Let’s begin by rephrasing the question in the headline – Will the Los Angeles Lakers be the best team in the NBA next season? Metta World Peace thinks so, but for now, before the first tip off of the 2012-2013 season, both the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder have to be considered better teams.
And it’s also a glance back at recent history. The Lakers finished 41-25 last season, 62.1%. That translated into a 50 or 51 win season with 82 games. So to make a 23 win jump just because of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, while the bench got marginally better and Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace himself are a year older?
The best team, according to their regular season record, of all-time, are the Chicago Bulls in 1995-1996, with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman in the lineup, a center committee 2.0 and one wonderful Toni Kukoc coming off the bench, and let’s not forget Steve Kerr and Ron Harper. Those Bulls went 72-10, winning what was the first of another three-peat. Jordan’s first full season since the comeback and the addition of Rodman brought on an improvement of 25 wins, not to mention the NBA title.
But are Dwight Howard and Steve Nash that good? The 1994-1995 Bulls, until Jordan arrived, weren’t as good of a team as the Lakers were last season, according to their record. But Jordan is Jordan, and Mike Brown is no Phil Jackson.
Another example of a two-man swing that brought a huge improvement is the Miami Heat. The arrival of Chris Bosh and LeBron James to Dwyane Wade’s Miami Heat, already a playoff team when the two arrived, only brought an 11 win improvement from the 2009-2010 season. The big change was in the Cleveland Cavaliers record, but that’s a bit painful for some people in Ohio. The Heat did reach the Finals that year, only to crumble against the Mavs. They regrouped and tweaked during the offseason and lockout, coming back to win the NBA title.
Lesson? The NBA record is a number. It gives you home advantage, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the best team, as both the Chicago Bulls and the San Antonio Spurs experienced last season. Even the Thunder had the better record than the Heat, not making the most of their home court advantage.
It’s about declaring that the Lakers are the best team in the NBA. Are they? They’re certainly, once again, the most intriguing show in the league, because of the star power, but not necessarily the actual quality. That usually comes out in the postseason, where the Lakers have fallen in the conference semifinal to the eventual finalists the last couple of seasons.
Metta World Peace’s explanation to the whole matter isn’t exactly scientific, when asked why the Lakers will be better than the Thunder, or any other team next season – I think people still have to go through the Lake Show. I think everything goes through the Lake Show. We had a bad season last year. If we don’t turn the ball over in a couple of games then we’re up 3-1 in that Oklahoma series, actually up 3-2, going back LA so with that said confidence remains.
I thought it was more a fact of the Lakers not being able to cope with the speed of the Thunder for an entire series, but it’s always easier minimizing your losses to one or two specific plays instead of blaming it on a larger issue. Despite the new additions and Jamison, who MWP praised quite a lot in the interview, we still don’t know if the Lakers can fix their shortcoming against the best team in the West.
And 73-9? No, they can’t. Even if they can, it’d be smarter to give up on a few games so some of the old bones, which are quite easily found on their roster, can get some rest before the playoffs begin.