The Los Angeles Lakers' roster underwent quite an overhaul during the offseason, all in preparation for a run at the championship during the 2012-13 campaign. Amazingly enough, though, the Lakers acquired multiple stars without giving up too much.
After a disappointing exit from the postseason at the hands of Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, Kobe Bryant and his teammates, both new and old, will be looking to start a ring collection on hand number two.
With Dwight Howard and Steve Nash throwing on purple and gold jerseys, along with a revamped bench, Bryant very well could achieve that goal come the summer of 2013.
Here's a quick breakdown of how we got to this point:
Final Finish in Standings
First in Pacific Division
Third in Western Conference
Sixth in NBA
New Acquisitions over Summer
Earl Clark, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Chris Duhon, Dwight Howard, Antawn Jamison, Darius Johnson-Odom, Jodie Meeks, Steve Nash, Reeves Nelson, Robert Sacre
Matt Barnes, Andrew Bynum, Christian Eyenga, Jason Kapono, Josh McRoberts, Troy Murphy, Ramon Sessions, Luke Walton
2012-13 Depth Chart and Head Coach
Point Guard: Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Chris Duhon
Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant, Jodie Meeks
Small Forward: Metta World Peace, Devin Ebanks
Power Forward: Pau Gasol, Antawn Jamison, Earl Clark
Center: Dwight Howard, Jordan Hill
Coach: Mike Brown
You can also check out Bleacher Report's preview of the Lakers' season in podcast form here. Trust me, you don't want to miss out on Joel Cordes and Ethan Norof talking about everything from the Princeton Offense to a throwback comparison with the 2004 squad.
The Los Angeles Lakers have generated some serious hype during the hottest months of the year in NBA land. It's not out of the realm of possibility that the Staples Center plays host to the league's best starting five.
And no, I'm not referring to the Los Angeles Clippers. Let's just say that Jack Nicholson could be cheering on something special this year when he takes his seat along the sideline.
Point Guard: Steve Nash
Even though Steve Nash has been playing preseason games in purple and gold, it's going to be awfully strange when he actually dribbles the ball up the court for the Los Angeles Lakers in regular-season action. After seeing him play for the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns for so many years, something in this equation just won't click.
Even though Nash is now 38 years old and dangerously close to that dreaded 40th birthday celebration, he hasn't lost his effectiveness on the basketball court. The floor general still plays almost like he's in his prime.
After averaging 10.7 assists per game, a mark that trailed only Rajon Rondo during the 2011-12 campaign, while passing to Jared Dudley, Marcin Gortat and the rest of the Suns, it will be scary to see the damage he could do on the Lakers.
Nash will have to deal with a slower offense than he's used to, and he won't be able to dominate the ball to the same extent he normally does, but something tells me that he'll be cool with that.
Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant is going to be the most interesting player to watch on the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2012-13 season. Yes, that includes the glamorous new additions.
The Black Mamba has spent his prime as the unquestioned man in charge in L.A. This team has been his, and he's been successful with the reins in his massive hands. Now he's surrounded by more talent than ever.
Can Kobe handle taking a smaller role if that's what is required of him to win the most games? I'm going to vote yes, because his intelligence is great enough to trump his ego. And don't get me wrong. Saying Kobe has an ego is a compliment, not an insult.
Bryant will get to prove that he's an underrated passer while scoring bunches of points on a nightly basis. He'll also be able to play with a newfound defensive focus on the perimeter, knowing that a certain big man is there to pick up the trash.
Although Kobe's surface-level stats will decline, he's going to play more efficient—and better—basketball than he has in years. Even if he can still make them, don't expect Kobe to take as many shots with difficulty levels that can only be described as off the charts.
Small Forward: Metta World Peace
You know that your starting lineup is in good shape when Metta World Peace, a lockdown perimeter defender with a capable shot from the outside, is the clear weak link in the unit. That's a luxury that not many teams in NBA history have possessed.
According to 82games, the artist formerly known as Ron Artest played 64 percent of the team's minutes at small forward and held opposing players at the position to a PER of just 11.8. That's a sensational mark, one that proves the World Peace we've come to know is still present in L.A.
On the rare occasions that MWP played power forward, he managed to hold opponents to an 8.3 PER.
While he'll take an even more subdued role on the offense end of the court, World Peace is going to be allowed to wreak havoc on the perimeter when playing defense.
Power Forward: Pau Gasol
It's amazing that the Los Angeles Lakers were able to acquire both Steve Nash and Dwight Howard without giving away Pau Gasol. Now the on-court product is going to be even more incredible.
Pau underwent a seismic shift in perception in just a matter of months. After the premature exit from the postseason, the Spanish big man was perhaps the biggest scapegoat of all, and his time in L.A. seemed to be quickly drawing to a close.
Now that the super five are all together, Pau is no longer viewed as a weakness, but rather an asset. It's amazing what the overall perception of a team can do for the perception of individuals.
Pau most certainly will be an asset during his 12th season in The Association. His passing and ability to step out to the perimeter to both hit jumpers and spread out the court for the more traditional bigs are unique for a man of his stature. Both will factor into the success of the Lakers' season, especially when Eddie Jordan's Princeton Offense is in play.
Center: Dwight Howard
Although Dwight Howard has not been playing in L.A.'s preseason contests and isn't developing any chemistry with his new teammates quite yet, that's mostly because the Lakers are being cautious with their new toy.
Think of D12 as a new pair of white shoes. You don't want to get that first dirt smudge on them, so you're extra careful at the very beginning of your experiences together. However, as soon as that first mark appears, you're free to fully break them out.
Howard is making progress as he rehabs after a back injury knocked him out of his final season with the Orlando Magic, but he isn't quite ready to get out in live action. There's a solid chance that he does suit up for the Lakers in the regular-season opener, though, and I'm not talking about the coat-and-tie variety.
Once he's ready to go, Howard will resume holding down the fort as the best center in the league. He can contribute on offense and defense alike, although it's the latter in which his true specialty lies. Whether he's blocking shots from the weak side or playing better pick-and-roll defense than anyone else in the league can dream of, Howard will ensure that Tyson Chandler's reign as the Defensive Player of the Year is a short one.
Antawn Jamison is tasked with turning the Los Angeles Lakers bench from a liability into an asset. That's a daunting task, no doubt, but it's one that the sharp-shooting combo-forward should be able to fulfill.
Although he won't touch the numbers that he posted in a featured role on the Cleveland Cavaliers—17.2 points, 2.0 assists and 6.3 rebounds per game—Jamison will hit a number of threes off the bench and continue to play uninspired defense. Actually, scratch that. Jamison doesn't put forth enough effort on that side of the court for me to justify putting "play" and "defense" in the same sentence without a word to negate the implication.
The 36-year-old still won't turn the ball over, and he'll remain completely averse to putting the ball on the floor. But he'll score, especially if he works on cutting his long two-pointers out of his arsenal.
Jamison has struggled during preseason action, although he has increased his scoring output during each of the first three contests.
Don't expect him to compete with James Harden and the other standout sixth men in the league, but do expect him to be a solid contributor when he leaves the pine and either replaces Metta World Peace's defense with his offense or gives Pau Gasol a breather.
Point Guards: Steve Blake and Chris Duhon
Steve Blake and Chris Duhon are solid options off the bench, but neither one is someone you actually look forward to seeing on the court. The Los Angeles Lakers will be much better off when these two point guards are in warmups and resting on the pine, allowing Steve Nash to do his thing on the hardcourt.
Blake is a solid defender and a declining marksman from the perimeter as Father Time continues to affect him, but that's just about all he brings to the table. That said, he doesn't take much away either as he typically plays to his strengths.
Duhon is the better defender of the two, but it's going to be hard to give him meaningful minutes until he proves that he isn't playing with grease on his hands. Turnovers have plagued the new acquisition for some time now, and they're getting worse for the point guard.
The Lakers have a significant amount of money allocated to a rather lackluster group of veteran point guards, so don't be surprised if they make a move and free up some minutes for Darius Morris or Andrew Goudelock, younger and cheaper options with much more upside.
Shooting Guard: Jodie Meeks
Jodie Meeks will end up being the most underrated move of the summer for the Lakers. Even though he's known as a three-point shooting specialist, he's more than that.
Meeks can shoot the cover off the basketball—if you can hit the cover off a baseball, you can shoot the cover off a basketball; just go with me here—and makes up for his lack of size with tenacity on the defensive end of the court. The Philadelphia 76ers were markedly better at preventing points when this 2-guard was on the court.
If he's present on the roster, Goudelock will also see some time here, and second-round pick Darius Johnson-Odom could as well.
Small Forward: Devin Ebanks
While Devin Ebanks split time between shooting guard and small forward during the 2011-12 campaign, he'll spend far more time backing up Metta World Peace during his third season out of West Virginia. After all, Jodie Meeks is more established than he is, and Kobe tends to eat minutes.
Ebanks is a defensive stopper at this stage of his young career, but the 22-year-old has athleticism in spades and could easily become an offensive contributor if he could increase the range on his jumper. Last season, that range fell short of the three-point arc.
The lanky small forward has been a capable scorer for the second unit during preseason action, and he's attempting three-pointers, although he has yet to hit them at a respectable clip.
Ebanks isn't expected to be a key contributor just yet, though, so any offensive production would be the gravy on top of his defense.
Power Forward: Earl Clark
Of all the players featured on this slide, Earl Clark will be used the least during the Los Angeles Lakers' 2012-13 efforts.
The problem is that he just doesn't bring much to the table, although the team could use a true power forward to back up Pau Gasol and Antawn Jamison. He isn't exactly capable on either offense or defense yet.
According to 82games.com, Clark had a 9.4 PER when playing power forward for the Orlando Magic during the 2011-12 campaign, and he allowed opposing 4s to put up a 17.3 PER. He was even worse on both ends of the court when he played small forward.
The former Louisville Cardinal has enough athleticism and length to remain intriguing, but he's also going to remain on the bench for very prolonged stretches of time.
Center: Jordan Hill
Currently out with a back injury that shouldn't keep him out of the opening-day lineup, Jordan Hill became a fan favorite of every Los Angeles Lakers supporter at the end of the 2011-12 campaign. As the number of games left dwindled, Hill's energy was infectious, and he put up sensational numbers when given the chance.
The Lakers are hoping to see more performances like his 14-point, 15-rebound outing against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the penultimate game of the regular season, although his two postseason double-doubles would certainly suffice.
Hill is a great rebounder, but he must learn to control his aggression on both ends of the court before he can take the next step as a big man.
Robert Sacre could also earn a spot in the rotation here, but the reigning Mr. Irrelevant should start the season in the D-League if Dwight Howard is at 100 percent.
While the starting five attempts to raise its chemistry rating and learn how to play cohesive, quality basketball on a nightly basis, everything will be heavily scrutinized. Each win will be heard about on SportsCenter, and the sky will seem to be falling after each loss. That's the nature of the beast when four All-Star-caliber players join forces.
As the Heat proved during the 2010-11 season, it does take some time to develop the chemistry necessary to compete with the elites of the NBA on a consistent basis.
The beginning of the new-look Lakers' inaugural campaign is going to contain some natural struggling. Players will be figuring out their roles and adjusting to the new members of the Lake Show.
It's the second half of the season where everything is going to start to fall into place. Until then, a lot of questions will need to be answered.
Who is going to emerge as the go-to ball-handler? Will Kobe Bryant or Steve Nash possess the rock in crunch-time situations?
Can Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks turn around the second unit enough that the Lakers coaching staff doesn't throw up a little bit whenever a starter asks for a respite from the action?
Will the Princeton Offense be a novelty act, or will the team truly adopt the new offensive system for large portions of the game?
There will be one question after another during the first few months of the season, but there is one certainty: The Lakers will have championship-caliber talent on the court when the ball is thrown up at midcourt for the first game of the season.
If you're planning on catching just a few Lakers games throughout the year, these are the five that you'll want to circle on your calendar. Cancel your plans on those nights and plan for a lovely evening on the couch.
However, if you're going to be tuning in to each and every one of the 82 regular-season games, then here's the full schedule for your viewing pleasure, courtesy of NBA.com.
Friday, Nov. 2 vs. Los Angeles Clippers
The third game of the season for The Purple and Gold, this contest will pit the Lakers against the co-inhabitants of the Staples Center in the first episode of the battle for Los Angeles.
Blake Griffin and Chris Paul will be ready to throw down some monstrous alley-oops, much to the chagrin of Pau Gasol, but the Lakers will be looking to humiliate their cross-town "rivals" on the scoreboard.
Wednesday, Jan. 30 at Phoenix Suns
No one will have any idea what to expect at the US Airways Center when Steve Nash makes his first visit to the home of the Phoenix Suns while wearing a Lakers uniform.
Nash was more than just a point guard for the desert-based franchise. He was a leader in the community and a true fan-favorite. But now he's wearing enemy colors.
So many Suns fans wanted Nash to have a shot at a ring before he retired and accepted the fact that he wasn't going to be able to fulfill that lifelong pursuit in Phoenix. Will they be able to accept the fact that the pursuit had to continue in two colors that they now associate with the enemy?
Sunday, Feb. 10 at Miami Heat
While playing the second game in the home-and-away series with the Miami Heat, the Lakers will have a chance to appear at full strength and put together a solid outing at the home stadium of the defending champions.
Do you really need a reason to watch this game, other than the following?
LeBron James and Kobe Bryant are going to be battling it out, with Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Chris Bosh and Pau Gasol all playing prominent roles.
Wednesday, Feb. 20 vs. Boston Celtics
The second meeting of the bitter rivals in two weeks, this matchup between the Lakers and the Boston Celtics will take place in the friendly confines of the Staples Center. The building will be rocking and a who's who for L.A.-based celebrities.
Boston improved this offseason and is a true contender in the Eastern Conference. Could this be a preview of the NBA Finals?
Tuesday, Mar. 5 at Oklahoma City Thunder
The Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder will clash four times during the 2012-13 season, and this is the final matchup between the two premier Western Conference powers (no offense to the San Antonio Spurs).
By this point in the season, the Lakers will be used to playing each other, making this a true barometer—albeit one with a ridiculously small sample size—for a potential playoff rematch.
First in Pacific Division
Second in Western Conference
Third in NBA
How the Season Will Finish
The Los Angeles Lakers will struggle a bit at the beginning of the season as they attempt to get their bearings and learn to play as a team instead of a collection of ultra-talented individuals. Point guard and center are arguably the two most important positions on the court, and the Lakers are attempting to fill both slots with new additions.
However, they'll remain in the upper tier of power rankings and avoid panic mode. Then things will start clicking during the second half of the season, resulting in an absolute juggernaut that rolls through the rest of the league for weeks at a time.
When it's all said and done in the regular season, the Lakers will trail only the Oklahoma City Thunder in the standings.
From that point, it's time to battle the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference in the first round of the playoffs. A number of teams could fill that role, but Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks will be the West's team du jour to be sacrificed to the Lake Show.
In the second round, it won't matter who the Lakers face off against, which is lucky for me, because predicting the matchup is nearly impossible. With the Thunder on the opposite of the bracket, the Lakers' opponent won't be able to match up with the No. 2 seed.
That leaves a rematch from the 2012 postseason looming in the Western Conference Finals. Just like last year, it will be Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook that send the Lakers home early.
There's an insane amount of talent on that OKC squad, and the players actually have experience playing together. Much like the Miami Heat in their first "Big Three" season, the Lakers will fall just shy of the ultimate prize.
It might be a different story at the conclusion of the 2013-14 season, though.
As is often the case when a team adds quite a few new major parts, there's a lot of variability between the floor and the ceiling.
I think most of you can guess what the best-case scenario is for the Los Angeles Lakers, but check out what B/R's own Ethan Norof, Joel Cordes and Ethan Strauss have to say in the embedded video.
Is there any potential for the Lake Show to be sitting around and twiddling their collective thumbs come playoff time, or is a low seed in the Western Conference the worst-case scenario for this team?
1. Kobe Bryant: 24.7 points per game
2. Dwight Howard: 21.3 points per game
3. Pau Gasol: 18.6 points per game
1. Dwight Howard: 12.2 rebounds per game
2. Pau Gasol: 9.6 rebounds per game
3. Jordan Hill: 5.8 rebounds per game
1. Steve Nash: 11.1 assists per game
2. Kobe Bryant: 5.0 assists per game
3. Pau Gasol: 3.6 assists per game