2011-12 Record: 41-25, Pacific Division champions, eliminated in second round of NBA Playoffs by Oklahoma City Thunder
2012 NBA Draft: G Darius Johnson-Odom (Marquette, 55th overall pick, rights acquired from Dallas Mavericks), C Robert Sacre (Gonzaga, 60th overall pick)
Offseason Additions: G Chris Duhon (acquired from Orlando Magic), G Steve Nash (sign-and-trade with Phoenix Suns), G Jodie Meeks (terms unknown), F Antawn Jamison (1 year, $1.35 million), F Earl Clark (acquired from Orlando Magic), C Dwight Howard (acquired from Orlando Magic)
Offseason Losses: G Ramon Sessions (signed with Charlotte Bobcats), G Christian Eyenga (traded to Orlando Magic), F Josh McRoberts (traded to Orlando Magic), C Andrew Bynum (traded to Philadelphia 76ers)
Resigned: G Darius Morris (1 year, $962,000), F Devin Ebanks (1 year, $1.085 million), C Jordan Hill (2 years, $8 million)
Projected Starting Line-up: PG Steve Nash, SG Kobe Bryant, SF Metta World Peace, PF Pau Gasol, C Dwight Howard
OFFSEASON GRADE: A + +
I believe what the Los Angeles Lakers should do to celebrate the most successful offseason for any team since the Miami Heat of 2010 (Chris Bosh, Lebron James), is have General Manager Mitch Kupchak call a press conference, step in front of the microphone, utter the names “Steve Nash” and “Dwight Howard” and then just walk away with a Vince McMahon power strut.
The moves the Lakers made this summer to improve their roster have now dramatically changed the landscape of the Western Conference for this season and beyond.
After filtering through many possible destinations that included playing in Madison Square Garden for the Knicks or playing in his home country with the Toronto Raptors, 2 time league MVP Steve Nash made the decision to go to Hollywood, wear the purple and yellow and become a Laker. After completing a sign-and-trade with the Phoenix Suns, Nash is now under contract for the next 3 years for $24 million dollars.
Don’t let his age (38) and career mileage (16 years) fool you. Steve Nash is still in incredible shape after all these years and remains one of the elite point guards in the NBA to this day. He was only one of 2 guards in the league last season (Rajon Rondo) to average at least 10 assists (10.7) a game. Nash is clearly the best point guard Kobe Bryant has ever played with in his career, and he will do wonders for Bryant’s game in terms of handling the ball more often and allowing “the Black Mamba” to be more of a beneficiary rather than a facilitator. Both players need the ball in their hands to be effective, but in Nash’s case, he can allow Kobe Bryant to be more like Kobe Bryant if he’s running the offense, rather than vice-versa.
Did I also mention that “Superman” is now back in Los Angeles as well?
No, Shaquille O’Neal isn’t walking through the front door, but a former Orlando Magic center and arguably the most dominant, imposing big man in the sport (I guess that does sound like O’Neal, doesn’t it?) sure is. 6 time all-star and 3 time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard was traded to the Lakers this summer in a 4 team deal that also included the Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers. In the deal, the Lakers sent center Andrew Bynum to the Philadelphia 76ers, and reserves Josh McRoberts and Christian Eyenga to the Orlando Magic.
Giving up Andrew Bynum was a tough pill to swallow, as he was just coming off the best season of his young career in which he qualified and started for his first all-star team and put up averages of 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds (both career-highs). Thankfully, Dwight Howard presents an upgrade in every area Bynum excelled in. He’s a more efficient scorer in the paint (20.6 – 18.7), a better rebounder (14.5 – 11.8) and shot blocker (2.1 – 1.9). It’s not “night and day” numbers between Dwight and Andrew. The gap between the 2 players isn’t as far off as some may imagine, but it does seem to be the consensus around the league that Dwight Howard is in fact the better player.
The only downside that comes with acquiring Howard though is his recent back surgery that he had during the offseason that may keep him out of action opening night and possibly even longer. He also has the option to test free agency in the summer of 2013 and leave the Lakers, but if L.A becomes the championship threat everyone expects them to be, it’s going to be very difficult for Howard to ignore that and leave town.
As if the rich weren’t getting richer already, 14 year veteran Antawn Jamison has also signed with the Los Angeles Lakers under a 1 year, $1.35 minimum deal contract. Jamison averaged 17.2 points and 6.3 rebounds in 62 games for the Cleveland Cavaliers last season. He will more than likely come off the bench and be the teams 6th man (NBA Sixth Man of the Year in 2004) to start the year, but I could easily see him supplementing Metta World Peace at the 3 spot in the starting line-up somewhere down the road. It probably makes more sense though to have Jamison lead the teams second unit as its #1 scoring option.
It almost doesn’t seem fair that the Lakers were able to land a 2 time MVP, a 6 time Defensive Player of the Year and a former Sixth Man of the Year all in one summer.
Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard and Antawn Jamison.
It sure looks good on paper.
The expectations should be through the roof, and rightfully so. I will give a team like the Oklahoma City Thunder the respect they deserve for coming out of the West last season, but Kevin Durant and his teammates should be looking over their shoulders every chance they get.
A team with as much talent from top to bottom as the Lakers have will be too difficult to ignore. This isn’t the same team that fell in 5 games to OKC in the 2012 NBA Playoffs.
For the Western Conference and the NBA title picture in general, everything has now changed.
OTHER OFFSEASON RECAPS: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers
Christopher Walder is a sports blogger and lead editor for Sir Charles in Charge. You may follow him on Twitter @WalderSports