2011-12 Preview: Pacific Division

Los Angeles Lakers (2010 record: 57-25)

The Lakers had a tough off-season. After their proposed trade for Chris Paul was axed two times they gave up and made a push for Howard. In the process they gave up reigning sixth man of the year, Lamar Odom, for a $9 million trade exception. This looks like it could be a misstep for Mitch Kupchak and the Lakers front office. All of this drama has overshadowed the fact that the Lakers have a new head coach in town and thus a new system. Supposedly Coach Brown will implement an aggressive defense which could be a good change for the ever-soft Lakers. Barnes and World Peace should benefit greatly from the new style. Perhaps Bynum could develop a mean streak.

Key Players: Due to the lockout, Bryant rested for the first time in decades. A healthy Bryant is always a good thing and I’m sure all of us hope he stays that way. Doctors can repair bad knees, but they still haven’t found a cure for age. Fisher and Bryant are both entering their 15th season and this is certainly cause for concern. The backcourt looks old and slow so if the rookies Morris and Goudelock can show something on defense, they could get playing time. After a terrible post-season, Gasol looks to return to form. He has shown that he can play well as long as he doesn’t have to play extended minutes. Thus, Bynum will need to stay healthy for at least 85% of the shortened season. The Lakers lack frontcourt depth, so Bynum’s health will be absolutely key. Off the bench, Kapono could provide some much needed three point shooting which last years Lakers sorely lacked.

Season Outlook: New coach, trade fails and the departure of Odom add up to a very disappointing off season. One would hope that the Lakers can put their woes behind them and prove that they are still title contenders. The shortened season will benefit the aging squad, but the triple headers could be cause for some concern. The playoffs are certainly in the picture for the Lakers, but don’t be surprised if they finish second in the division behind the Clippers.

2011-12 Division Projection
1. Los Angeles Clippers *playoffs
2. Los Angeles Lakers *playoffs
3. Golden State Warriors
4. Sacramento Kings
5. Phoenix Suns

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