The Lakers will need magic to make the playoffs

Well, Magic might help too.

No, not that kind of Magic. He’s lost a few steps over the years.


Like many sports writers around this time of year, Ian Thomsen has made a number of predictions for the upcoming NBA season. Thomsen — who is officially employed as an “NBA Expert” by Sports Illustrated — is picking the Lakers to finish the season with the 6th seed in the West. Here is Thomsen’s reasoning:

At No. 6, I went with the controversial pick of the Lakers, because 1) it’s only right to show faith in Bryant and 2) this team reminds me of the Knicks under coach Mike D’Antoni early in the 2010-11 season. Back then, New York spread the floor around Amar’e Stoudemire and surprised the league with a slew of role players who had little value going into that season. In this case, the Lakers will be spreading the court around Pau Gasol, with Steve Nash (and backups Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar) playing out of the flow and Kobe arriving out of the trainers’ room sometime in the early season.

Last year — with Kobe Bryant having a throwback season and Dwight Howard on the roster — the Lakers barely made the playoffs with a 45-37 record. With Dwight Howard gone and Bryant still out recovering from a torn Achilles, every numbers-based approach that I have seen has the Lakers performing significantly worse and missing the playoffs.

But let’s forget that for a moment and go back to the D’Antoni-coached 2010-11 Knicks. Perhaps those Knicks can offer a lesson for this year’s Lakers team?

In 2009-10, the Knicks finished with a 29-53 record. In 2010-11, the Knicks improved to 42-40. How did the Knicks find those 13 wins?

Despite the addition of a big-name free agent — Amaré Stoudemire — that offseason, the key was actually an unheralded rookie. Selected with the 39th pick, Landry Fields produced 12 wins for the Knicks in 2010-11.

As mentioned above, it’s unlikely that the veterans the Lakers have on their roster can combine for more than 40 wins. In order for Thomsen’s prediction to come true, that means that someone on Lakers has to assume the role that Landry Fields filled for the Knicks in 2010-11. In other words, the Lakers need their own unheralded rookie.

So who is the magical rookie that is going to bail out Thomsen’s prediction? The Lakers only have two rookies on their roster: forwards Elias Harris and Ryan Kelly. In order to become the spiritual successor to Landry Fields, one of these two players is going to have to do two things:

  • Play major minutes.
  • Be very productive.

One suspects that this isn’t going to happen. But if it did, it would certainly be magical. And it will take some kind of magic like this to make Thomsen — again, an official NBA expert — right on this prediction.

– DJ (with some help from Devin)

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