Los Angeles Lakers – Getting by on Starters Alone

The starting five that the Los Angeles Lakers will present in the 2012-2013 NBA Season will be quite impressive – Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash at guard, Metta World Peace as small forward, Pau Gasol at power forward and Dwight Howard at center. Arguably the best in the NBA. Enough for an NBA title?

In most of the big sites, early predictions for the teams that have a shot at winning the NBA title eliminate all but three teams – The Miami Heat, the sole pick to come out of the East, the Los Angeles Lakers, due to their big name additions, and the Oklahoma City Thunder, probably the most talented team in the league, a year more experienced after last season’s disappointing final appearance.

Most experts and also those with a less official title pick the Lakers to be kings of the West. Despite the fact that Steve Nash will 39 when the postseason begins. Despite the unpredictability of what Metta World Peace might give this team, although his sole purpose on offense will be making open three pointers, something he struggled with last season, shooting an 11 season low for him with 29.6% from beyond the arc. But he’s there mostly for defense, toughness, and hopefully keeping the violent incidents to a minimum.

Dwight Howard is working on his game with Kareem, trying to become a more complete center. One that isn’t as reliant on his athleticism as he was in Orlando with the Magic. One that can score by using more than just dunks and tap ins. His defense? There isn’t a defensive presence quite like Howard in the NBA. Pau Gasol, the Lakers are hoping, will feel some sort of rejuvenation. Maybe from the changes, maybe from his very successful Olympic performance. If not, the trade rumors will pop up soon enough, maybe this time actually going through to add the team that depth factor they currently lack.

No real point guard to make up for the minutes Nash sits on the bench. Nash played 31.6 minutes per game last season, his lowest since the 1999-2000 season. It’s quite clear that he won’t be playing much more and probably less, maybe even less than 30 minutes a night next season for the Lakers. He can still put up double doubles each night, but finding someone to keep the ship in the right direction while Nash is resting is going to be the problem.

Chris Duhon and Steve Blake are the guys behind Nash at the point. Blake averaged 23.3 minutes a night last season, averaging 5.2 points while shooting a terrible 37.3% from the field. The Lakers don’t exactly have their full trust in the player, who has terrible shot selection and tends to be less than a dependable crunch time guy. Chris Duhon didn’t do much better for the Orlando Magic last season, but maybe splitting the role between them might work.

Kobe Bryant, recently turned 34, played 38.5 minutes a night last season. Playing the same kind of minutes again might not be the best thing in the world for the Lakers, with Bryant, despite what the numbers might suggest, just not the same player who can take over big games like he was 3 and four years ago. When Nash is off and Bryant on, he’ll be the man running the floor for the Lakers. Jodie Meeks will be his backup.

Upfront is another problematic area when it comes to reserves. I’m pretty sure we’ll have very few minutes when both Howard and Gasol are off the floor, with Antawn Jamison sliding into the power forward position whenever one of them is resting, with Jordan Hill probably also projected to get some playing time in the paint. Jamison, just like Nash, is one of the oldest players in the NBA and although he’s still a capable scorer, the Lakers lose a lot of size and mostly ability on both ends of the floor when their “twin towers” step off.

So, is this the kind of team, and more importantly, the kind of bench that can win an NBA title? At the moment, without having the ability to predict how it all gels together and seeing just how many minutes Mike Brown plays his aging starting five together each game, I’d have to say the Thunder have the better chance, simply because of their option to play their best players more minutes without having to worry about dividing the minutes and their young guns getting tired.

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