Los Angeles Lakers: 15 Players Who Could Hurt Them in the Postseason

Pat Mixon@patmixonSenior Analyst IJanuary 10, 2011

Los Angeles Lakers: 15 Players Who Could Hurt Them in the Postseason

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    As Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers near midseason, they find themselves continuing their up and down ways. They no longer exude that championship swagger.

    Gone is the aura of invincibility. Now teams not only think they have a chance against the two-time defending title holders, but they actually do.

    At least given the Lakers current track record, LA now appears beatable. 

    And the Lakers aren't even the top team, at least in the win-loss columns, in the Western Conference. 

    New pretenders or possibly even contenders to the Lakers throne have emerged. And that’s in the West. 

    If the Lakers right their ship, get on track and start rolling off victories (always a high probability—they began this season 8-0), there is no reason LA won’t return to the NBA Finals.

    There they would meet one of the behemoths of the East.

    Maybe there could be a rematch with the Boston Celtics to settle the one-to-one tie in NBA titles over the last three years. That would be the ultimate rubber match as the two most-storied NBA franchises go at it one last time.

    Or the Miami Heat may cap their rock-and-roll dream season and get to the Finals. 

    So who are those individual players out there that really can hurt LA? Which players should the Lakers fear? Most importantly, which player could cause serious problems for LA come the playoffs.

    Here are the most dangerous players that the Lakers could run into during a playoff run.

15. Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic

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    While not many people are picking the Orlando Magic to get past either Boston or Miami and reach the NBA Finals, you never know.

    It happened in 2009 and it could happen again, especially with the midseason trade that has seemed to refuel Orlando. But the Magic stop and start with Howard.

    And this season, he’s proven he can do it on the offensive end. He’s a beast among beasts in the paint and could really wreak havoc and damage to LA. He could also get all of the Lakers’ bigs in serious foul trouble. 

14. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs

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    He might be putting up career lows in stats this season, but don’t write him off just yet.

    For one, his San Antonio Spurs possess the league’s best record and this is without Duncan carrying the load. And his minutes are down.

    What does this mean?

    It means Duncan will be fresh for a playoff run and he’ll be up for the challenge. He’d love nothing better as his career winds down than to destroy LA in the playoffs one last time.

    And it probably will happen. 

13. Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics

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    This guy has turned into the league’s best passer, unlike anything we’ve seen in a decade or so.

    Not since the Utah Jazz’s John Stockton and the Lakers’ Magic Johnson ran the show, has the NBA had such a prolific passer as Rondo.

    Rondo now has a dependable mid-range shot and when he is getting 15-plus assists a game, Rondo is deadly.

    Lastly, Rondo is a cold-blooded thief with the basketball. He'll pick your pocket and you won't even know it before he's going down the other way and scoring.

12. Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs

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    Watch out for this Argentinian. He’ll take one of his patented, off-balance, out-of-kilter shots and nail you in the heart come playoffs.

    He’s a proven winner who would love nothing better than to kill the Lakers in the playoffs.

    San Antonio is for real this season, having reloaded with young talent that is now playing. But it is the veterans like Manu that are the most deadly. 

11. Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics

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    If he can find a way to be healthy come the playoffs, he is the most dangerous person on this list.

    His intensity is only matched by Kobe Bryant and Garnett has something extra to prove. He knows he is nearing the end of his run and this may be his last run.

    If he is healthy, his motivation alone—should LA and Boston meet again in the Finals—could be enough to really hurt the Lakers.

10. LeBron James, Miami Heat

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    The Lakers could easily find themselves playing King James and the Miami Heat in next June’s Finals.

    And, once there, LBJ could seriously damage LA. Look what he did on Christmas Day. The Lakers had no answer. 

9. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma Thunder

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    During last season’s playoffs, Durant elevated his game and helped his Oklahoma Thunder nearly pull off the upset of upsets by knocking off the Lakers in the first round.

    While it wasn’t as close as some thought, the Thunder were a good team.

    Now with that playoff experience under their belt, look for the Thunder to be back in the playoffs and ready to go far deeper.

    And Durant will lead the charge. He carried Team USA last summer in the World Championships and he’ll be ready to do it again come playoffs. 

8. Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs

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    The knock on Parker used to be his outside shot.

    Those days are long gone because Parker will burn you any number of ways.

    The Lakers barely can keep in front of the speedy Parker and, come playoffs, San Antonio is one of the teams to really watch out for. And Parker is quite possibly the most deadly.

7. Deron Williams, Utah Jazz

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    The Lakers notoriously have trouble with guards, let alone tall ones—ones like Williams.

    While everyone is touting San Antonio or Dallas as the contenders to the Lakers throne, don’t underestimate the Utah Jazz and their out-of-this-world point guard Williams.

    D-Will has taken his game to another level, if that is even possible, with the departure last summer of Carlos Boozer.

    This is Williams' team now and he carries the load each and every night. He’s a beast and, believe me, the Lakers don’t want to see him come playoffs.

6. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks

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    The Dallas Mavericks were dealt a serious blow with the season-ending knee injury to Caron Butler.

    Even still, Dallas is deadly and no player more than Dirk.

    He is a matchup nightmare and he can wreak havoc on LA.

    And he’ll be extra motivated come playoff time as this is quite possibly the best team he’s been a part of in Big D. Watch out.

5. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat

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    Like LeBron James before him, Wade and his Miami Thrice very easily could get out of the East and meet the Lakers in the Finals.

    And Wade has proven he is the scoring leader of that team. LA didn’t do anything to stop Wade in their hyped Christmas Day game so it doesn’t bode well for LA to run into the Heat come the playoffs.

    Think about this: By that time, the Heat will have played nearly a full season together. They’re already clicking now.

    What happens then? Scary.

4. Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics

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    Other than Kobe Bryant, there isn’t another killer like Pierce in the league come big games.

    And none are bigger than the playoffs. He loves to hurt LA. Anyone remember the 2008 NBA Finals when Pierce was the MVP?

3. Kendrick Perkins, Boston Celtics

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    Perkins has already made the statement that if he had been healthy in the 2010 Finals, the Boston Celtics would have won.

    But LA could say the same thing about Andrew Bynum, or even go so far as to say that a healthy Kobe Bryant would have made it far easier.

    Regardless, Perkins is a difference maker for Boston, especially against LA. He gives the Celtics all the pieces to matchup against the Lakers’ size.

2. Andrew Bynum, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Why is a Laker on a list of players that could hurt the Lakers? Because Bynum is the key for the Lakers to dominate.

    When healthy, Bynum gives LA a clear difference over every other team. He adds length, blocked shots and offensive power in the paint.

    And if he is not healthy come playoffs, the Lakers will be in trouble matching up with some of the taller teams. Bynum can help or hurt the Lakers.

1. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

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    I know it’s strange to put Kobe as the No. 1 player that could hurt LA, but if his knee injury hampers him in any way come playoffs, the Lakers could be in real trouble.

    While I guarantee Kobe will find a way to get it done and still be a threat as well as continue to carry his team, an injured Kobe is only an All-Star. Still a superstar, but not one of the top three players in the league.

    No, the Lakers must have the normal super-human Kobe to really make a three-peat run. I think he'll be ready this year come playoffs and Kobe will be the one laughing at all his current naysayers.




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