The Los Angeles Lakers are looking to improve on last season’s debacle when they finished with a franchise worse 27-55 record. Though they failed to attract a big name this off-season, they did make improvements on the roster.
The likes of Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer, Ed Davis, and Julius Randle should all have a positive impact. The return of Kobe Bryant and Byron Scott taking over as head coach should also help the team improve over last season.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, they also play in a loaded Western Conference where 48 wins wasn’t enough to make the playoffs last season.
ESPN had their yearly forecast for the NBA season, and in their Western Conference predictions, had the Lakers ranked 12th in the conference with a 30-52 record.
That would be an improvement over last season, but surely it isn’t what Lakers fans are hoping for this year. A healthy Kobe Bryant and a coaching change would hopefully be enough for more than a three win increase. But is it?
We asked our panel of experts if the ESPN forecast for the Lakers was too high, too low, or right on the money. This is what they had to say:
Nathan Kim (@Kimchiz): The Lakers will not finish 12th in the West, nor will they have a 30-52 record this season.
Granted, the Lakers did finish 14th this season with an embarrassing 27-55 regular season record. The reason for their horrible season however, was due to the myriad of injuries the Lakers roster sustained throughout the course of the year. This would include the Black Mamba himself, Kobe Bryant.
If the Lakers remain healthy they will undoubtedly do better than predicted by ESPN. To what extent is hard to say, but I would bet on Kobe Bryant doing whatever it takes to make the playoffs.
The West keeps getting increasingly more competitive with each year, but there have been a few changes this off season which might help the Lakers on their goal to make the playoffs. The Houston Rockets took a hit on their roster with the losses of Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons.
Minnesota also just lost their superstar in Kevin Love. The two number one picks that they received in return will likely not make much of an impact this year. The bottom line is that the Lakers will have to fight through a very tough Western conference, but I have no doubt they will win more than 30 games this season.
Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner): The Lakers are in for another tough season. Kobe Bryant may be confident in his ability to continue playing at an elite level, but I’m not sure it’ll be enough to propel this team back into the playoffs.
It is hard to say the Lakers will finish dead last in the Western Conference. The fan in me says no way that will happen, but realistically, Los Angeles won’t win more than 35 games in my opinion.
Even though the team was unable to land a big-name free agent this summer, I do think the team is much improved from last season. Jeremy Lin will have his chance to shine while Carlos Boozer will be given an opportunity to quiet his critics after a poor season in Chicago.
Rookies Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson could also play a big role next season.
The problem is that outside of Kobe, the roster and situation in Los Angeles is very similar to last season. Byron Scott could be an upgrade at head coach due to already being on the same page with Kobe and having a passion for the team, but only time will tell if he’s the right man for the job.
Russell Valenzuela (@RussVal4): Last year’s Lakers team finished with 27 wins, and that was with a roster that was constantly injured and couldn’t get any traction. If the team can stay healthy, I believe they will definitely see more than a three game improvement.
The Lakers are poised to have Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash return healthier than they have been in the past. Having those two back will help the team win more games than they did last year. Bryant only played in six games, and Nash appeared in just nine more.
Nash won’t be expected to provide much, but he can still create opportunities for the rest of the lineup. In the games that Nash actually played in last year, he showed he can still find his teammates and get them easy baskets. Nash won’t be playing in every game and will be given time to rest, but he should be on the court a lot more than he was last year.
Although I believe the Lakers will significantly improve their record, I still don’t see them in the playoffs. The top nine of the West is still extremely good, and it would take everything to go right for the Lakers to finish with one of the eight best records.
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH): I believe the ESPN forecast for the Lakers was a little low, but not by much.
I am of the belief that this Lakers roster is better than last season’s. Unfortunately, most of the West also got better. And those who didn’t improve, didn’t get bad enough for the Lakers to surpass them.
The only playoff team that I believe will be worse than last season is the Houston Rockets. And they are still a likely playoff team. The Phoenix Suns will also still be in the mix for the playoffs and the New Orleans Hornets getting Omer Asik is one of the most underrated acquisitions of the off-season.
Ultimately, of the teams ESPN has projected ahead of the Lakers, the only one I can see the Lakers being better than, is the Denver Nuggets. And that is no guarantee.
The Lakers, I believe, will win around 35 games this season, a solid improvement by all means. But the strength of the West is simply too much for the Lakers to overcome this year, making it nearly impossible for the Lakers to be a playoff team.[divide]
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