Friday, September 17, 2010

Making those matcups: Los Angeles Lakers

If HoopsHype is fairly accurate the current roster list consists of:

PG: Tony Parker, George Hill, Curtis Jerrells
SG: Manu Ginobili, Garrett Temple, Alonzo Gee, James Anderson, Gary Neal
SF: Richard Jefferson
PF: Tim Duncan, Antonio McDyess, Matt Bonner, DeJuan Blair
C: Tiago Splitter

The essential core of the roster, I think will be Parker, Ginobili, Duncan, Jefferson, Splitter, Hill, McDyess, and Blair/Bonner.  I'm not so certain about Temple, Gee, and Anderson, but I think they have a shot at making the rotation.  Nonetheless, it's a solid lineup, but every team (except maybe Minnesota) has been beefing up.  So essentially, let's consider who we have to be afraid of, or in other words, which teams will give us the most trouble, and maybe a few teams that won't.


Los Angeles Lakers

Naturally, when you're in the same conference as the reigning NBA champs, you have to fear the NBA champs.  I believe that the Lakers roster looks as follows:

PG: Steve Blake, Derek Fisher, Jordan Farmar
SG: Kobe Bryant, Sasha Vujacic
SF: Ron Artest, Matt Barnes, Luke Walton
PF: Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom
C: Andrew Bynum, Theo Ratliff

This team is essentially the same as last season.  However, rumors are abounding about how after playing through all his hand injuries, his hand is now irreparable, but of course, everyone was noting how he ended up shooting better, I don't know that that's indicative of anything other than maybe Kobe's taking better shots because he knows he can't take as many, who knows?  Anyways, you can argue that the team has been somewhat upgraded, Steve Blake is essentially a white, right-handed, slightly younger Derek Fisher, a sound, safe ball-handler that can hit threes.  He's no stalwart on defense, but of course, he doesn't have the contract of Kirk Hinrich or the mental issues of Delonte West, all in all a good pickup.  Likewise, Matt Barnes is dogged on defense, less the craziness, sort of, but hey, he's solid.  He's a good defender, shoots the three, basically everything you want from one of the wings outside the triangle.  The addition of Ratliff adds a legitimate defensive big man outside of the Bynum, Gasol, Odom frontcourt trio.

As usual, the entire scariness of the Lakers (outside of Kobe) depends first on the healthiness of Andrew Bynum, secondly on the dominance of Pau Gasol, thirdly on the performance of Lamar Odom, and lastly their concentration in running Phil Jackson's triangle offense.

A healthy Bynum gives the Lakers a monstrous starting front court, but the bonus is that Bynum and Gasol don't necessarily fit into the triangle together as well as everyone thinks they should.  Nonetheless, a Bynum/Gasol frontcourt cannot be called anything except scary.  Should we be as scared as everyone else though?  Fortunately, now with Splitter added into the mix, we do have the size to compete.  As Splitter develops NBA size into his body, he is used to guarding those versatile European big men a la Pau Gasol.  While Euroleague hasn't thrown talent like Gasol at Splitter, the familiarity of the style is there.  Perhaps a switch of Splitter on Gasol and Duncan on the bigger Bynum.

To me, a on par Lamar Odom is a bigger issue.  Odom has the size of a PF but the ball-handling and versatility of a wing player.  Overall, he's just a handful, and frankly, I'm not entirely certain we have anyone with the size and/or versatility to really defend him.  No one really had the potential since Marcus Haislip, and obviously, Pop didn't think Haislip didn't have what it took.  He'll be a handful, but then, hopefully the additional presence in the paint of Splitter with Duncan might be sufficient help to throw Odom off his game.  It'll all be about rotations, and pressuring Odom into difficult jump-shots, which he doesn't like, or rather, isn't that great at.

There's no doubt that perimeter defense needs to improve, but hopefully with the improved interior defense that will come naturally.  The Lakers remain scary simply because they have 2 viable starters at three different positions, while superficially the Lakers haven't changed a whole lot, the added depth (which was always the weakness of the Lakers), especially at the pivot, the point, and the SF slots, really ease the workload if they all fit into their respective spots correctly.  While I do like the backcourt trio of Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and George Hill, the lack of continued proven depth at the guard spots somewhat worries me.  Hopefully additions of Garrett Temple, Alonzo Gee, and James Anderson alleviate some of that concern.  Naturally, a lot of our hopes lies on Richard Jefferson figuring himself out, determining where and how he'll fit into everything.  It's still early to tell, but I personally don't really like our chances against the Lakers, but I'd have to say we have a better shot than most if it does come down to it.

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