The Los Angeles have become the NBA’s newest super team, but talent alone doesn't win championships, as there are a handful of questions the starters must answer in 2013.
This team is going to be very good; that’s not even worth debating.
What is worth questioning is whether or not this new-look squad can pull it all together and reach their goal in their first season as a unit.
If the stars on this team can align and work together, very few teams will be able to get in their way. A championship is within their grasps, but it starts with addressing a few concerns moving forward.
Steve Nash is a point guard who needs the ball to make plays, and with his up-tempo mentality, you have to wonder if he and Kobe Bryant will clash when their own personal styles try and take over.
Bryant tossed up 23 shots per game last season, and when it comes down to it, the Los Angeles Lakers want nothing more than for the 34-year-old veteran to spread the wealth. If he can learn to play off the ball, and let Nash run the offense, the team’s newest point guard is going to be the perfect floor general.
It can be argued that Nash’s biggest question mark is surrounding his health—and how many minutes he can play moving forward. These are legitimate concerns, but with a secondary option in Bryant who is used to controlling the offense, fewer minutes from Nash won't be a problem.
Both of these players are smart enough to learn to play together, and if they can make it happen, Nash should elevate the game of everyone around him—Bryant included.
Kobe Bryant has to adjust his game if this team wants to win in 2013, but at this point in his basketball career, you have to wonder how long he can continue to play at such an elite level.
At age 34, Bryant remains one of the league’s top players. His 27.9 points in 2012 were second only to Kevin Durant, he remains a stat-sheet stuffer year after year and he is still one of the best isolation players in the entire NBA.
Bryant’s production is unmatched by most, but his body has been far more banged up than he’d every truly let on.
His desire to win will never go away, but you have to wonder when his skill set will begin to diminish. With so many options on the new-look roster, Bryant finally has a reason to let up—should he choose to do so.
Whether or not 2013 is the year he slows down remains to be seen, but what we do know is that if Bryant begins to decline, he has more than enough support to keep the team rolling.
While it’s safe to say that Metta World Peace’s best days are behind him, it’s also fair to wonder if he can produce at all on the offensive end of the floor.
When it comes to the defensive side of the floor, you know what you’re getting with World Peace. He is the kind of presence who is going to bully players with his sheer size and strength, and he can have an impact defensively even if the numbers don’t always show it.
The reality of the situation is, his role hasn’t changed much with the stars joining the roster. He’ll still be looked upon to lock down offenses, and he’ll still be expected to hit the open jumpers when they're presented to him in the corner.
World Peace has been a popular amnesty candidate for a while now, but if he can do what is expected of him, he should quietly be a piece who contributes to this team night in and night out.
After Pau Gasol’s disappearing act in the 2012 playoffs, it’s reasonable to wonder whether the 7’0” power forward will get lost in the shuffle at some point down the road.
At 32 years old, Gasol is still capable of having an impact around the rim and beyond the free-throw line. Lately, his game hasn’t been as sharp as we’re used to seeing, but with a diverse skill set and a great high-post game, he should be a player who thrives in the Princeton offense.
The notion that Gasol is the fourth option on this team is somewhat misconstrued, as Steve Nash will be much more of a distributor among the stars. The big man could get pushed aside at times on the stat sheet by Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard, but as long as Nash is looking his way, good things should happen.
Gasol struggled throughout parts of 2012, but with a new offense in place and trade speculation seemingly out the window, 2013 could be a bounceback season.
The most pressing issue surrounding Dwight Howard today has to be the state of his health, but, assuming the big man is good to go throughout 2013, the biggest variable will be how well he blends into the Princeton offense.
On the surface, Howard doesn’t appear to be the best fit. His game is defined by athleticism and power on the block, and, with the Princeton offense designed to place him away from the rim, he’ll be further away from entry passes and offensive rebounding opportunities.
While the center would probably like to play in the post every possession, placing him up top won’t be all bad. His swift athleticism will create mismatches against slower defenders, as he’ll surely beat a number of bigs off the dribble—and on backdoor cuts—throughout the year.
The ultimate question for Howard will eventually be, can he become one of the all-time Lakers greats?
That question will be debated for years to come, but for now, it all starts with fitting in.