While the Los Angeles Lakers had a rather disappointing season last year, they are looking to come back strong. Despite losing Dwight Howard in free agency to the Houston Rockets, the Lakers are attempting to remain competitive enough to make a run with the pieces that are intact.
Any team that has a healthy Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash are expected to be relevant in the NBA. Add role players like Chris Kaman, Nick Young and Jordan Hill and you've got yourself a pretty nice looking squad.
Depth and athleticism were two big issues last year, and they seem to have resolved that with the free agents signings of Young, Wesley Johnson and former Laker Jordan Farmer. The chemistry was also an issue, but due to the departure of Howard there hopefully won't be as much drama next season. Kobe is clearly the leader of the team and all the players know that.
Without further ado, here are two bold predictions for the Lakers this season.
Pau Gasol Will Make the All-Star Team
The Spaniard has been tremendously successful since being traded to the Lakers. Gasol has helped bring two titles to Tinseltown in three finals appearances. However, the 7'0'' big man hasn't been an All-Star since the 2011 season.
Other than aging, part of the reason to Gasol's decline was the improvement of Andrew Bynyum and Howard coming to town. Now that both of them are no longer on the roster, Gasol can go back to being the anchor of the Lakers' offense in the post.
In the month of April 2013, Gasol averaged 17.5 points, 12.1 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 1.3 blocks per game where the Lakers won seven of their eight games. In other words, the production is still there.
With Kobe recovering from the Achilles injury, Gasol will have to go back as the dominant big man he once was. As long as he isn't misused by coach Mike D'Antoni, he should return to All-Star form.
Anyhow, due to the rapid improving big men in the Western conference, it might be difficult for the 33-year-old to make the All-Star team.
Blake Griffin and Howard will surely get voted in by the fans for the power forward and center position. Tim Duncan, Kevin Love and his brother Marc Gasol are possible candidates for the reserve spots.
While it may be difficult for Pau Gasol to make the All-Star team for the fifth time in his career, it is certainly a possibility if he improves his stats and the Lakers return to their winning ways with Gasol as their primary big man.
The Lakers Will Make a Trade at the Deadline
The Lakers are no strangers to trading their players, especially in the last few years. From trading Bynum for Howard, shipping five-time champion Derek Fisher to Houston, and almost trading away Gasol and Lamar Odom for Chris Paul before the NBA vetoed the trade, the Lakers will not hesitate to make a move if it upgrades the team.
Everyone on the roster can be traded at anytime except for Kobe. Since Kobe wants Pau to remain with the Lakers and he's in the final year of his contract, it is unlikely that they will trade him as well.
However, the storied franchise still may swap minor players such as Steve Blake. The 33-year-old is in the final year of his contract, so it shouldn't be too difficult to move him on a contender looking for a backup point guard. Farmar is another quality point guard for D'Antoni's system and if Blake gets traded, he will receive a lot more playing time.
While the Lakers may not trade one of their big-time players, they will likely attempt a minor trade to attain an impact player for the playoffs or a draft pick for the future.
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