The Los Angeles Lakers have reloaded and are set to make a run at the NBA Finals. Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant might have already taken over as the best "Big Three" in a league that is suddenly overrun with star-studded trios.
The recent success of the Miami Heat has shown that just having a collection of stars won't lead to a title, but having a collection of stars that can play as a team will. The Lakers now have that collection of stars, but can they play as a team?
There will certainly be obstacles to overcome. Some of the those obstacles will be faced as a team and others will be faced individually.
Obstacle: Fewer Minutes
In his 14-year NBA career, Antawn Jamison has averaged under 30 minutes per game only twice in his career. In his rookie season (1998-99) he averaged 22.5 minutes per game, and in his sixth season he averaged 29 minutes per game. He's started 858 games out of 985 games in his career.
Signing with the Lakers this offseason, Jamison had to realize that he won't likely see close to 30 minutes per game unless injuries decimate the Lakers' bigs. In the case that Dwight Howard isn't ready to start the season, Jamison is a candidate to start. Whether he starts or not, Jamison will see increased minutes with Howard out.
However, when Howard comes back, Jamison's minutes will drop. The key for Jamison is to adapt to coming off the bench and making an impact in a shortened playing stint. Instead of being on the court and having the ability to impact a game throughout, Jamison will need to do so in bursts.
The Lakers' bench was notable poor last season and Jamison should be a valuable asset. If he can adapt to coming off the bench and providing an instant offensive spark, Jamison will have a solid role night in and night out.
Another obstacle is that, being a bench player, Jamison's minutes will fluctuate depending on the game, schedule and opponent. Staying at a consistent level throughout the season, despite fewer minutes and uncertainty, will be key for Jamison.
With Metta World Peace, the questions of focus and stability have been heard throughout his NBA career. It's no different this year for the Lakers with World Peace in the starting lineup.
The Lakers will rely on World Peace this season as a tough defender and to consistently knock down shots. During the playoffs last season, World Peace showed an improved three-point stroke, improving his percentage from 29.6 percent during the regular season to 38.9 percent.
With Steve Nash running the point and Dwight Howard drawing all types of attention to the paint, World Peace should get open looks on the perimeter. If he can continue with that improved three-ball, the Lakers offense gets a whole lot scarier.
The Lakers are poised to make a championship run and they can't afford to have World Peace throwing wild elbows or other things. Technicals will happen, but they can't be pattern for this team that will face a tough road in the Western Conference.
This season, the Lakers need Metta World Peace fully locked in, adding toughness, without thugness.
Obstacle: Playing With Kobe
Having played numerous times against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, Steve Nash likely knows the drill. Bryant is going to get his shots. Some times they will come with two defenders right in his face and other times, three defenders.
While the "Kobe Doesn't Pass" meme is overplayed, there are certainly times when Bryant should pass, but doesn't. It's part of his game and has been since he came into the league. At his point, Bryant isn't going to change for anybody.
For Nash, the adjustment is going to be living with those shots and knowing that's the nature of the beast. Nash has spent most of his career playing extremely efficient basketball because of his court vision and high basketball intelligence.
Nash and Bryant are both used to having the ball in their hands. The adjustment comes in trying to have Bryant play more off-the-ball, but still allow him to create opportunities with the ball. Both players are on-board, which should ease the adjustment. Regardless, it will take a while for the Lakers to click offensively.
As the point guard and newcomer, much of the burden of making the duo work will fall on Nash's shoulders.
Obstacle: Outside Noise
Over the last few seasons, Pau Gasol has displayed an unfortunate habit of letting outside distractions impact him and his play on the basketball court. Following the failed Chris Paul trade which would have sent him packing, Gasol struggled to maintain his level of play with the disappointment of not feeling wanted.
With the additions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, the Lakers are going to be an even bigger focus of the media. If something goes wrong this season, the world will know with thousands ready to dissect every movement in L.A.
Critics will be ready to shred the Lakers after each loss of the season. With that type of pressure, Gasol could suffer if play isn't constantly at a high level.
Gasol can take solace in the fact that his future in Los Angeles is looking more stable than it is in years after the Lakers' moves. He will fit beautifully into the pick-and-roll game with Nash.
Gasol needs to block out the noise coming from outsiders and media and just focus on playing basketball. When is focused and confident, Gasol is one of the top power forwards in the league. For the Lakers to be Finals contenders, they need Gasol playing well.
Since he was drafted by the Orlando Magic in 2004, Dwight Howard has been a star. He's been the franchise guy in Orlando, not having to share those duties with another player. Being traded to the star-studded Lakers, Howard is in for a change.
While the Lakers will pitch their willingness to make him the franchise player in the future, Howard won't be the big dog in Los Angeles while Kobe Bryant is still around. With Bryant likely playing two or three more seasons, Howard will have to share center-stage for the time being.
Although, Howard will still get plenty of attention on what will surely be one of the most hyped teams in recent memory, he will have to share it with Bryant, Nash and Gasol.
On the court, Howard will also need to stay patient. He will get plenty of touches offensively, but with a more talented team than he has ever played on, those touches may come less often and less consistently. Bryant will take his lion's share of shots with Nash and Gasol also getting their looks.
On the offensive end, it will be important for Howard to stay focused and into the game, even when he's not getting the ball as much. This will allow Howard to make the most of his possibly decreased opportunities.
In similar fashion to Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant is used to being the main man of the franchise. Since the Lakers traded Shaquille O'Neal in 2004, Bryant has been the dominant star in Los Angeles. With the additions of Nash and Howard, Bryant will still be the star, but his role as the franchise player has diminished slightly.
With the NBA landscape how it is, there is no question that Bryant and the Lakers needed reinforcements to compete for a championship. Bryant knows this, which factored into him welcoming the additions.
The fact that Bryant is on-board with the new direction is a big step that he is willing to sacrifice some of his top-dog status in order to challenge for a sixth ring. While this has been the case in the offseason, it remains to be seen whether Bryant can give up some of that domain on the court.
For the Lakers to be at their best this season, they need Bryant to do less, but still be effective. It should be seen as taking pressure off of Bryant's shoulders in order to lighten his load.
If Bryant can overcome his ego and adapt into more of a team player with this outrageously talented Lakers team, they are serious contenders to win it all.