The Los Angeles Lakers will have the spotlight once again this upcoming season. The pressure is on once more for this franchise to win a title and to do it in their classic Hollywood-storyline manner.
Obsessed with becoming the most successful NBA franchise of all time, the Lakers went ahead and reconstructed their squad by adding All-Stars, role players and experienced coaches in hopes of earning their 17th title to tie the Celtics for most in the NBA.
This will be undoubtedly be the most intriguing team to watch next season. No other squad is loaded with this kind of star power, and no other team faces this much pressure to win a title. It's going to be an exciting ride, and LA will surely have a engrossing journey to the Finals.
This is one of likeliest possibilities for the Lakers.
Kobe Bryant was born to score the basketball. No other player in the NBA possesses the well-rounded offensive skills that this man has. He can crossover players and get to the paint, he can shoot from 40 feet away when necessary, he can pump fake his way into a jumper, he has the deadliest turnaround shot in the league today and he can post up better than any other guard in the NBA.
This guy has it all.
Leading the league in scoring is something Kobe has become too familiar with in his career. He has done it twice already and almost did it a third time last year. Even at age 34, Kobe can still score better than the vast majority of the past, present and even future NBA players.
If given the proper time on the floor and the proper offensive system, Kobe can utilize his skills and once again earn the scoring title. It's very likely.
He finished second in assist per game and first in total assists last season. And he did that without the luxury of having any star power in his subpar Phoenix team.
Things will be different this time around. Nash will have five former All-Stars in this team this year. Don't forget: World Peace, Gasol, Jamison and Howard all led their own respective teams in scoring prior to becoming Lakers. Not to mention Nash will also have the fifth-leading scorer in NBA history in Kobe Bryant.
But it's not only all about the talent Nash will have around him; the guy can actually pass better than most point guards that have ever played the game. The man is currently fifth all-time in total assist. If healthy, Nash will reach the grand milestone of 10,000 career assists sometime this year.
Don't count him out just because of age.
Steve Blake has disappointed Laker fans for two straight seasons now. His numbers are below average, and his contributions are limited.
Last year Blake averaged 5.2 PPG and 3.3 APG as a reserve—improvements from the prior year.
Chris Duhon, being the younger player, can potentially take Blake's job. True, his numbers were lower in the last two seasons than Blake's. However, the only reason for that was his limited playing time in Orlando.
At his best, Duhon averaged 11.1 PPG, 7.2 APG and 3.1 RPG in 36 minutes as a New York Knick. He has greater potential than Blake.
Mike Brown will experiment in the preseason with potential lineups. Duhon's best chance of taking Blake's job will begin before the season even starts.
The Lakers signed him for a reason, right?
The final pick of the NBA draft was recently inked by the Lakers after averaging 9.0 PPG and 6.2 RPG in the summer league. The 7-footer will likely be on the bench for the majority of the season, but if the injury bug bites the Lakers, Sacre's size will likely be utilized by LA for defensive purposes down in the paint. After all, along with Gasol, Sacre is actually the second tallest player in the Lakers' roster. He's even got a height advantage over Howard.
It is unlikely that he'll become an efficient role player, but his size will allow him to see at least a few minutes in a handful of games this season.
One can argue that injuries were what kept him from winning his fourth straight DPOY award last season. That, however, still didn't stop him from earning his fourth straight All-NBA Defensive First Team selection.
The man is still a one of the most athletic and quickest defenders in the league. Despite his season-ending injury, Howard still managed grab a career-high 14.5 RPG while blocking 2.1 shots per game.
His talent is unquestionable, but the real reason he will possibly earn the Defensive Player of the Year award is that the Lakers desperately need someone to guard the paint. Steve Nash is a defensive liability as he will likely let quicker guards blow past him to get to the paint. LA needs a final reserve to guard the basket. That's where Howard comes in.
His value will be so great for the Lakers that DPOY voters will be sure to notice his defensive importance on the Lakers' squad. Look for Howard to have on of his best years defensively.
The Lakers can potentially send Bryant, Howard, Nash, Gasol and Jamison to the All-Star game. The first two are guarantees, the second two are possibles and the last one is a little far-fetched, but it can absolutely happen.
As the unquestionable leader of the bench, Jamison will have freedom to be the leading scorer for the Lakers' reserves. It's not like the Lakers have too many options in the bench. Sure, Meeks will be a great addition, but he doesn't have the versatility that Jamison has. The bench will look to Jamison on most plays to score the basket.
Last year, Jamison averaged 17.2 points per game in just 33 minutes. Jamison will likely average similar minutes in the Lakers' this year. The only difference is that he will be the go-to guy when he is on the floor as a reserve. Last year, Jamison's scoring went down mostly because he had to share the ball with Irving in Cleveland.
If Jamison can average similar numbers, he can possibly be a reserve in next year's All-Star game. He will definitely get all the attention necessary. He will be playing in LA after all.
Mike Brown will once again be under the microscope this season, but the circumstances will surely change this upcoming year.
Brown had too much on his shoulders last season, and he never really had to opportunity to get his feet wet. Because of the condensed schedule, the Lakers never got acclimated to the new system Mike Brown tried to install last year. In 2012-13, Brown will have a full training camp and more time in between games to teach his players his system the right way.
The Lakers also added three experienced assistant coaches to the team this year. These are knowledgeable coaches that will surely make Mike Brown look good.
With the Princeton Offense making its way to LA and with all that All-Star talent on one team, the Lakers will surely be gunning for the best record in the league. If that happens, Brown's chances of winning the award will skyrocket.
He has won them all before, but never in the same season.
The All-Star game MVP is one that Kobe can win on any given occasion. Remember, Kobe has won the award three times in the last six seasons. It should also be noted that Kobe didn't even play in the 2010 game and he was only on the floor for a few minutes in the 2008 match because of injury. The award is there for him to take if he wants it.
The league MVP will be the hardest to attain. If the Lakers manage to get the best record in the league with Kobe posting his usual numbers, the possibility grows even further.
If everything goes as planned for the Lake Show, and if they get the final victory of the NBA season next year, Kobe will likely earn his third Finals MVP. If there are any doubters, just remember that Kobe thrives in the playoffs and performs his best in the Finals.
With this team, the sky is really the limit for Kobe.
Michael Jordan's 1996 Bulls are regarded as the greatest NBA team ever assembled. That squad was formed of all-stars, future Hall of Famers, talented role players and an experienced coaching staff. This year, the Lakers will have all of that and a lot more.
Winning more than 72 games will literally be the hardest task for any team in NBA history, but the Lakers have all they need to do just that.
This offseason, the Lakers added great assistant coaches, a proven offensive system, solid backup players, the former league leader in assists, the former league leader in rebounds and a three-time Defensive Player of the Year. All of the talent and resources they could possibly ask for is on this team at the moment. To be frank, they have even more talent than the Bulls had in 1996. That surely doesn't hurt the Lakers.
It should also be noted that the 1996 Bulls have a few striking similarities with the 2013 Lakers. Take a look back and recall that after going to the Finals three straight years, the Bulls then went through a two-year dry spell in the playoffs after losing some talent in the roster. After that, the team picked up an all-star and former Defensive Player of the Year in the offseason to help them get over the hump. Does all of that sound familiar?
Last season, the Lakers really only had three consistent players on the floor and they still managed to win 62 percent of their games. They were a good team in 2012. With all of the additions, the Lakers are no longer just a good team, they're a great one. Never count out a team with this much power.
The goal in LA is to win a championship. In the eyes of a few, they're already the favorites. If that's the case, how dominant will they be in the playoffs?
Let's examine the reasons why this is a possibility.
The Lakers' core is formed of three proven champions in World Peace, Gasol and Bryant. They also have two hungry All-Stars who have come close, but were never able to win a ring. Experience and hunger are there, and as fans have seen from former championship teams, those factors are always clear motivators in winning playoff games.
Let's examine the current greatest playoff run in NBA history. In 2001, the Lakers went 15-1 en route to their second straight championship. The key to their success what that they got hot at the right time. That team ended up winning their final eight games of the regular season and rode that momentum into the playoffs.
The 2013 roster could potentially have a similar situation.
In their final eight games, the Lakers will only play a single game outside of Staples Center. With the exception of San Antonio, most of those games are likely winnable. If LA can win the vast majority of those games, they will have all of the momentum they'll need going into the playoffs.
The first two rounds should be relatively simple as most teams in the West lack the talent and the deep playoff experience needed to win. Their toughest tasks will be in the Conference and NBA finals.
OKC and Miami will be the possible roadblocks against the Lakers. But consider this: Last year, the Lakers could have easily been up 3-1 against the Thunder and LA also beat the Heat decisively in one of their encounters last year. Don't forget that last season, the Lakers didn't have the talent, the resources or the revitalizing verve that this 2013 squad will surely have.
It's all possible.