The acquisition of Howard alone was enough to spark talks of the Lakers being a perennial title contender for years to come, but by adding Nash and key pieces to the bench; many believe Mike Brown’s squad is the team to beat in the Western Conference next season.
Apparently, ESPN’s John Hollinger isn’t sold on the new-look Lakers headed into the upcoming season.
In Hollinger’s season preview for the Lakers, the NBA analyst has Kobe Bryant and company finishing fourth in the West behind the San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder in that order.
Despite clinching the fourth seed in the West, Hollinger does believe the Lakers will be a force to be reckoned with in the NBA playoffs with potentially one more trade made before the deadline and a veteran player signed off of waivers helping bolster the roster headed into the postseason:
“What I do expect is for them to be fairly terrifying by playoff time. It’s likely they’ll add another player at the trade deadline, and that some random veteran will wash up on their shores via waivers. Come postseason, they’ll be able to ramp up the minutes for their four stars and rely considerably less on the riffraff, and as with the Thunder that will make them far more potent in the playoffs than in the regular season.
“That’s cause for legitimate excitement in L.A., and I get it. But as far as the regular season goes, I’d temper my expectations a bit.”
Even though this prediction is initially a shock as many foresee the Lakers finishing with the top seed in the West and will likely face the defending NBA champion Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, Hollinger lets it be known that he also predicts the Lakers reaching the Western Conference Finals:
“Like everyone else, I expect the Lakers to make the conference finals and contend for a championship. Unlike everyone else, I don’t expect them to be particularly imposing in the regular season, for a number of reasons.”
Basically, Hollinger is saying that the Lakers will struggle throughout the regular season and flourish once in the playoffs. Not a bad prediction as it will take some time for all the new players in Los Angeles to gel and ultimately become a winning combination.
The Heat went through the exact same process after bringing in LeBron James and Chris Bosh to play alongside Dwyane Wade in Miami. An NBA title was the result of the superstar combination after two seasons of building chemistry and figuring out how to play with one another.
Although Hollinger’s prediction isn’t beyond the realm of possibility, the Lakers finishing fourth in the West still seems like a bit of a stretch. Perhaps the most questionable part of this prediction is the Nuggets and Spurs finishing ahead of the Lakers and Thunder. There’s no doubt Denver will be a force to be reckoned with and San Antonio will continue to be one of the best teams in the conference, but finishing ahead of Oklahoma City and Los Angeles is doubtful.
Regardless of the outcome, this season will be a wild ride and perhaps one of the most intriguing and entertaining in recent memory.