There is always optimism entering a new NBA season. Regardless of whether it is a contender or a bottom-feeder, each team enters the season with higher expectations.
Whether it's developing young talent or competing for an NBA championship, very few teams go into a season expecting to stay stagnant.
This particular incarnation of the Lakers looks like it may differ from the norm.
With no prospects to develop and a bevvy of veterans and role players surrounding Kobe Bryant, there is no way that they will be better than they were last season.
While optimists can argue that new acquisitions such as Nick Young and Jordan Farmar fit more into Mike D'Antoni's system than role players from last season, the lack of talent and depth on this roster is too glaringly obvious to overlook.
Looking up and down the roster, there are flaws to be had at every position.
Steve Nash and Jordan Farmar can make a formidable one-two punch at the point-guard position if Nash can stay healthy. However, Nash's injury woes and defensive liabilities are well documented and won't be neutralized much by a more defensive-minded Farmar.
Bryant is looking to return to form following his Achilles-tendon injury. This means that there is no guarantee that the Black Mamba returns as the Black Mamba. With Jodie Meeks still developing into a more complete player, the Lakers' hopes of being competitive rest on Bryant's full recovery.
Without Metta World Peace and Earl Clark to man the small-forward position, the Lakers have a glaring hole here that really decimates their already putrid perimeter defense.
As Nash was aging and Bryant was picking his spots last season to be more efficient on offense, World Peace was the only player who kept the perimeter defense together.
The Lakers' perimeter defense will be practically nonexistent without Clark's athleticism, World Peace's toughness and possibly Bryant's tenacity following his return from a serious injury.
An issue that is almost as big as the perimeter defense is the depth in the frontcourt.
Dwight Howard's departure leaves Pau Gasol, Robert Sacre, Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman to protect the paint and score in the interior.
Kaman has proven to be an All-Star talent. However, his 11 points and six rebounds in 21 minutes per game last season were a letdown and may prove to be the beginning of a decline for the 31-year old.
On top of his decline, Kaman's post-up style of play does not fit in with D'Antoni's run-and-gun system, which may mitigate his playing time and opportunities.
Gasol is still an excellent scorer and passer for a big man, but his toughness has been in question for the majority of his career. It is still uncertain if the Lakers can really protect the paint with Gasol as their primary center.
Hill and Sacre are both energy players that will crash the boards and use their big bodies to their advantage. However, their raw offensive games will limit the opportunities they get in a system that favors skilled big men.
With all these flaws and uncertainties, the main problem still revolves around a lack of talent.
The Lakers simply do not have enough talent. They are putting all their chips into next year's free-agency period.
Simply put, their roster and their talent level are a step down from last year.
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