After six long months, the time has finally come for the Los Angeles Lakers to take the floor for the start of the regular season. The team will host everyone’s favorite player to hate, Dwight Howard, and the Houston Rockets Tuesday night October 28 at Staples Center.
The summer was an extremely eventful one for the Lakers. The team said goodbye to a number of players from last season’s team, most notably fan favorite Pau Gasol who helped the team win two championships. Other key contributors in Jordan Farmar, Jodie Meeks, Kendall Marshall and Kent Bazemore also took their talents elsewhere.
However, the Lakers were also able to bring in some new blood. They drafted power forward Julius Randle and combo guard Jordan Clarkson. They also traded for Jeremy Lin, and won the amnesty auction for Carlos Boozer. Ed Davis, Ronnie Price and Wayne Ellington were all relatively cheap free agent signings who could play a major role in the upcoming season.
Arguably the biggest change was at the top, with Byron Scott becoming the new head coach after Mike D’Antoni resigned. Scott brings in a whole new attitude and commitment to defense that was nowhere to be seen last season.
The preseason had its ups and downs. The return of Kobe Bryant was the focus for many, but the play of the newcomers also stood out. The Lakers went through a stretch of blowout losses only to turn it around and flash a much improved defensive intensity down the stretch.
Expectations for the Lakers are not high heading into the season, but the Lakers have plenty of potential and could surprise some people which is why we asked our panel of experts to give one bold prediction about the Lakers heading into the regular season. This is what they had to say:
Russell Valenzuela (@RussVal4): Jeremy Lin will be the runner up in Most Improved voting.
With Steve Nash’s health being questioned again (and now officially being ruled out for the season), Lin’s ability to run the offense is going to be key for the Lakers this year. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Lin being the team’s starting point guard when the season begins.
He usually practices with the second unit and comes off the bench during games, but when Lin is on the court, the offense operates smoothly, especially when he is able to get to the rim.
In his previous four seasons, Lin averaged 11.9 points and 4.8 assists a game and should see those numbers increase this year. As a result of seeing more action and added importance in the offense, he will set new career highs with 17.0 points and 7.5 assists.
His growth will help the Lakers fight for a playoff spot, something that seems improbable with the team’s lack of talent. The Lakers will still miss out, but Lin will hardly be the reason why. For his efforts, he will finish second in the Most Improved voting, losing to Kenneth Faried.
Nathan Kim (@Kimchiz): I predict that Wesley Johnson will have a breakout season. Many would say that Johnson’s NBA career has fallen short of the hype garnered after being drafted fourth overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves. He was drafted for his ability to shoot the ball as well as his prolific athletic ability.
Johnson still has the impressive athletic ability that made him a standout draft prospect. Furthermore, Johnson has improved in rebounds, field goal percentage, three point percentage, points, free throw percentage, and blocks since his rookie year. He is a player with great length and the potential to be a great defensive player.
While he may not have experienced the success he hoped to have had out of college, Johnson still has great upside. He has said that he started playing basketball since the eighth grade. He is still learning the game and his stats reflect that.
The Lakers signed him to a one year deal and I think that Johnson knows that he has to prove himself int the NBA and he is in a prime situation to do just that. Byron Scott will most likely start Johnson and give him the kind of trust that Johnson may need to finally thrive in the league.
Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner): At this point in time, most people are writing off the Lakers heading into the regular season. The consensus seems to be that the storied franchise is destined to fail this season and miss the playoffs for the second straight year.
Although I’m not ready to dub the Lakers a playoff team, there is one player I believe that will help them get much closer than expected and in the process bounce back from a subpar season last year.
Not many were fond of the Jeremy Lin trade this past summer after entertaining the prospect of Carmelo Anthony coming to Los Angeles. Lin hasn’t been able to reclaim his former glory from his short stint in New York, but I believe this season he’ll prove his worth with a breakout year in purple and gold.
There’s no doubt that Lin has his work cut out for him this year. The Lakers will face some of the elite at the point guard position with perennial All-Stars Chris Paul, Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook set to do battle with Lin on multiple occasions, but I’m convinced he’s up for the challenge.
Lin may not be on the verge of an All-Star appearance, but he will become a star in his own right helping lead this team alongside Kobe Bryant. Lin will be the biggest surprise for the Lakers this season and potentially the reason the team turns it around.
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH): I am tempted to go a number of ways in making a bold prediction for this team heading into the season, but coming off his impressive performance in the preseason game against the game against Portland, I am going to focus on the rookie, Julius Randle.
I believe that Randle will win the rookie of the year award this year, barring any major injuries.
Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, and Nerlens Noel are the favorites heading into the season, and all three are extremely talented and capable of winning the award, but Randle is right there in talent.
He is more skilled offensively than Wiggins and Noel, and will likely make more of a defensive impact than Parker. He won’t play quite as many minutes, but I do believe he will be in the 25-30 minute range which is what he needs.
With Byron Scott set on playing Ed Davis strictly as a center, Randle only has to share minutes with Carlos Boozer and with Boozer’s deficiencies on defense, Randle could find himself finishing games more often than not, giving him numerous chances to have many big moments.
Parker will be the toughest competition, but I believe Randle will do just enough, around 14 points and 7 rebounds, and have more big moments on a more successful Lakers team to win the award.[divide]
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