Author: Yannis Koutroupis
Last years record: 45-37
Key Losses: Devean George, Jim Jackson, Von Wafer
Key additions: Vladimir Radmanovic, Shammond Williams, Jordan Farmar
1. What significant moves were made during the off season?
After watching the make everyone a threat formula nearly get them into the second round, the Lakers decided to stick with that plan and bring in two guys who are established threats. Vladimir Radmanovic, who nearly everyone involved in the Laker organization made a call to help recruit, was signed to a long term deal. In this offense he’ll get opportunities to shoot threes all day, but the Lakers are really hoping that he’ll be able to establish himself as a threat in the mid range and post as well as the perimeter. Farmar was drafted 26th overall to one day become the starting point guard. His basketball IQ, leadership, and pure point guard abilities made the Lakers really feel like they got a steal at 26. Maurice Evans is one of the first small-but very effective pick ups that Kupchak has ever made. Getting a guy who can contribute right away with his offense and athleticism for a second rounder who won’t be ready for the NBA for at least two or three years was a steal. Evans will battle Sasha Vujacic for minutes as the back up two, while sliding over to the one and three if necessary. It wasn’t a blockbuster move, but it was one of Mitch’s better moves yet.
2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?
When healthy the depth and size of this team are what stands out. The Lakers have two guys at every position, three at some, who can come in and have an impact on the game. Because of injuries, depth has become a necessity. Before all the injuries the Lakers were planning to have a starting lineup of 6’4 Smush Parker, 6’6 Kobe Bryant, 6’10 Vladimir Radmanovic, 6’10 Lamar Odom, and 7’0 Kwame Brown. That would be one of the bigger starting lineups in the leagues. Medical staff is also a big strength, without Vitti and crew Lakers would be strong candidates for the lottery.
3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
Obviously, injuries are the biggest weakness right now. Just about every player on the Laker roster has experienced some kind of set back this off season. Kobe’s knee injury is on month four now and is still not fully healed despite the expected recovery time being three months max. Vladimir Radmanovic has a torn ligament in his shooting hand and right now is saying that he’s just going to play through it. However, the hand injury will not get any better and will require surgery at the end of the season, no word yet if they’ll recommend he get surgery now or not. Luke Walton is in a contract year and in the best shape of his career, but he doesn’t open things up for Kobe and Lamar like Vladimir would. Shammond William’s pelvis injury will likely linger throughout the season as well, but with rookie Jordan Farmar playing so well, it’s not much of a set back. Kwame Brown has a hurt rotator cuff, and is expected to miss three weeks. Chris Mihm has an ankle that is similar to the type you see in major car accidents according to Gary Vitti. They say he needs just three more weeks, but it very possibly could be more – much more.
4. What are the goals for this team?
Coming into training camp, the general consensus was to get into the second round of the playoffs, despite Luke Walton saying they can win it all this year. They’re still a very young team that needs a little longer to develop. But now, with training camp nearly over, the goal is to get healthy. Mihm, Bryant, Brown, and Mckie will all likely miss the opener against Phoenix on the 31st, along with time after that. If this team can ever get close to 100%, the goal of advancing in the playoffs comes back. But as of right now, the development of guys like Andrew Bynum and Jordan Farmar and getting healthy are the big issues.
5. How will the young guys develop?
The plan was for Andrew Bynum to sit and learn his first two years, but that plan has been scrapped because of injuries to Chris Mihm and Kwame Brown. Andrew will be the starter on opening night, and by the looks of his last two pre season games he is ready. He’s done things these last two games he’s rarely done before: Run the floor hard, utilize his wide variety of offensive moves, finished strong around the basket, and make his free throws. If Bynum keeps this up, it’s not out of the question that he could keep his starting spot. Moving Kwame to the four along with Andrew at the five would make the Lakers much stronger defensively down low, as Kwame is a good man defender, and Andrew’s a good shot blocker. Ronny Turiaf has shown the hustle and heart that made him such a great player at Gonzaga, and until Chris and Kwame get healthy he’ll be Andrew’s primary back up. Jordan Farmar gives the team ‘inspiration’ when he’s out there according to Phil, and with Shammond struggling to get healthy he could get a chance to play as well. His play early in the pre season was very impressive, but tailed off a little bit in the final games. He’s shooting the ball from three better than expected though, and the rest of his game has never been in question. He’s ready now, as is Andrew.
Predicted Record: If injuries to key players continue: 40-42
If they can manage to get relatively healthy: 49-33