Website: Jones on the NBA
Last Years Record: 45-37
Key Loses: Devean George
Key Additions: Jordan Farmar, Shammond Williams, Vladamir Radmonovic, Maurice Evans
The most significant moves made during the off season were the acquisitions of Jordan Farmar (through the draft), and Vladamir Radmonovic (via Free Agency). These acquisitions should help the Lakers remedy two of their largest weaknesses from last season in their outside shooting and point guard play. They also addressed another significant weakness by adding defensive stopper and part-time energizer bunny, Maurice Evans.
The Lakers are hoping that Radmanovic could turn into the dead eye shooter that they desperately needed last year. With Kobe Bryant sure to draw plenty of double and triple teams, it is essential for the Lakers to have someone that consistently knock down an open three pointer once KB24 kicks the ball back out. The season hasn’t even started yet and the Radmanovic experiment has already started to head in the wrong direction due to an injury Vlad suffered during training camp. It was announced yesterday that Vlad has torn radial collateral ligament in his right shooting hand. According to reports the injury will not completely heal without surgery, meaning that Vlad will most likely have to play with the injury for the entire season. Your designated shooter with a bad shooting hand is not the best thing in the world. Hopefully he can figure out a way to play through the pain and contribute in other ways to the team. The Lakers coaching staff has already been impressed with his rotations on team defense, so maybe it is possible for him to contribute in another fashion besides scoring.
Jordan Farmar has quickly captivated the hearts and minds of Laker fans everywhere with his play during the pre-season. The pick of the former UCLA point guard was initially thought to be a pick for the future, yet with his pre-season play, Farmar has shown that he probably will be able to contribute some positive minutes to the Lakers this season. Farmar is a knowledgeable, fiery, point guard that is not familiar with sitting on the bench. I personally have known Farmar for years, and know that he is the type of guy that won’t accept anything less than being the best. In his head he probably believes that he should be the starting point guard of the Lakers and is going to do everything in his power to ensure that occurs. He already has shown a solid understanding of the triangle offense and has played much more poised than what you would expect from a 19 year old rookie. The bottom line is that the guy is all heart and basketball knowledge. Combine those things with solid athleticism and a drive to be the best (similar to that of his teammate Kobe Bryant) and you have a kid that is destined for greatness. Right now, he really just needs to work on his three-point shooting. As a point guard in the triangle offense it’s imperative that you be able to knock down a spot up three (see Derek Fisher, BJ Armstrong, and John Paxson). If he can work on that I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s splitting minutes with Smush at the PG position by the end of the year.
Maurice Evans might turn out to be the best move of the off-season. Capturing him for a token 2nd round pick seems to already have paid off big time. He’s basically the Lakers replacement for Devean George. The former Italian League player of the year brings the type of energy level that is perfect for a guy in the role of a 6th man/defensive stopper. Evans brings tremendous athletic ability, slashing, offensive rebounding, and on the ball defense. The Lakers think that he can be the on the ball defender that they so desperatley need. The Lakers already have one of the best perimeter defenders in the league in Kobe Bryant, but with him being called upon to do some many other thing on the floor, he can’t also be expected to shut down the opponents best perimiter player on a nightly basis. Evans seems very up to the task.
Kobe Bryant: Arguably the best player in the league. Just as complete a player as you can possibly be from the shooting guard position. At this point it’s not a question of his actual basketball talent and more of a question of his ability to bring out the best in his teammates. I think this is the year you will see this all come together for Bryant.
Phil Jackson: Hands down the best coach in the NBA. The guy has coached 15 Seasons and made 10 NBA Finals and never missed the playoffs. His ability to motivate his players is second to none. As well, he’s a solid game planner who has stuck to his offensive and defensive schemes throughout his career. Having PJ as the Lakers coach almost guarantees that they will make the playoffs
Depth: This year the Lakers can actually be called a deep team. With their current additions and the maturity of their younger players from last year, the Lakers now have solid depth at pretty much every position. Although they could use a little more veteran experience from the point guard position, they have solidly talented players at almost every position. Now it is more of a question of if they can stay healthy enough to benefit from that depth.
Their main weaknesses are their youth and their lack of shooting and defense from the point guard position. The Lakers are a very young squad. Hopefully the experience they gained from their seven game series with the Suns last season helped them mature a bit. I believe it has, so hopefully they will look a little bit more poised in end of the game situations than they did last year. I can think of at least 10 games they lost in the last minute of the game last year. Most of those loses came as a result of stupid mistakes, so hopefully going through that will serve as a learning experience for this youthful group. Having the experience of Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant should also help negate their rosters overall lack of experience.
I’m still very concerned with the fact that the Lakers do not have a designated shooter from the point guard position. Every successful Phil Jackson team has had a point guard who is solid from behind the three point line (see: Kerr, Paxson, Armstrong, Fisher, etc.). The Lakers are looking for Sasha Vujacic to be the player on their roster that fills that role, but until he shows some sort of consistency in his shooting, I’m still going to consider that a weakness. Although still a concern, on the ball defense from the point guard position is not as large of a weakness as it was in years past. The combination of Farmar, Parker, and Vujacic should be above average at that position. Yet, I still think that the Lakers could make improvements via trade at that position. A guy like Chris Duhon could solve both problems from the point in that he’s a great three-point shooter and a solid on the ball defender.
The Lakers main goals should be to overcome their early injury bug, make the playoffs and advance out of the first round. I think these are very feasible goals. The theme of the Lakers season should be internal growth. If players such as Andrew Bynum, Smush Parker, Lamar Odom, Luke Walton, and Kwame Brown can continue the growth they showed under Jackson last year they should be able to accomplish the goals I mentioned above.
If Turiaf and Bynum can continue to play the way they have this pre-season, the Lakers will surely be an improved bunch.
Bynum can be a factor with his shot blocking ability and his package of low post moves. I think the Lakers got a steal when they picked him with the 10th pick in last year’s draft. The Lakers surely have to be happy with his continued improvement during the pre-season. Last night against the Nuggets Bynum tallied 23 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and two blocks. If he could just give the Lakers a solid 15-20 minutes a night this season at that level of play, it would surely help the Lakers improve a bit.
As a second round pick, Turiaf looks like he will also turn out to be a major steal. His energy and willingness to just do the little things is something that can help the Lakers tremendously. At his high end, I could see him turning into a Udonis Haslem type player.
The main goal for the Lakers should be continued improvement of their core group of players. A lot is always expected of the Lakers because of the team’s past accomplishments, but fans and the media must realize that this is a very young team. Guys like Smush Parker, who had little to no experience playing big minutes in the league, were asked to play significant minutes throughout the year. It was obvious that by the end of the playoffs many of them had hit a wall. With another year under Phil Jackson’s system, I feel like many of those young players will show significant improvement.
Predicted Record: 48-34 (without significant injuries)