Numbers Game: Expectations For the Upcoming Season in L.A.

No matter how you slice it, the Los Angeles Lakers’ front office was a perfect 4-0 (Nash, Jamison, Howard, Meeks) during the free agency and trade period. While on with 710 ESPNLA’s Mason & Ireland, Lakers Executive VP Jim Buss broke some surprising news by offering a bit of insight into the deal for Dwight Howard.

We already knew the deal came to fruition (after months of speculation) in what seemed like the blink of an eye. What we didn’t know was that when Orlando Magic GM Rob Hennigan called Mitch Kupchak in order to inquire about yet another negotiation, the Lakers’ three-headed brain trust (Jerry Buss, Mitch Kupchak, Jim Buss) decided to call his bluff.

Placing a 36-hour deadline on any potential deal involving Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard not only denotes some of that oft-mentioned poker prowess, but by not going public with such a demand (say, like Brooklyn did) the Lakers displayed exactly the type of shrewd business savvy that has led to so many of these deals ending in L.A.’s favor.

After receiving several dozen questions about predictions on the upcoming season via Twitter (@RealTalkOnSprts), I’ve decided to dedicate an article to the subject. Health/availability uncertainties make it impossible to predict whether the Lakers will eventually finish the season with the best record out West, but I will go out on a limb and project somewhere between 58-62 wins for the upcoming 2012-13 NBA season.

One thing is certain, the Lakers will not get into a proverbial arms race with a young OKC Thunder team looking to disprove any doubters after such a disappointing loss in the 2012 Finals. Much like Kobe Bryant’s decision to forgo the opportunity to catch/pass Kevin Durant on the final night of last season for the scoring title, this year’s Lakers squad will likely be positioning itself for the deepest possible playoff run, rather than fighting for the top seed. That said, if they can make it through the season relatively unscathed and are in position to capture it at the end, I also wouldn’t be surprised to see them snatch the top seed.

Metta World Peace: After a down year due to injury and excess weight, I expect a bounce-back season from MWP. I have it on good authority, his brother Daniel (@TheRealDMArtest), that not only is MWP currently fully healthy, but he weighs 248 pounds. By contrast, he weighed nearly 20 pounds more at the start of last year’s training camp.

Beyond the revamped health, MWP has also mentioned a desire to contend for the Defensive Player of the Year award. Can you imagine the havoc a determined and healthy combination of MWP and Dwight Howard would wreak upon opposing teams? Oh, that’s right, you won’t have to.

Aside from the defense, I truly feel the addition of Steve Nash could have nearly as much of an impact upon Metta as everyone believes will be the case with Pau. Not only do I expect MWP’s 3-point percentage to be closer to his career average 34 percent, but I expect Metta to bring slashing the baseline back to his arsenal. Ball movement, rather than isolation-heavy offense will be key, and don’t be surprised by the sight of several backdoor cuts and dunks (Princeton offense) most games. No prediction on how many Metta-flexes we’ll see, but I definitely think positive things are in store for World Peace.

Next Page: The New and Improved Twin Towers

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