Playoffs: Lost to Oklahoma City Thunder in second round (5 games)
Draft picks: Robert Sacre
Signings/trades: Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Antawn Jamison, Earl Clark, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Jodie Meeks, Chris Duhon, Darius Johnson-Odom
Andrew Bynum, Matt Barnes, Ramon Sessions, Josh McRoberts, Troy Murphy, Christian Eyenga
Projected starting lineup
C - Dwight Howard
PF - Pau Gasol
SF - Metta World Peace
SG - Kobe Bryant
PG - Steve Nash
What to expect
Just when you think the Los Angeles Lakers are dead, they rise again.
After all of the talk about this Lakers team as we know it being "done" after getting bounced by the Thunder in the playoffs, General Manager Mitch Kupchak first goes out and lands Nash in a sign-and-trade with the Phoenix Suns. That got everybody talking.
Of course, that wasn't the biggest blow Los Angeles would land.
L.A. then struck a deal with the Orlando Magic to bring Howard to Hollywood, parting ways with Bynum in the process.
The Lakers suddenly went from looking like a perennial second-round knockout in Bryant's twilight years to a title contender once again.
Provided that Dwight's back holds up, this team is obviously a championship favorite. It's not just the moves for Howard and Nash, though. It's the fact that Los Angeles also improved what was an abysmal bench last season, signing Jamison to fill the sixth man role.
The pine will now include the likes of him, Jordan Hill, Jodie Meeks, Steve Blake and Devin Ebanks. Not the best in the league, but certainly better than the Barnes-led bench of 2012.
There really isn't any one area where L.A. has any deficiencies.
Okay, so Nash isn't exactly what one would call a good defender at the point guard position, but having Howard as a second line of defense changes everything. Not to mention the fact that Kobe and World Peace still have plenty of defense left in their aging veins.
What should really be interesting is watching the Princeton offense that the Lakers are preparing to run this season. For those unfamiliar with the term, it is a style of play that relies on constant ball movement, swift passes and backdoor cuts
Los Angeles certainly has the personnel to execute this, as the likes of Nash, Bryant and Gasol are all outstanding passers. Howard? Not particularly, but his job offensively will mainly consist of setting screens and grabbing offensive boards for putbacks or extra possessions. Will Dwight be the recipient of passes into the post? Absolutely, but probably not as often as in Orlando.
Other than that, everyone essentially knows what to expect from the Lakers this season. A lot of media attention, a lot of star power, and, most importantly, a lot of wins.
Key player: Howard
We know what Kobe brings to the table. Same with Gasol, as he's been a Laker long enough.
What we haven't seen in L.A. since the days of Shaquille O'Neal is a center who clogs up the lane on both ends of the court (in a good way).
Bynum is a great talent, but he simply does not have the type of impact that Howard does, particularly on the defensive end. Howard's defense is going to be paramount to Los Angeles' success this season. The Lakers are probably going to score a lot, and with Howard shutting the paint down on the other end, this team may end up nearly impossible to beat.
What everyone should really be looking for, though, is Howard's effect on the offensive end.
How much easier with he make Pau's job? Gasol was largely invisible for much of L.A.'s playoff run in 2012, and he is most remembered for that miserable Game 4 performance against Oklahoma City. With Howard now in the lane, Gasol's offensive game should open back up again.
The key to a potential Lakers championship run is not Bryant or Pau; it's Dwight.
While there is no guarantee Sacre will even make the team, he is making his presence felt in preseason.
The seven-footer out of Gonzaga was the last pick of the 2012 draft, but the kid can play. He demonstrated this with a nine-point, 10-rebound, three-block performance in a preseason game against the Utah Jazz, increasing his chances of making the roster in the process.
You can't teach size in the NBA, and Sacre certainly has that.
It's not just a case of "well, he's big, so let's try him out," though. Sacre has skills, as evidenced by his 76.1 percent free throw stroke in his final year at Gonzaga. He has also developed a decent low-post game, and while he isn't overly athletic, he has a good feel for the game and has the ability to contribute on the professional level.
Whether or not he will be able to contribute on a stacked roster like L.A.'s is up for debate, but don't be surprised to see him make the team and get some minutes this season.
Playoffs: Could win it all
What else is there to add? The Lakers are clearly a championship-caliber ballclub. They still have to go through the Thunder in the Western Conference; there is no doubt about that. However, they certainly have the roster makeup to do so.
This is a team that can create mismatches in almost any area on the floor, with one of the biggest frontcourts in the league and one of the deadliest backcourts. Oh, and one of the league's best sixth men in Jamison, to boot.
Yes, Oklahoma City is good, but my money is on Los Angeles to win the West.
Who else is rooting for Lakers/Celtics part three?
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