Age ... Questions about durability ... Howard comes off a serious injury ... Will he be fully recovered this season? ... Nash, Bryant and Gasol take good care of their bodies, but they are all in their 30's and Father Time could come calling ... The Lakers will have a hard time competing with elite squads like Oklahoma City and Miami in terms of athleticism ... Metta World Peace is not the lock-down defender he once was ... Backcourt depth is average at best ... Lots of stars and former stars in the locker room, so Mike Brown will have to do a fine ego-massaging job.
I've been thinking about these weaknesses a lot because as fans we're going to be more inclined to assume the Lakers are the best without looking at their weaknesses. I wanted to take a look at them and see which of these are real concerns.
I think age and durability is a BIG concern. In our starting lineup, Howard is the only one under 32 (Ron turns 33 in Nov, Pau just turned 32, Kobe is 34, and Nash is turning 39 in Feb). That's not good. Even Mitch said he wishes each of these guys was 25 because at their age, there's going to be injury concerns and concerns with how many minutes they can play. We all know Kobe is a warrior and he'll miss limited time even with a serious injury. Steve takes great care of his body and knows how to stay healthy, but even so, he's going to play limited minutes anyway and might still miss a few games because of his back alone. Pau is more of a fighter when it comes to his health than people give him credit for in LA. In the last 4 years he has only missed significant time once (17 games in 09-10’).
Age and durability will be the number one factor for our team’s success (or lack thereof).
Athleticism is something that most other teams are going to have on us. Teams like Oklahoma City, Miami, and San Antonio are going to want to out run us in the open court. They’re going to try to force turnovers and then get out on the break. They’re all much younger and much faster than we are. A team like Miami who plays great defense and then turns the game into a track meet is still going to cause problems for us. That hasn’t changed.
The acquisition of the league’s most athletic big man helps, as does adding Jodie Meeks to the backup 2 instead of Goudelock. Keeping Jordan Hill and Devin Ebanks will also make a difference, but none of those guys are particularly fast and that’s where our problem will be. The challenge for our team will be to slow the game down, make it a half court struggle, and then using Steve Nash to run an offense that is extremely efficient and limits turnovers. Turnovers to fast teams lead to fast breaks that no one is going to catch up to. The good news is that Steve Nash is one of the league’s best offensive weapon maybe ever and he’ll be able to do a good job of making the team take good shots and limit bad possessions.
Athleticism is a concern, but not nearly as large of one.
Metta World Peace’s defense has really been called into question lately and I’m not sure why. Is it because of his elbow on Harden? Or the way he picks on people in general on the court? I’m not sure, but according to Synergy Sports.com, he limits his opposition to 40% or under in every category that they address. This includes pick-and-roll (as both the roller and the ball-handler), spot-up, isolations, post ups, and off of screens. The only time when opponents are fairly successful against him is off of screens (40.5%) and that’s the best they can do. In isolations the opposition only scores 35.3% of the time and overall the opponent only shoots 37% against him. Now, Synergy Sports.com only has him ranked 147, but by comparison Tony Allen is ranked 108 and I think both of those guys are in the top 10 defensive category in the league, so I’m not sure what their ranking system is based on.
Has Metta’s defense dropped since his ’04 days? Sure, of course it has. But in his ’04 days he could guard almost anybody in the league and do it effectively. These days he’s more limited in scope, but he’s still a terrific defender and can be an absolute game changer on the perimeter defensively. Just ask Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant. Metta World Peace is still a great defender and pairing him with the league’s best defender is going to do wonders for him.
Our backcourt depth is definitely average; I wouldn’t say average at best. At best it’s good, at worst it’s below average. But in general our bench depth at the guard spot is average. After our ridiculous starting lineup, we have Steve Blake, Chris Duhon, and Jodie Meeks. While Steve and Chris are not very good, Meeks is actually very good. Meeks started in 40 games last season for the Sixers who were a playoff team. Blake is below average, there’s no getting around that. He ranks near the bottom for backup PGs statistically and while he’s a nice guy he’s not very good. Duhon is possibly the worst PG in the league statistically and there’s not a whole lot to say about his character either.
I’d say our depth is an issue at PG, but at SG we’re actually very well set. Meeks is capable of logging big minutes and he’s a good change of pace to what Kobe brings to the table.
As for the ego statement, I see that as being a complete non-issue. There’s 3 things working in our favor here: 1) everyone in our rotation has experience around the league, 2) all of our acquisitions came here for an opportunity that they valued over money so they are willing to work for the team, and 3) we have Steve Nash who is one of maybe 3 names that everyone in the entire league wants to play with because he makes offense easy.
With experience comes patience, our team isn’t going to expect more than what they’re here for. Jamison isn’t going to expect the same number of shots he got last season. Meeks isn’t going to expect to start. Howard isn’t going to expect to be the number one option every night. Everyone here knows their place, why they were brought here, and what they need to do to win.
Everyone who came here, came here to win. Jordan Hill, Antawn Jamison, Jodie Meeks, and Steve Nash all had bigger offers elsewhere and they turned them down for the opportunity to play here. Howard wanted out and got what he wanted. Devin Ebanks wouldn’t sign a contract until he knew for sure he’d stay a Laker. That kind of appreciation goes a long way and these guys aren’t going to raise a ruckus after sacrificing to be here.
Playing with Steve Nash heals all wounds. What’s the most frequent complaint? Probably playing time, but after that it’s shot attempts. Well Steve Nash heals that wound pretty easily. He turns guys into superstars, just ask Stoudemire’s paycheck. But more importantly he turns average to below average guys into serviceable players that are able to contribute. Just ask Jared Dudley, Robin Lopez, and Channing Frye.