This is my third installment of the Pacific Division Chapter of my NBA 2009 Season Prediction Series. With the bitter taste of defeat still fresh in the mouths of Laker fans nationwide from the 2008 NBA Finals it comes time to analyze the Lakers' roster and predict if the Lakers can once again make it to the NBA Finals, and reclaim the crown back from their most hated rivals, the Boston Celtics.
Most basketball fans do not realize how big of a rivalry exists between the Lakers and Celtics. Back in the 60's, the Boston Celtics won 11 championships in 13 seasons. The Lakers and Celtics faced each other in five consecutive NBA Finals, with the Celtics winning the series of finals 4-1.
Now do you see why the Lakers especially hated losing this past finals to the Celtics?
Alright, enough with the history lesson. Let's get right down to analyzing this current Lakers team. Does this roster have what it takes to win a ring?
For the most part, it does.
The Lakers are anchored by their best player, Kobe Bryant, coming off of an MVP season, and a Gold Medal in the 2008 Bejing Olympics. The Lakers also have Derek Fisher; Fisher and Bryant were integral parts of the Lakers' squads that won three straight NBA Championships from 2000-2003.
Every starter on this team, with the exception of their center, Andrew Bynum, are seasoned veterans, with the knowledge, experience, and desire to bring fame, glory, and honor to their team, city, and fans.
Here is my projected starting lineup for Los Angeles Lakers:
PG: Derek Fisher
Derek Fisher was drafted by the Lakers in 1996, and has been with the team through thick and thin. Out of the eleven years of his NBA Career, he has played eight with the Lakers; he played with the Golden State Warriors from 2004-2006, and the Utah Jazz from 2006-2007. He is also the team captain.
SG: Kobe Bryant
Arguably the most dynamic and awe-inspiring player since Michael Jordan. He is coming off of an MVP season. Scored 81 points in a game against the Toronto Raptors, second all time, behind the 100 points Wilt Chamberlain scored, another Laker, but while in a Philadelphia Warriors uniform
SF: Lamar Odom
Standing at 6'10'', he is one of the tallest small forwards in the NBA. He can hold his own at the SF position, but he his play is starting to decline. It won't be too long before Luke Walton dethrones him at the starting SF spot.
PF: Pau Gasol
When Andrew Bynum was lost for the season in 2008, the Lakers brought in Gasol via trade, in order to fill the gaping hole vacated by Bynum. Gasol played Center for the remainder of the season, but his natural position is at PF. There are questions though.
Can he hold his own at the position. He is 7'0'' tall, but definitely not as strong as the premier power forwards in the NBA, which leads to him getting pushed around often in the paint. Nevertheless, he is a tremendous player.
C: Andrew Bynum
This guy is for real. He's got the size, strength, intelligence, and the talent to be one of the best centers in the NBA. The only thing that can hold him back is his health. The biggest question surrounding Bynum this next season will be if he can stay healthy all season. If so, then we are definitely looking at a Championship caliber squad.
PG: Jordan Farmar
There is no doubt about it folks. Jordan Farmar will become an NBA superstar. Give him about two to three more years, and he will be completely ready to start every game of the season, and carry his team to the playoffs.
Besides Bryant, there is no other shooting guard on this team. The Lakers did draft Kentucky shooting guard Joe Crawford in the 2008 NBA Draft, but he still has yet to sign a contract with the team. If he does, he will most likely be Bryant's backup.
SF: Luke Walton
Although he did not attend the same university as his father did, Luke still has the talent to do very well in this league. I predict that he will become the Lakers' starting SF within the next three years.
PF: Vladimir Radmonovic
Radmonovic is listed as a PF, but he is by no stretch of the imagination a true PF forward. His uncanny shooting ability should classify him as a SF. Nevertheless he is good enough to be a backup in the league.
C: Chris Mihm
When he was brought in from Boston, many thought that he would become the franchise center for the Lakers. Well guess what? Andrew Bynum happened to just come along into LA. Still a good player and will get some playing time. Again, his health is his worst enemy.
We saw last year that even without Andrew Bynum or Chris Mihm, that the Lakers were able to somehow advance to the NBA Finals. The fate of this team hinges on the health of their two big men.
If they can stay healthy, then this team can contend for the Championship. If not, they will probably end up like they did last year. Wouldn't it be exciting to see a repeat of last year's finals?