The Biggest Mysteries for Los Angeles Lakers Heading into Training Camp
Without Dwight Howard, Metta World Peace, Earl Clark and Antawn Jamison in the rotation, Kobe Bryant is going to have to carry a much heavier burden on his surgically repaired Achilles tendon than he has in recent memory.
While Bryant will definitely be up for the challenge once he returns, there are a cornucopia of mysteries the Lakers will have to iron out in order to have any sort of success.
What kind of offense will Mike D'Antoni run?
D'Antoni's offense has two main facets to it.
Initially, the transition game is emphasized. Even if his team isn't able to defend against a basket and use the rebound to initiate a fast-break attempt, D'Antoni will still want to push the ball from the inbound.
Once initiated, the goal is shoot the first available shot. Whether it's finishing at the rim or utilizing three-point shooters, D'Antoni wants the first open shot to be taken.
If the transition game fails or if his team is forced into a half-court set, then D'Antoni wants floor spacing by his three-point shooters so that his point guard and a designated big man can run the pick-and-roll.
This system couldn't be fully implemented last season for a variety of reasons.
Dwight Howard, a physically dominant center, wasn't the pick-and-roll player that Amar'e Stoudemire or even Pau Gasol were.
Even as an interior post scorer, Howard had his limitations.
Couple that with a myriad of injuries to Steve Nash and the lack of a full training camp from D'Antoni and you get an offense that seemed stagnant and ineffective at times. Having inconsistent three-point shooting didn't help either. The Lakers only shot 35.2 percent from three-point land, which was ranked 20th in the league.
This didn't mean that the Lakers didn't ultimately work things out. With Bryant playing out of his mind to end the season and Howard and Gasol learning to coexist in the interior, the Lakers finished the season ranked sixth in points per game at 101.4.
Part of this year-end resurgence was the fact that D'Antoni finally allowed Gasol and Howard to play consistent minutes alongside each other. They could have made a very dangerous tandem if Howard chose to stay in Los Angeles.
Despite their decent finish to the season, the entire dynamic of the roster changed this offseason.
With an influx of young athletes and capable three-point shooters, D'Antoni has a great chance to implement his original system during training camp if that's the direction he wishes to go in.
The earlier he establishes some kind of system, the more success the Lakers will have down the stretch.
Will the Lakers' defense be able to hold up?
For a team ranked 24th in the league in opponents' points per game (101.2), losing three of their top defenders could be lethal.
Without a former defensive player of the year in Dwight Howard, the Lakers' interior defense will be very soft. Even during his best years, Gasol wasn't a great interior defender.
When the Lakers had their recent two title runs, Gasol had help from Andrew Bynum in the paint. Now Gasol is pretty much on his own.
Although Jordan Hill is a good rebounding presence and an energetic defender, his lack of any sort of offensive game might restrict his minutes.
Even though Earl Clark isn't a reputable defender, his length and athleticism helped Metta World Peace protect the perimeter. The departures of those two players leaves the likes of Wesley Johnson, Nick Young and Jodie Meeks to guard against dribble penetration.
There are less defensive stalwarts on this team to make up for the defensive deficiencies of aging players like Nash.
The worst part of this conundrum is the fact that Mike D'Antoni has a reputation as a great offensive coach who neglects the defensive end of the court. His lack of emphasis on defense may ultimately doom the Lakers.
The Lakers need to find some way to overcome the odds and keep their defense from dropping off to have any hope of making the playoffs.
Can the Lakers stay healthy?
Last season, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash, Jordan Hill and Steve Blake all missed major stretches of the season due to injuries.
Kobe Bryant fought frantically to help the Lakers make the playoffs before ultimately being injured right before the playoffs started.
To overcome the odds and the massive talent deficit that occurred after Jamison, Superman, Clark and World Peace left for greener pastures, the Lakers will need to keep everybody fresh and healthy.
If this means limiting minutes, that's what has to be done.
Nash and Bryant can't afford to play too much over the 30-minute mark initially if D'Antoni really wants to lean on them during the final stretch of the season.
Will the Lakers make the playoffs this season?
Unfortunately, Gasol will need to be heavily relied on. If he can come back at 100 percent from his injuries and be relied on for heavy minutes, the Lakers may be able to rest some of their other crucial players.
Despite the fact that precautions can be taken, injuries can occur at anytime and for any reason.
Not only do the Lakers need to tread lightly and proceed cautiously, they need to be extremely lucky as well.
With Bryant, Gasol and Nash being well into their 30s, they're going to be extremely cautious with playing time this season.
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