We aren’t going to see too many changes in rosters between now and the beginning of the NBA season. The Los Angeles Lakers, adding Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer and Julius Randle among others to the returning Kobe Bryant, might look better than they did last season, but it won’t be enough to get them into the playoffs.
It’s been quite a while since the Lakers last failed to make the postseason two years in a row. The last time it happened was in the mid 1970’s, and the Lakers quickly came back with Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to win five NBA titles in the 1980’s. This year won’t be the season in which a dynasty is born. If last year was the bottoming out after a few years of decline, this year will be a transition season to better learn who fits into whatever it is they’re trying to do.
Two things really crippled the Lakers in terms of getting better. Giving Kobe Bryant that huge contract instead of either letting him go or signing him to something that represents his current ability, not the one from the past (it’s not like he was underpaid in his career), and basing their free agency luring appeal on the fact that Kobe Bryant is someone stars still want to play with. The Lakers had cap space for one max contract and another big-time deal, but they botched that up, or to be more accurate weren’t that much of an attraction.
The team once again feels like bits and pieces they put together because that’s what they had left for them. Carlos Boozer was amnestied by the Chicago Bulls and is a good pick up considering the money he is making. Julius Randle should be a solid scorer with a limited potential. Jeremy Lin should do well at the point guard position if he’s given the opportunity to play like one, instead of being forced to watch Kobe Bryant trying to do everything on his own.
It’s not quite clear how the lineup will look like. Jordan Hill has been re-signed on an overpaying deal, and so has Nick Young, who seems like a good fit to be a sixth man. That should mean Wesley Johnson, one of the most unremarkable players at the small forward position, will start there. The Lakers aren’t likely to emulate the Pistons and go with a heavy frontcourt of Boozer, Hill and Randle at tip off.
Playoff? Not likely, even with a healthy team. The Spurs, Thunder, Warriors, Clippers, Rockets, Blazers, Mavericks, Grizzlies, Suns and Pelicans all look better. The Lakers won just 27 games last season, ravaged by injuries and other problems. Kobe Bryant can’t be counted out unless we actually see he’s no longer the guy he believes he is. And yet what’s the ceiling on this team? About 35-40 wins? That’s not enough to make the postseason in the West.
Lin, in the right roll, can blossom and bloom into a point guard that’s a joy to watch every night and will be able to make the guys around him very happy. But is he good enough to completely change the fate of a team? That’s doubtful, at least at this stage of his career, which has been filled with ups and downs, usually not something that he had any control over. This could be a great individual season for Lin, but postseason success might just have to wait at least one more year.