With the off-season additions of Chris Kaman, Nick Young, Jordan Farmar and Wesley Johnson, the Lakers are attempting to stay relevant in the Western Conference. These new additions will add more depth and athleticism to the team- two things the Lakers desperately lacked last season.
The squad currently has a roster composed of 12 players, excluding unsigned draft pick Ryan Kelly. While Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and a healthy Kobe Bryant are surly going to start, the other two spots are up for grabs. Here are the predicted starting line-up and stat projections for each L.A. Lakers starter next season.
Point Guard: Steve Nash
Has father time finally caught up with the former two-time MVP? While he certainly isn’t the player he once was, the pass-first point guard still remains an effective player.
The 39-year-old had what most consider a down year. Despite his assist numbers dropping from 10.7 to 6.7, Nash was almost part of the 50-40-90 club once more.
Because of the departure of Dwight, expect the 6'3" point guard to be more involved in the offense. Nash ranked second among point guards in true shooting percentage, which means he should be more aggressive when looking for his shot.
While Kobe will still remain as the team’s primary ball handler, expect Nash to have the opportunity to set his team-mates up more often, especially with two athletic wing players in Young and Johnson that can run the floor.
Projected Stats: 12 points, 8 assists, 2 rebounds
Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant
Although the Black Mamba suffered an Achilles injury late last season, don’t expect Kobe to slow down any time soon. The 35-year-old is reportedly making progress with his rehab, and aims to make a return on opening night.
After starting the season off with a 15-21 record, the 6-foot-6 guard was determined to make the playoffs. Despite the team’s overall lack of success, Kobe is coming off a season which he averaged 27 points, six rebounds and a career high six assists.
Bryant is motivated to come back strong and attempt to make a push with the pieces that are intact. Expect to see a similar season statistically speaking for Kobe.
Projected Stats: 25 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds
Small Forward: Nick Young
While Nick Young’s style of play may seem better suited off the bench because of his ability to light it up in a hurry while taking inefficient shots, the 28-year-old won’t be taking many low percentage shots next season.
Though many presume Johnson will start because of his potential to be a decent two-way player, he doesn’t have the shooting ability that Young does.
Furthermore, limiting the forward’s isolation attempts will not be an issue. Guys like Kobe and Gasol will command double teams, which will give Young open shots.
Swaggy P will also have to adjust to playing off his teammates more often, and that shouldn’t be a problem considering the fact that he will have excellent play-makers in Nash and Gasol by his side.
The California native will earn his fair share of minutes next season, and he is expected to score the ball efficiently as well as play solid D.
Projected Stats: 13 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist
Power Forward: Jordan Hill
The former Arizona Wildcat brings three things to the table: Defense, rebounding and toughness.
The Lakers were 22nd in points allowed with 101 per game, and L.A. gave up the 19th-most offensive rebounds last year.
That’s where Hill comes in. The 26-year-old averaged an astonishing 13 boards per 36 minutes, which was more efficient than Howard’s.
Hill will compliment Gasol very well with his high energy play and his improving mid-range jump shot. According to Dave McMenamin, Hill told ESPNLosAngeles.com that "He (D'Antoni) talked about what I need to work on for this coming summer…My jump shot — he definitely wanted me to work on my outside jumper."
Moreover, while Kaman and Gasol will also receive a lot of minutes together, starting the game with Hill and Gasol could get the Spaniard into an early rhythm by giving him more room to operate in the post.
The 6'10" big man is anticipated to stay healthy enough to register starter’s minutes, and bring energy on both ends of the floor every game.
Projected Stats: 8 points, 9 rebounds, 1 block
Center: Pau Gasol
Even though the Spaniard played most of his career in L.A. as a power forward, Gasol’s best position remains playing center.
As we saw last season with Howard, Gasol isn’t fit to play outside the post area as a stretch-four. He will be much more efficient playing down-low, which will allow him to score on easy opportunities and showcase his excellent play-making skills.
Since joining the Lakers, Gasol has been much better when playing the 5. The 33-year-old averaged a PER of 24.2 per 48 minutes at center over the last five seasons.
Also, Kaman and Gasol fit very well together because of their versatility to play inside-out, as opposed to Howard who clogged the paint.
The 7-foot big man is looking to return to his old days with L.A. where he was a force to reckon with down low. Look for Gasol to have a much better season than last year.
Projected Stats: 17 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists
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