Are the Lakers still contenders?

The Lakers were blocked on a trade to send them the best player in the league. A backlash from this move was that they lost their second best player for nothing. Now it seems Kobe’s marriage is falling apart and he is also dealing with injuries. The Lakers appear to be in a free fall while another team in Los Angeles looks poised to take the division.

Ty over at Courtside Analyst already did some work on the Odomless Lakers. The good news is Ty projected the Lakers could win 40 games — the equivalent of 50 games in an 82 game season –(Editor’s note: Thanks Mettaworldpeace for the catch!). Ty had a few restrictions on what the Lakers would need to be a 50 win team. Here are the ones that stood out to me.

  1. Health: The Lakers have some great talent. Injuries could hurt it. The Lakers will need Bynum, Kobe, Barnes, McRoberts and Murphy healthy.
  2. Age: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Matt Barnes, Metta World Peace and Troy Murphy are all over 30. The Lakers will need all of them to avoid the age like milk virus that snaps up so many old players.

Ty projected the Lakers as a 50 win team. None of the last 10 teams that took the finals won fewer than 52 games (and we may argue the 2006 Miami Heat had a little help from the refs). How is it that we think the Lakers can still compete? The answer is the underrated former Pacers and a bit of luck. Here is how the Lakers depth chart using the players best season from the last two years looks. (ordered by skill of player, not neccesarily who will play the most minutes currently looks)

Lakers Depth Charts by Skill (Using last two seasons)

Lakers Point Guard Options
Best Season Name Team(s) MP WP48 Wins
2010 Steve Blake LA Clippers-Portland 2159 0.125 5.6
2010 Derek Fisher LA Lakers 2227 0.053 2.5
Lakers Shooting Guard Options
Best Season Name Team(s) MP WP48 Wins
2011 Kobe Bryant LA Lakers 2779 0.128 7.4
2011 Jason Kapono Philadelphia 111 -0.115 -0.3
Lakers Small Forward Options
Best Season Name Team(s) MP WP48 Wins
2010 Matt Barnes Orlando 2097 0.185 8.1
2010 Metta World Peace LA Lakers 2605 0.117 6.4
2011 Devin Ebanks LA Lakers 118 0.114 0.3
2010 Luke Walton LA Lakers 272 0.047 0.3
Lakers Power Forward Options
Best Season Name Team(s) MP WP48 Wins
2011 Pau Gasol LA Lakers 3037 0.234 14.8
2011 Josh McRoberts Indiana 1597 0.191 6.3
2011 Derrick Caracter LA Lakers 215 -0.057 -0.3
Lakers Center Options
Best Season Name Team(s) MP WP48 Wins
 2011 Andrew Bynum LA. Lakers 1500 0.281 8.8
 2010 Troy Murphy Indiana 2344 0.212 10.4

Luck is needed at the point

At point guard the best the Lakers could hope for is an average performance from Steve Blake and he has declined since 2010. Derek Fisher is done. The Lakers have picked up two rookie point guards. The Lakers are hoping that their old average/below average point guards don’t fall off a cliff or that a rookie steps up. I would not be optimistic about either.

Kobe is really important

It feels weird to say that. Kobe’s production has declined with age. He is still a good player but he is not a great player. However behind him is a terrible Jason Kapono. The Lakers are already spotting teams one position with such a weak selection of point guard. No Kobe means virtually no backcourt.

The Lakers need health, age and no Walton at the small forward

Matt Barnes is quite a good player but had some injury problems last season. World Peace has been average but is declining. The Lakers need Barnes to be healthy or Peace to hold on. Of course if Barnes isn’t healthy and the Lakers rely on Peace it will mean they are average/below average at three positions and that’s if Kobe is healthy and Blake or a rookie plays decently.

Can some combination of Bynum, McRoberts and Murphy replace Odom?

Bynum has never hit 2000 minutes but has played great. Murphy was a top talent a mere two seasons ago. McRoberts played well last season. If some combination of these three players can stay healthy and be productive the Lakers can not only replace Odom’s 10 wins from last season, they may even improve!

Pau Gasol is really important

Pau Gasol has been the best player on the current Lakers that made it to three consecutive title games. He’s really good. He needs to stay healthy, avoid old age and definitely avoid an Odom like situation is the Lakers have any hope of contending.

Summing up

What is boils down to is the Lakers are crossing their fingers that the stars align on every one of their positions. They have a potentially killer front court, a decent set of wings and are still empty at the point guard. That said, it’s entirely possible the Lakers could be contenders this season but it will take a lot of luck.

-Dre

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