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The Missing Piece


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#1 magicbalala245

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Posted September 21, 2008 - 08:54 AM

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Bynum's return could bring championship to Lakers

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The Los Angeles Lakers head into the 2008-09 season with far greater expectations than they did a year ago at this time.

Flashback to October of 2008 and all of the talk back then was about whether or not Kobe Bryant was going to get traded.The midseason trade for Pau Gasol had a lot to do with their deep playoff run and the raised expectations for this season. But even before Mitch Kupchak fleeced Memphis, the Lakers had shown the potential to finish in the top half of the conference thanks to the development of young center Andrew Bynum.

Bynum's statistics last season weren't eye-popping — 13.1 ppg, 10.2 rpg and 2.1 bpg — but if you take into account that he wasn't a starter for the first 10 games, then you can get an idea of Bynum's value once he became a starter.

Despite having started only 25 games, Bynum still managed to finish with 18 double-doubles, only three fewer than Shaq had in 61 games.

What the Lakers did this offseason

This year's roster looks a lot like last year's. The one glaring name missing is Ronny Turiaf. Although Turiaf's stats were pedestrian, his energy, spirit and enthusiasm will surely be missed.

All that being said, the Lakers were wise to not match the four-year, $17-million offer sheet that Turiaf signed with the Warriors.

In his stead, the Lakers will count upon Gasol, Chris Mihm and the newly-signed Josh Powell to back up Bynum at the center position.

Otherwise, the bench should look the same as last season. The last few roster spots will be filled from a list that includes recent second-round draft picks Joe Crawford and Sun Yue, as well as non-guaranteed training camp invitees Coby Karl, Dwayne Mitchell, Brandon Heath and C.J. Giles.What the Lakers did this offseason

This year's roster looks a lot like last year's. The one glaring name missing is Ronny Turiaf. Although Turiaf's stats were pedestrian, his energy, spirit and enthusiasm will surely be missed.

All that being said, the Lakers were wise to not match the four-year, $17-million offer sheet that Turiaf signed with the Warriors.

In his stead, the Lakers will count upon Gasol, Chris Mihm and the newly-signed Josh Powell to back up Bynum at the center position.

Otherwise, the bench should look the same as last season. The last few roster spots will be filled from a list that includes recent second-round draft picks Joe Crawford and Sun Yue, as well as non-guaranteed training camp invitees Coby Karl, Dwayne Mitchell, Brandon Heath and C.J. Giles.

What the Lakers didn't do this offseason

The Lakers failed to add veterans like Brent Barry or Kurt Thomas to a team that looked like high-school kids against a very experienced Celtics team. The Lakers only have two players on their roster over the age of 30. By comparison, last year's Celtics had nine.

Areas in need of improvement

Last year's Lakers were 19th in the NBA in fewest points allowed. They allowed their opponents to score an average of 101.3 points per game, 11 more than the Celtics.

There's no denying that the reason the Lakers were demolished in the Finals was because they couldn't adjust to the Celtics' swarming defense and they couldn't do enough to stop the Celtics from penetrating — as evidenced by Ray Allen's drive on Sasha Vujacic in the Celtics' Game 4 comeback.

Both of those areas should see improvement with the return of Bynum.

The Lakers will also need to improve the way they defend the league's best point guards. The duo of Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmar were repeatedly abused. As a result, the Lakers ended up having to rely all too often on Kobe to expend his energy on guarding the opponent's best backcourt player.

Questions that need to be answered

Q: How will Gasol, Bynum and Lamar Odom coexist?

This will probably become the area where training camp serves of utmost importance. It will take some time for them to find their groove and gel. Bynum will probably control the paint because he's such a great finisher and has the most limited range. The Lakers will probably try to limit Bynum's minutes early on and having Gasol gives them the luxury of taking their sweet time in doing so.

Q: With the return of Bynum, what happens to the Lakers' 3-point shooting percentage?

The Lakers were sixth in the NBA last season in 3-point shooting percentage, shooting close to 38 percent as a team. Conventional wisdom says that the presence of another big that requires double teams should free the perimeter guys for even more open looks. But that might not be the case now with Vladimir Radmanovic coming off the bench. The Lakers go from being a team with three legitimate outside threats in their starting lineup to a team with only two.

This season's storylines

The most important storyline this season will be the option on Kobe's contract. As of right now, there are five potential scenarios that I can see happening:

1. Kobe decides to exercise his option on the remaining two years and $48 million on his contract.

2. Kobe decides to opt out of the deal and signs with the Lakers for six years and the maximum.

3. Kobe decides to opt out of the deal and signs with the Lakers for the kind of deal that allows the Lakers the financial freedom to extend both Bynum and Odom.

4. Kobe decides to opt out of the deal and entertain offers from European powerhouses who could offer him substantially more money than any NBA team could.

5. Kobe decides to opt out and sign for only three more years, allowing him to hit free agency when the league's current collective bargaining agreement expires.

Another storyline concerning the Lakers will be the pending free agency of Lamar Odom. The Lakers could decide to trade Odom by the deadline, allow him to walk or sign-and-trade him next summer.

Forecast

No doubt the Lakers benefited down the stretch last year when it came to their schedule. They played 10 of their final 14 games at home. This year, the Lakers lucked out by getting 10 of their first 16 games at home. Down the stretch, they play five of their final seven at home.

Don't be surprised if the Lakers improve on last season's 55-27 record. While popular opinion considers last year's NBA Finals "a six-game sweep," the Lakers feel as if they were only two wins away from winning the NBA title and home court would have been the difference.

Prediction

60-22, top seed in the Western Conference.

According to VegasInsider.com, the Lakers are currently Vegas' pick to win the NBA title at 3-to-1 with the Celtics right behind them at 7-to-2.

With the return of a healthy Bynum and the maturation of an already dangerous bench, the window for the Lakers' run at a championship is wide open, and nobody would be surprised if it happened this year.


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#2 lyk13

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Posted September 21, 2008 - 11:23 AM

A very good article it is. Read it on the front page. :unsure:




#3 We Believe

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Posted September 21, 2008 - 01:56 PM

Yeah its a good article. Hopefully the front three can gel and Kobe and Bynum stay with the Lakers after next season.

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#4 ファイナルファンタジ

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Posted September 21, 2008 - 02:48 PM

The season needs to start already. I can't wait to see the Lakers play.

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#5 We Believe

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Posted September 21, 2008 - 04:23 PM

The season needs to start already. I can't wait to see the Lakers play.


Just another 37 days. It seems so far doesnt it.

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#6 ファイナルファンタジ

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Posted September 21, 2008 - 04:28 PM

Just another 37 days. It seems so far doesnt it.

It does see far. Even if it were to start tomorrow, it would still be a long wait. :rock:

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#7 We Believe

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Posted September 21, 2008 - 05:06 PM

It does see far. Even if it were to start tomorrow, it would still be a long wait. :rock:


yup yup. :rock:

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#8 Domo

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Posted September 21, 2008 - 06:20 PM

Good read, who do you guys reckon the Lakers will keep out of Dwayne Mitchell, Brandon Heath and C.J. Giles? Coby Karl will be kept, and I hope Dwayne Mitchell is kept.

#9 ファイナルファンタジ

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Posted September 21, 2008 - 09:13 PM

Good read, who do you guys reckon the Lakers will keep out of Dwayne Mitchell, Brandon Heath and C.J. Giles? Coby Karl will be kept, and I hope Dwayne Mitchell is kept.

Will Coby Karl really be kept? I know he seems to be a fan favorite and such but I can see him being easily replaced. :rock:

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#10 Domo

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Posted September 21, 2008 - 09:27 PM

I'm not certain on it, but he had a good Summer League performance, that couldn't have hurt his chances for a roster spot. He'll probably just be used to a fill a spot though.

#11 fido

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Posted September 21, 2008 - 11:12 PM

A good. honest, well thought out article for the pros and cons of this year's team.

Now for the billionth time - START THE SEASON ALREADY!!!!! :wall:

#12 GCMD

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Posted September 22, 2008 - 10:23 AM

Didn't add any vets...that's true and that was one of the things I thought they'd make a priority.

Didn't address Odom's extension...shouldn't put any responsibility on Kobe and whether Kobe opts out/takes less. Bynum's going to get his regardless of what Kobe does.


GREAT point about Vlad. If they move him to the bench, the offense takes a hit. In that scenario, they better make darn sure they can compensate for it on the defensive end. Of course, I'm of the opinion that Vlad should get the start...just makes sense based on his skillset and the skillsets of the other starters...

No mention of Phil and his adjustment to the new post-oriented team he will have to coach. Of course, Kobe is still the flagship but the game will be won or lost in the post this year...will that be obvious to him or will he resist?

I'm looking forward to the season. There are many questions I have about this team that can't be answered through simple debate. We will know (at least I WILL) after the first couple of games if some of these things are going to work.

#13 daco_inc

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Posted September 22, 2008 - 11:56 AM

I don't think acquiring vets is really a big priority. This team got to the Finals. There's not very many acquirable vets out there with Finals experience (none come mind at the moment).

#14 GCMD

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Posted September 23, 2008 - 06:36 PM

I don't think acquiring vets is really a big priority. This team got to the Finals. There's not very many acquirable vets out there with Finals experience (none come mind at the moment).


Posey was most notable...

Need as defensive minded SF with Finals experience and a money J...could have had one for MLE...didn't.

#15 Domo

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Posted September 24, 2008 - 05:41 AM

Posey was most notable...

Need as defensive minded SF with Finals experience and a money J...could have had one for MLE...didn't.


I was hoping we would pick him up, he would've been great for us. Oh well, at least he's not with the Celts anymore.

#16 BadScooter

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Posted September 24, 2008 - 09:13 AM

The Hornets overpaid for Posey and while it MAY help them during the next season or two, that contract is going to hurt them on the back end.

The Lakers were smart. We didn't panic, we entertained trades, we made the best out of our lousy draft pick slot, we kept all but one member of our long-time core, gave Sasha a fair contract and didn't mess up our chemistry.

People are undervaluing the importance of fielding the same basic team for the last few years.

Edited by BadScooter, September 24, 2008 - 09:13 AM.





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