The Los Angeles Lakers have lost four of it’s last six games by an average of 17.3 points per game, and with two of those loses coming to the lowly Grizzlies. Kobe Bryant said that he “broke” the Lakers offense in a game recently, Phil Jackson go into a loud heated exchange with Ron Artest. The Lakers still have a 24 – 11 record and lead their division comfortably, but all is not right in Laker land.
A blowout loss to the Miami Heat on Christmas Day started the woes for the two time defending champions, but there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic. The Lakers have finally gotten Andrew Bynum back from off season surgery, and it will take time for this team to gel with him back in the lineup and Lamar Odom going back to the bench.
Odds to Win the NBA Title: The Miami Heat might have been the hot topic this summer, but the LA Lakers are still the world champions and are not to be forgotten. The NBA odds makers agree, but put the Lakers odds just below Miami’s. LA is at 3-to-1, which means about a 33% probability of repeating this year.
Odds to Win the West: There is no uncertainty in my mind that the LA Lakers are the team to beat out West. They have won 3 consecutive Western Conference championships and are marked at -130 to make it a 4th. That gives the Lakers a 55% probability of doing so.
Strengths: The obvious strength here is Kobe Bryant. He produces his own shots at will, gets to the lane, and is the top finisher in the NBA. Last season he dealt with injuries to his knee and finger which correlated to a lower than average point and rebound total. Bryant had surgery to fix his knee this offseason so it will be fascinating to see if he will have the same speed. That shouldn’t affect his game too much though since he depends more on his physique than quickness.
The other strength of this team comes with their post players, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. Gasol was outstanding again last year and is the perfect sidekick to Bryant. He is solid at hitting the midrange jumper and can move the ball as well as any post in the NBA. He opens the floor up not only for Bryant, but for Bynum down on the block.
Bynum is a big body who can score off the block and protects the rim on defense. If he can keep on the court for a full year you can expect him to be in the All-Star game come February.
The Lakers seem to fly under the radar on defense, but this team was outstanding on that side of the floor a year ago. The addition of Ron Artest gave the Lakers four solid defenders in the starting lineup, enough to make up for opposing guards being able to get past Derek Fisher.
Weaknesses: The one area of concern for me is with Fisher. Fisher looked old for a lot of the regular season, which is why I was dumbfounded to see LA give him a three year extension this off season. Out is Jordan Farmar, supplanted by Steve Blake. This is an upgrade since LA needs a good perimeter shooter from the point position.
Last season the Lakers declined to make a move at the trade deadline for a point guard and they still ended up winning it all. They didn’t address the need in the off season, but if problems occur early in the year then I expect LA to make a deal.
Prediction – 1st in the West: The over/under win total for this team has been set at 56.5. That looks nearly right on to me so I don’t recommend a play either way. Injuries are an issue with Bynum and Bryant, and if there are any hovering issues they will get plenty of rest coming before the playoffs. I see LA jumping out to an early lead in the West and coasting their way into the playoffs over the final couple of months.
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