5 Reasons the L.A. Lakers Won't Win the 2013 NBA Title and 5 Reasons They Will
The Los Angeles Lakers certainly improved their chances of reaching the 2013 NBA Finals by acquiring Steve Nash and Dwight Howard during the offseason, but there are a number of questions they must answer before they can be crowned as league champions once again.
But talent is not one of them.
Right now it's pretty hard to argue with the theory that Los Angeles has the best starting lineup on paper, but what's more impressive is how seamlessly the pieces appear to fit together.
The Lakers desperately needed a point guard who could create scoring opportunities in Mike Brown's offense, and general manager Mitch Kupchak managed to land one of the best basket creators in the history of the game.
That move alone thrust the Lakers back into the thick of title contention, but Kupchak and team president Jim Buss cemented their team's status by adding a major defensive upgrade in the middle of the paint as well.
It doesn't hurt that the Lakers improved their bench depth and scoring by acquiring Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks, and by also re-signing rugged reserve forward Jordan Hill.
However, as critics point, out none of the Lakers impressive offseason moves will mean anything unless the team can live up to its promise on the court, and due to various issues, that's no guarantee.
There are a multitude of concerns that could curtail the Lakers' title quest, but there may be just as many reasons to list as to why this team may be destined for NBA glory.
The following slideshow will explore five of the most daunting obstacles facing the Lakers and their attempt to win a ring in 2013, and five reasons they can ultimately be successful in their endeavor.
5. Can the Lakers Pass Their Chemistry Test?
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One of the most valid criticisms lobbed in the Lakers' direction has centered around developing team chemistry, which is something this team has yet to really do during the offseason.
As Sekou Smith of NBA.com notes, the demanding offseason schedules of the Lakers' superstars has left them little time to bond, and while Nash, Howard, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol have enough experience between them to conquer this hurdle, a few nights out on the town together could still have a positive impact on the court.
In this team's case, chemistry means more than just how each of the stars performs together on the court. It also means maintaining and balancing a delicate mix of egos and personalities that are sometimes driven by emotions.
The Lakers backcourt of Bryant and Nash are the keys to this dynamic since the ball will be in their hands the majority of the time.
Is Bryant willing to relinquish the reins of the offense to Nash while potentially sacrificing some of his own offense for the greater good?
How Bryant and the Lakers answer that question could determine how deep they go in the 2013 NBA postseason.
4. The Lakers Starting 5 Is a Little Long in the Tooth
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The Lakers may have the league's most talented and potent starting five, but at an average age of 32.2 years, they have one of the oldest starting units as well.
Nash and Bryant who are 38 and 34 respectively, are renown for their attention to physical conditioning, but bodies under constant stress eventually begin to break down and Nash and Bryant have seen more than their fair share of NBA battles.
Aside from Howard, all of the players who are expected to be major contributors for the Lakers are on the other side of 30 and this extends to the bench when you factor in Steve Blake and Jamison who are both expected to play significant roles.
The Lakers do have youth with players like Meeks, Hill, Earl Clark and Devin Ebanks, but who knows if any of those players besides Hill are ready to play major minutes?
Unfortunately, most of the Lakers team athleticism can also be found in the group of players mentioned above, and the team could struggle if they allow opponents to turn games into up and down frantic affairs.
3. Will Howard's Back Be a Lingering Issue?
There has been plenty of speculation surrounding the health of Howard's back and a time-table for his return to the court, but the truth of the matter is no one seems to know when Howard will be cleared to play, or how much his injury will limit him in the future.
Numerous pundits, analysts and doctors have offered their opinions on Howard's recovery, and a minor firestorm was recently started when Howard skipped out on a basketball camp commitment in Orlando citing the health of his back, yet he was apparently well enough to begin a promotional tour for Adidias in China two weeks later.
During Howard's introductory interview, he hinted that there may be a possibility he is not ready for the Lakers' first game, and 4-6 weeks sounds like a reasonable amount of time for Howard to regain his strength and conditioning.
But anything longer than that could severely hamper the Lakers' quest for a title, and things could get even worse if Howard does return but doesn't have the same impact as a player.
Back injuries tend to affect a player's range, mobility, lift, strength and explosion, which are all the qualities that make Howard exceptional.
You want to believe that Lakers' management pulled the trigger on a Howard deal only after making a calculated gamble based on evidence contained in his medical reports, but anyway you frame it, it's still a gamble.
The Lakers better hope it pays off because their championship hopes could literally rest on Howard's back.
2. Mike Brown Is Still the Lakers Coach, Right?
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In Nash and Bryant, the Lakers effectively have two players who can serve as coaches on the court which might be a good thing when you consider who is running things from the bench.
Lakers' head coach Mike Brown has a reputation as a defensive guru, but that may be the one glaring positive in a career that has been filled with negatives.
Brown also has the reputation as a poor game manager, inept situational strategist and a coach devoid of any knowledge when it comes to constructing the most efficient lineup.
Brown has mostly relied on the talents of his star players to carry him through sticky scenarios, but what happens when he is called upon to devise a strategy that could have title implications late in a game?
For the Lakers' sake their championship hopes better not boil down to any critical decision that rests with Brown, because his track record in that arena leaves a lot to be desired.
1. LeBron James Has Finally Arrived, and so Has Kevin Durant
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Miami Heat forward LeBron James just completed what was arguably the most successful run in professional basketball history by capturing the NBA's MVP award, winning the NBA Finals and Finals MVP and capping it off by leading the United States to a gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
And all of that success is sure to go to LeBron's head, in a positive way.
Whatever mental barriers to greatness that LeBron once struggled with, they were shattered during the course of his recent magical journey, and the fruit of victory is sure to fuel his hunger for the future.
James has proved that he is currently the best player on the planet, and for the first time in his career he finally has the drive and passion to go along with all that talent, which could make it quite difficult for the Lakers if they should happen to face James' Heat in June.
Before even reaching that point, the Lakers will probably have to beat Kevin Durant and the reigning west champion Oklahoma City Thunder which will present enough challenges on its own.
I'm pretty sure that Durant is not ready to concede anything to the Lakers, regardless of how good he thinks they are on paper and he's probably motivated by his team being relegated to secondary status by some of the media.
Beating the Thunder will be no cake-walk for the Lakers even if everyone does make it to the postseason healthy, and dealing with Oklahoma's youth could present another set of issues for the aging Lakers.
5. When Was the Last Time You Saw a Roster Like This?
If the Lakers can avoid health issues for the majority of the 2012-13 season, they could win 50 percent of their games based solely on the imposing nature of their lineup.
The Lakers are the only team who will start four players who are arguably in the top-five at their respective positions, as well as shoo-ins for the NBA Hall of Fame.
If players like Chris Bosh and Durant think the Lakers' roster is intimidating, imagine how the rest of the league must feel about the coalition of superstars that have descended on the City of Angels.
In fact you don't have to think about it, just listen to the collective silence that has been permeating throughout the NBA since the Lakers acquired Howard and Nash.
Aside from Durant and Bosh, few other NBA stars have been willing to offer their opinions concerning the Lakers, and it could be because they will have a chance to see them in living color soon enough.
4. The NBA's Best Front Line Got Better
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The Lakers possibly had the NBA's top front court with Gasol and Bynum manning the paint, but Howard removes any doubt from the theory.
Gasol is widely considered to be one of the league's most fundamentally skilled post players and Howard is by far the most dominant force of nature on both ends of the floor, which should make the Lakers a nightmare to defend or score on in the paint.
The Lakers did lose a little size with Bynum leaving, but they gained more athleticism and explosion as well as a player who prefers to play the game above the rim.
Gasol and Howard should both thrive in the pick-and-roll with Nash, and Gasol's passing ability should lead to plenty of easy scoring opportunities for Howard under the basket.
It doesn't hurt that both Howard and Gasol averaged double-digit rebounds and shot better than 50 percent from the field as well.
3. The Lakers Might Have the NBA's Top Backcourt as Well
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The Lakers backcourt of Nash and Bryant might be one of the league's oldest but they are one of the NBA's best as well.
Age has definitely been a concern for Nash and Bryant, but they each continue to play the game at a high level and defy the general wisdom that goes along with players who have reached this stage in their careers.
Last season Bryant nearly led the NBA in scoring while Nash remained among the league leaders in assists.
Nothing up until this point suggests that either player will suffer a significant drop-off in production next season.
Bryant and Nash are both experienced enough to accept the fact that they may be a step or two slower than many of the guards they will face in 2012-13, but that experience also gives them an advantage in certain situations.
Not to mention their extraordinary skill sets.
From a historical point of view Bryant is arguably the second best shooting guard to ever play the game and Nash is one of the best lead guards of all time, but unlike former Lakers Gary Payton and Karl Malone in 2004, their games are still relevant in the present.
2. The Kobe Bryant Effect
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Some people think that Bryant's callous attitude and demanding nature could derail any attempts at a championship for the Lakers. But what happens if his teammates fully buy into Bryant's pursuit of greatness?
Bryant may be one of the most competitive players to ever grace a court, and while he has been known to rub some teammates the wrong way, you can never question his passion, dedication and focus.
Gasol has played with Bryant long enough to recognize and accept this dynamic, and Nash has enough experience and veteran's savvy to adapt to it.
The only question mark could be Howard, who has gained a reputation in the offseason as a class clown with an indecisive nature.
However, Kobe has made it pretty clear what the Lakers' goals for next season are, and while Bryant can be abrasive at times, he can also be inspirational for Howard.
Howard may or may not care about the negative opinions currently circulating around him and the decision to force a trade to the Lakers, but buying into Bryant's drive to win a championship could go a long way towards repairing his image.
1. The Lakers Improved in Every Important Category
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The Lakers managed to snag two of the biggest names available in Nash and Howard, but what is most important are how those moves coupled with a few others improved the entire roster.
As stated before, the Lakers desperately needed a competent lead guard, and they were able to acquire one of the best of all time. The Lakers didn't really need the NBA's top center but they managed to get him anyway.
The signing Jamison may have flown a little under the radar in comparison to Nash and Howard, but his 17 points per game gives the Lakers a consistent, reliable scoring threat off the bench, and they added depth by signing Meeks and extending Hill.
The Lakers made big moves for sure, but not for the sake of just making them.
The Lakers needed to improve in several key areas in order to have any chance of competing for a championship in 2013, and not only did they address nearly every concern, they did it in the biggest way imaginable.
Next season Los Angeles should be a better offensive and defensive team than last season, and they also added athleticism, experience and depth.
None of that means we should hand over the Larry O'Brien trophy to the Lakers right now, but we better come around to the idea that they may be well-equipped to earn it on their own.