Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Return of the Association 

The NBA is back tonight, the regular season tipping off with a couple games -- one of them being Suns v Lakers. So, with the NBA back, that means Lakers chatter is back, too.

I, for one, am well aware that this team still has deep flaws -- specifically on the defense -- but there is a feeling of optimism in Los Angeles (one that I share) that this squad can build on their strong showing in last season's first round playoff series (except for game 7, of course) against Phoenix. A series in which they were just one rebound away from winning. That Lakers squad came of age, then. There was a definite growth and it showed particularly with one player -- the key to our season: Kwame Brown. If Kwame can maintain a solid 12 pts/8 rebs a night average, the LakeShow will look a tough side to deal with. What excites me most about this season's squad is the collection of forwards we have. It's a deep mix and one that can give teams fits. I fully expect Lamar Odom to return from his grieving period as focused as he's ever been. If he returns to All-Star form, look out. Add a healthy Chris Mihm at center, servicable and steady, to pair with Kwame down low in the post and the Lakers have a legit starting frontline. Ronny Turiaf has proven himself a sparkplug and a bulldog on the boards and bringing in Vlad Radmanovic via free agency gives us a lot of versatility at both forward positions. Brian Cook is like a lesser version of Vlad, but an excellent catch-and-shoot perimeter player. Hopefully, the two of them can provide a consistent 3-point threat that the team is lacking. And, oh yeah, the kid Bynum. He'll probably still only get scrub minutes, but by season's end, may have come along nicely.

All that without even mentioning our point forward, Luke Walton, who has stated that he finally feels comfortable playing within the triangle offense. This is beyond significant as Walton sees the floor incredibly well. I strongly believe that a team needs to play to it's strengths. With that in mind, I'd start Walton as a third forward alongside Odom and Kwame with Kobe "Black Mamba" Bryant as the lone starting guard. Why bow to convention and start Smush Parker as the other guard when you can insert a superior player and distributor of the ball with Walton? My desired lineup:

Starting Lineup
C - Chris Mihm
F/C - Kwame Brown
F - Lamar Odom
F - Luke Walton
G - Kobe Bryant

C - Andrew Bynum
F - Vladimir Radmanovic
F - Ronny Turiaf
F - Brian Cook
G - Smush Parker
G - Sasha Vujacic
G - Jordan Farmar

G - Maurice Evans
G - Aaron McKie
G - Shammond Williams

Losing Slava Medvedenko alone makes this team three games better. Younger without Devean George. Dynamic with rookie point guard Jordan Farmar. The rookie has played very well in the pre-season, but the triangle offense doesn't really require a true point guard like himself. It'll be interesting to see if he's able to meld into the squad's regular rotation. Hopefully he can take minutes away from Smush, as Farmar is a much smarter player. Sasha Vujacic figures to be taking a step back this season, but it never hurts to have big guards.

So there it is. Kobe Bryant will be on a mission to nab an MVP trophy (and he may well get it), but this season he'll have the luxury (assuming he persists with involving his teammates) of playing on a deep squad that could conceivably run 11-deep, regularly. I like the depth. Our biggest strengths entering the season 1) Kobe 2) depth/size in the post 3) rebirth of Lamar Odom. Add it all up and what do you get? Probably a finish in the Western Conference somewhere between 5-7 and a first round playoff series that goes to the limit. Depending on the opponent, Lakers could find themselves in the second round of the playoffs. We've also got this Phil Jackson guy still patroling the sidelines. And by "patroling" I mean "comfortably seated with his legs crossed, admiring the game as though a distant observer."

NBA predictions...

Eastern Conference
Atlantic Division
1. New Jersey *
2. Boston
3. Philadelphia
4. Toronto
5. New York

Central Division
1. Cleveland *
2. Detroit *
3. Chicago *
4. Indiana *
5. Milwaukee

Southeast Division
1. Miami *
2. Washington *
3. Orlando *
4. Charlotte
5. Atlanta

Western Conference
Southwest Division
1. San Antonio *
2. Dallas *
3. Houston *
4. NO/OKC *
5. Memphis

Northwest Division
1. Denver *
2. Minnesota
3. Seattle
4. Utah
5. Portland

Pacific Division
1. Phoenix *
2. LA Clippers *
3. LA Lakers *
4. Sacramento
5. Golden State

Eastern Conference Finals: Miami over Cleveland
Western Conference Finals: San Antonio over Phoenix (I'm assuming the Suns won't be 100% healthy)
NBA Finals: San Antonio over Miami

Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?