between only six players. Not to mention the youngest out of these, Howard, has been to the NBA Finals back in 2009, when the Lakers beat the Magic.
Something you can never write off in a NBA team is experience, and the Lakers have plenty of it. Though they lack the athleticism, experience will help the Lake Show to thrive where it matters most, the playoffs.