So currently, I kind of have the Lakers in 13th place out of the 15 West teams.
1) San Antonio
2) LA Clippers
4) Oklahoma City
5) Golden State
12) New Orleans
13) LA Lakers
Before we get to the other teams, let's focus on why I put LAL at 13th. I still think the Lakers are in prime position to tank for a high lottery pick, even though they might not know it.
1) Age and injury prone-ness. This team still skews old: Nash, Bryant, Gasol, and Kaman are all at least 31, and it's expected those four will be in the starting lineup and hog a majority of the minutes. Also, Bryant is coming his Achilles' injury, which is the worst injury the league has to offer, and Nash and Kaman have missed huge chunks of games the past season. With Bryant expected to have to manage his minutes, that alone could have trickle down effects in winning games, because face it--Jodie Meeks has a tenth of the talent that Bryant had last season, and then his backup...yeah. Of note? In a league where many players are now born after 1990, the Lakers only have one--Ryan Kelly--and he might not get much playing time this year.
2) This team has a crazy obsession with the least value shot in the game: mid-range shots. All of the Lakers' new additions--Chris Kaman, Nick Young, and Wesley Johnson--all have this obsession with taking mid-range J's. While all three are actually quite good at it and had very scoring rates last season (and in the past as well), all three of them had subpar scoring efficiency for their positions last year. That's because all three either don't bother or are subpar at all other shooting zones, which has to hamper the offense. In addition to that, Kobe and Nash are also preferred mid-range practitioners (Nash is a bit frustrating--he's gold from deep, but takes far more mid-range J's than he should threes), and Gasol and Hill have also shown inclination to shoot at that space with high frequency. That makes seven guys right there--way too many.
This jibes with the idea that the Lakers severely lack finishers at the rim. It's expected after Bryant's Achilles injury that he might really decline in frequency of attacking the rim/conversion rate. Only Pau Gasol might be someone who will take shots at the rim and finish decently. Everyone else either will never get to the rim and/or struggle to finish well there. The Lakers have way too many preferred jumpshooters on their team, that's for sure.
Not enough three point snipers? Another issue is the Lakers really lacked long range three point spacing last year. The only player they signed who could shoot it from there AND is willing to shoot it (and this is only based on recent work) is Farmar. Meeks and Blake are the only other holdovers from last year with that shooting ability. Nash can shoot it but he loves to operate in mid-range space nowadays, so it's hard to count him. Largely, the Lakers will be really relying on their 6'4" and under guards to do most of the long range spacing, unless the Lakers really decide to play rookie Ryan Kelly (doubtful).
3) The Lakers have a ton of guys who struggle to rebound or pass the basketball. Off the top of my head, I can name four guys who are completely unable to do this, including the three guys we signed--Kaman, Young, Johnson, and we also have hold-over Jodie Meeks who exhibited these symptoms. Sacre is another guy who can be put in this category. Now, Young, Johnson and Meeks can all D up decently, so all isn't for naught, but I guess the Lakers will have to primarily rely on Nash, Bryant and Gasol as their primary playmakers (the only guys who can command a high usage rate and pass above the norm for their positions) but two of those guys are injury prone now, so if they fall the Lakers will have real problems creating offense. In rebounding, it's significantly worse--the only real rebounding machine is Jordan Hill, and his value there is mostly with O-boards. Pau severely regressed in rebounding, and the reality is the Lakers have no real player who is above average in defensive rebounding. This will be a huge problem area next year, guaranteed.
4) Defense? Yeah.../ It's clear the Lakers assembled this team to have a bunch of mid-range shooters Nash can pass to get easy assists off of, something that was hard to do last season with the Lakers' lack of natural scorers beyond their big four last season. But on defense, major weak links are Nash himself (bottom ten PG defender last year), Kaman, Hill, and possibly Farmar and Sacre. Kobe also regressed on defense last year. The Lakers' frontcourt defense in particular might be absolutely pathetic, but in lineups with Farmar and Nash, both the first line and final line of defense will be awful and the Lakers will absolutely hemorrhage there. I can imagine a scenario where the Lakers' plus defenders will only be Jodie Meeks and Nick Young, and that could be very pathetic. Also, your defense is only as good as your system--and in a league where coaches are progressively getting defensively-oriented, Mike D'Antoni is possibly the last vestige of the junk offense-no defense sort of philosophy. As bad as each of the individual Lakers' reps are on as defense, he could possibly make them worse--"sum being less than its parts" sort of deal. So yeah, it's very hard to have faith on this end. If the Lakers are even average on this end next year, it will be a miracle.
So, ultimately the Lakers have problems on both offense and defense, which will cost them a lot of games. There's a lot of exacerbated weaknesses and duplicated pieces. And, they're injury prone. And the coach coaches down on defense, and this team as constructed was already poor defensively. Of course, this season is just a placeholder to get ready for the ton of cap space next season, but say, had the Lakers got Carlos Delfino and James Johnson instead of Chris Kaman and Wesley Johnson, things could have been more interesting.
Largely, the Lakers are fighting for the eighth seed with New Orleans, Minnesota, Dallas, Portland and Utah, with the first four teams clearly not tanking by adding pieces. Let's analyze the others:
*The Mavericks are my pick to nab the eighth seed. They have a starting lineup of Calderon-Ellis-Marion-Nowitzki-and possibly Dalembert or Oden, likely. That's actually a reasonable starting lineup--Ellis undersized but actually played really good defense last year, and Calderon is incredibly underrated and mistake-free offensively, but a little passive, so they complement each other's weaknesses. Matrix has slipped a bit, but was a classically underrated athletic freak back in the day. Nowitzki and Calderon will give much needed shooting, Ellis and Marion brings cuts and at-rim finishes, and Ellis, Marion, and Dalembert can defend. Off the bench, Vince Carter and Wayne Ellington bring scoring punch and defense as well, and if they re-sign Brandan Wright and/or Elton Brand there's more underrated punch on that end. Devin Harris might still be a part of this. Jae Crowder and Shane Larkin are underrated, but I don't think they'll get off the floor too much. And of course, Rick Carlisle is one of the top coaches in the league, and they have a owner notorious for pushing for wins. They certainly didn't get their top option, and they're dependent on a few future signings, but assuming those go through, and I think they'll represent for the eighth seed. Their team doesn't appear all that injury prone either, great coach, complementary pieces on offense and defense. They might nab the eighth seed, and their team looks better than last year's team which nabbed the tenth seed.
*Minnesota looks to have a very groundbound AND defensively awful starting lineup of Ricky Rubio-Kevin Martin-Corey Brewer-Kevin Love-Nikola Pekovic. Rubio was a bottom ten PG defender in the wake of his injury, but with his stealing ability and height of course there's potential; still, combine him with perennially awful Kevin Martin and that's some real awful backcourt defense. Love and Pekovic are groundbound and none are even remotely close to sound defenders. Corey Brewer can defend the rim but struggles at the perimeter for whatever reason. Losing Kirilenko will particular be problematic. Their bench is very decent, actually, with Chase Budinger, Alexey Shved, JJ Barea, Derrick Williams, Shabazz Muhammad and Dante Cunningham, but with the exception of Cunningham and Barea none of them are really good defenders. They might do quite a bit of damage offensively, though, and that could work, and being ten deep can help them win games. Also, a really underrated, grizzled veteran coach with Rick Ademan will pump them wins, bringing them here.
 *The Blazers were the 11th seed last year, but it's clear that they're making moves to try to add more wins through shoring up their bench. They effectively replaced JJ Hickson with Robin Lopez, but their ages are the same, and I'm not sure if Lopez is that much better than Hickson. Hickson has a natural gift for going after boards but is less effective in contesting shots, while Lopez is better at contesting shots and very awful at getting boards. And Hickson appears to provide more offense, so at the end of the day, this might be a downgrade. For now, their starting lineup appears to be the hold-overs Lillard-Matthews-Batum-Aldridge-Lopez. Lillard and Matthews are awful defenders, the latter really losing it, but Batum and Aldridge are very good defenders to compensate. On offense, it's a three-pronged attack of Lillard, Batum and Aldridge--it's a jumpshooting heavy offensive attack, however. The Blazers added rookie CJ McCollum, who might be another Lillard in terms of skill set, but he'll add scoring power to their bench, and Dorell Wright, a three point shooter with passing ability and defense on the side. Thomas Robinson is another addition, but is incredibly raw, and holdover Meyers Leonard flashed good inside-outside offensive potential in small doses. Overall, this is a jumpshooting team, but there's a lot of youth and some good defenders, and they got better in depth and aren't really an injury prone team. Coach Stotts is a bit unproven but showed himself to be an offensive coach, as well. They won't make the playoffs, as it's too deep at the end, but they somewhat improved.
*The Jazz finally got the memo from their fans who wanted to see their young homegrown draft picks rise to the top, by fleshing away all of the older talent. They now start Trey Burke-Alec Burks-Gordon Hayward-Derrick Favors-Enes Kanter, in a case of ALL the players in their starting lineup now born in 1990 and beyond (ages 23 and below). I really like how this group complements each other: I'm not uber excited about PG Burke, but he can shoot the ball from deep and is a good floor general. Slashers Hayward and Burks complement Burke's shooting, and Favors and Kanter are excellent at finishing and rolling to the rim. Favors is a defensive machismo, and Alec Burks has potential to be a stopper; Kanter isn't bad at all in contesting shots either, so there's defensive talent here. There's probably not enough shooting here, and they might lack a go-to scorer which will hurt them, but there's a lot of young talent. Their bench is somewhat weak though, only with Marvin Williams and Brandon Rush being decent bench players, and if Rush can recover the threes-D aspect, that will make him very interesting. If Mo Williams resigns, he can give them bench scoring as well, but he might also start over Burke while the rook learns the ropes. Coach Ty Corbin is a bit overrated, as well. It's a tough flip of the coin here, but I'm not sure the Pelicans have talent that jibe as well as Utah's does, the coaches might be about even, but Utah might have the stronger bench. So I'm going with Utah over New Orleans.
*The Pelicans have a bunch of name players, with Holiday-Gordon-Evans, but all three need the ball, and the first two are overrated shooters so it's hard to see them complementing each other that well. Their frontcourt defense might also be their bane--Anthony Davis, while talented, couldn't guard the rim last year, and Ryan Anderson is a turnstyle although he'll give them needed floor spacing. Another issue? Their bench scoring might be awful next year, unless they play Evans off the bench and start the defensive Al Farouq Aminu in his place. Who else is on their bench? Awful Austin Rivers? Ordinary Jason Smith? Non-offensive Greg Stiemsma? Anthony Morrow? Yeah. Their biggest problem is that they only run about five deep--Evans, Holiday, Gordon, Davis and Anderson--but two of them--Evans and Gordon--are really injury prone, and Davis missed time with injuries. So this might be a house of cards.
*We talked about the Lakers extensively being a hugely mid-range jumpshooting team with some really awful defenders. It's sad when we say their best defender this year might be Pau Gasol and Steve Blake, and their best athlete might be Wesley Johnson, who never gets to the basket. Their starting lineup of Nash-Bryant-Young-Gasol-Kaman is dependent on the Nash and Bryant to stay upright, and Bryant's already got the Achilles, so he'll probably miss games and get a short leash in minutes. Kaman himself is injury prone too. All five guys in the starting lineup can score, and Nash, Bryant and Gasol can pass the ball, but there's a severe inability to rebound, and only Gasol's proven as a good defender (Bryant's defense might lose a bit after the injury). The bench of Blake-Farmar-Meeks-Hill-Johnson has four guys who can't rebound, none of them are excellent playmakers, and the majority of them are inefficient scorers. We could flip them with the Pelicans because they might possibly have a worse bench than the Lakers, but at the same time their core has Holiday, Evans and Anthony Davis, while the Lakers are reliant on Nash, Bryant and Gasol. I'd go with the younger.
ETA: I'm not overly certain about Memphis and Denver, 6th and 7th seeds, respectively. Memphis had a new coach, and Denver's culture completely changed with a new coach AND a new front office. Memphis didn't really do anything to address their lack of long range shooting, but their core of Conley-Allen-Prince-Randolph-Gasol has to be one of the smartest, tightest and most defensive oriented starting lineups in the league, and Ed Davis and Kosta Koufos are both underrated offensive backups. New coach Dave Joerger is a bit of an unknown though, but I'm betting on the core. Denver's lineup now looks like Lawson-Wilson Chandler-Gallinari-Faried-McGee, with still a very powerful bench of Andre Miller, Randy Foye, Evan Fournier, Darrell Arthur, JJ Hickson and Timofey Mozgov. Their defense might really suffer losing Iggy though, but I think Wilson Chandler's up to the challenge. They're a bit of an unknown and might really lack a go-to guy on offense, though. Not sure if Brian Shaw can integrate the 11-man talent to wins, but they have enough talent to be a seventh seed, for sure.