Los Angeles Lakers: Will Chemistry Really Be a Concern for Star-Studded Lineup?
TNT analyst Kenny Smith recently pegged the Miami Heat as his NBA title favorites entering the 2012-13 season, and he cited the notion that Miami boasts three of the top five players at their positions to bolster his argument.
Smith correctly assumes the Heat are this season's team to beat, but it's not because they have three of the top five players at their respective positions.
Especially when you consider that the Los Angeles Lakers have four of the top five players at their positions, as well.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are the favorites for next season because they ended their 2012 campaign as part of the best team in the NBA, a title the Heat will retain until another team knocks them off their perch.
Are the Lakers that team?
I'm not sure if I have ever seen a lineup on paper that includes talent the likes of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard, but as everyone knows, talent alone doesn't win championships.
There are numerous ingredients in the formula for a championship team, and while talent is key, other factors like injuries, reserve play, coaching and chemistry complete the recipe.
Chemistry was the most glaring concern facing Miami when their superteam formed in South Beach, and it is arguably the single biggest issue facing the Lakers heading into next season.
Miami ultimately lived up to the preseason hype, and its trial run didn't end until a loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals.
The Lakers can certainly duplicate Miami's feat, and the task could be a little easier due to the unique makeup of their superstar nucleus.
Nash, Gasol and Howard are all capable of scoring points in bunches, but Bryant is the only member of the quartet whose career has been defined by his ability to score.
Howard was the focal point of the offense in Orlando, but his greatest impact on the game was on the defensive end. Howard's ability to block shots and defend the paint was more valuable to the Magic than his limited offensive game, and the same will be true in Los Angeles.
Gasol is widely considered to be one of the most fundamentally skilled big men in the NBA, but it can be argued that his timid nature has partially stunted his growth as a player. Gasol has proved his merit as a star talent, and he has the rings and career numbers to back it up, but imagine how good Gasol could have been if he had an aggressive attitude to back up all that game.
Ironically, Gasol's tendency to defer should blend well with this new version of the Lakers because he is more than happy to let the game flow to, rather than through, him.
And thanks to Nash, the Lakers have a great shot at making a fluid transition from a great team on paper to a legendary team on the court.
Nash might be the Lakers' most important offseason addition simply because he is one of the rare NBA players who has the power to render questions about chemistry obsolete.
Offenses tend to thrive when Nash is orchestrating from the point, and he has been a master at identifying his teammates' most effective scoring areas on the court and delivering them the ball in the best positions to score.
Fears about Bryant and Nash coexisting in the same back court should be eased by their combined years of experience and the pursuit of a common goal.
Bryant understands his window for adding more rings to his resume is closing, and I'm also sure he's played against Nash enough to appreciate the potential number of open looks he will get from the field.
Nash realizes this is his best and last opportunity to earn the NBA title that has eluded him thus far, and it should be easier for him to assimilate since his legacy has been crafted on making those around him better.
And Nash has never played with a roster like this
On most nights the Lakers will hold a positional advantage against every starting five they face, but what's more impressive is their potential once they become a cohesive unit.
The Lakers should be dominant in the pick-and-roll offense, and Nash and Gasol can make them dominant in the backdoor-heavy Princeton offense, as well.
Bryant will likely get more open looks at the basket than he has in years, and Nash's presence also means he shouldn't have to exert as much energy on the offensive end, either.
The Lakers managed to emphatically answer the questions that plagued them during the past two seasons, and on paper they have the most dominant starting five in the NBA.
There are still questions concerning defense and perimeter scoring that the Lakers must answer before a trip to the 2013 NBA Finals becomes a reality, but with Nash directing the Lakers newest symphony of stars, greatness and glory are definitely within reach.
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