NBA Predictions 2011: 5 Bold Predictions for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2011-12
Basketball fans everywhere have been rejoicing over Friday night's 11th hour news that NBA players and owners have reached a tentative agreement for a 66-game season set to begin on Christmas Day.
While there are still minor hurdles to this deal, the heavy-lifting has been done, the framework is in place and in all likelihood, the NBA will once again return this year.
On the coattails of this enthusiasm, here are five bold predictions for the L.A. Lakers in the 2011-12 saved season.
5. Mike Brown Will Be Loved by Laker Players
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One of the biggest unknowns heading into next season is the introduction of new Lakers head coach Mike Brown into the fold.
Brown will finally have the opportunity to meet with his players and begin applying his principles of trust, communication, defense, a no-excuses mentality, family, and work ethic.
Brown's approachable coaching style and acute basketball mind will be embraced by Lakers players and will mesh naturally with the team chemistry already built among the returning roster.
4. Andrew Bynum Will Win Defensive Player of the Year
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Andrew Bynum's season starts five games after Christmas for bullying Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea in the final game of the 2011 playoffs. When he does finally step back on the court, all eyes will be on him.
Drew will take this added pressure and positively channel it towards his defensive craft with great success. Drew's talents are best realized as the defensive anchor in the middle.
A monster year from Drew is definitely in the cards with a Defensive P.O.Y. award to match.
Last year's Defensive P.O.Y. Dwight Howard averaged 14.1 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 1.4 steals per game. Drew wasn't far off from these numbers, averaging 9.4 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 0.4 steals per contest.
Health permitting, hardware for young Drew is a real possibility.
3. Pau Gasol Will Get His Groove Back
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Last time we saw Pau Gasol in a Lakers uniform, the seven-foot Spaniard was uncharacteristically out of sync.
With an entire offseason to recapture his elite form, including a gold medal performance in the 2011 Eurobasket with Spain, Pau Gasol is back and ready for another title run.
Training with hometown team FC Barcelona during the lockout, Pau Gasol will arrive at training camp in superior game shape and will hit the ground running come Christmas Day.
A determined Spaniard at the top of his game spells trouble for Lakers foes.
2. Kobe Bryant Will Put Up 2006-07 Numbers
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Much has been written about Kobe's eventual decline. Let me know when that happens, because I have yet to see it.
Until then, Kobe Bryant will continue to set the bar and play at the highest of levels.
This year, Kobe is primed for statistical domination and will post banner numbers similar to his 2006-07 campaign, where he notched a ridiculous 31.6 points and 5.4 assists per game average.
For one, the shortened 66-game season benefits Bryant, as it reduces the wear-and-tear on his body.
But more importantly, the emergence of a twin tower offense in L.A. will prevent teams from doubling Bryant and will leave hapless defenders at the Mamba's mercy.
There is no better one-on-one player in the world than Bryant, and he will be seeing plenty of single coverage this season with the two seven-footers producing at a high clip down low.
1. The Lakers Will Win the NBA Championship
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Riding this wave of optimism with the lockout lifted, were you expecting something else?
The same core unit that won back-to-back NBA championships in 2009 and 2010—Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom—remains in tact and is ready for redemption after their disappointing exit from last year's playoffs.
The Lakers stand to become stronger defensively under a Mike Brown system and will likely maintain their 101.5 points per game scoring output.
Admittedly, the Lakers find themselves at a disadvantage in the point guard position with an aging Derek Fisher struggling to keep up with speedier guards. But it's easy to forget that Steve Blake, Fish's backup, is an excellent defender. If Blake can bounce back from his sluggish first year with the Lakers, the problems at point guard could be easily resolved.
Plus, Derek Fisher come playoff time is about as clutch as it gets.
He basically saved our season. He's due for a few more clutch shots on his way to another ring.