LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — After back-to-back miserable seasons, the Lakers have added the talent this off-season to come back as a potential playoff team.
5. Kobe Bryant, Nick Young and Lou Williams could be on the court at the same time.
We know Kobe Bryant prefers to shoot the ball more than the average player, but that is because the future NBA Hall of Famer has a career 45 percent shooting percentage to go along with a career-average of 25.4 points per game.
Although Bryant played only 35 games last season, he still averaged 20.4 field goal attempts per game.
Lakers fans also know about Nick Young and his trigger-happy shooting arm, as the forward averaged 11.3 FGA per game last season for the Lakers.
The team signed reigning Sixth Man of the Year Award winner Lou Williams in the off-season, and although he often comes off the bench, Williams is not shy to take his share of shots either. Last season for the Toronto Raptors, Williams averaged 11.6 FGA per game, which was the third-highest on his team, behind Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.
Last season, the Lakers averaged 80-85 shot attempts per game, and if you add up these three players’ FGA per game from last season, it comes out to be 43.3 FGA per game among Bryant, Williams and Young.
If the three keep the pace they shot at last year, they will make up over half the Lakers FGA this season.
With the high possibility of Williams, Bryant and Young being on the court together, it will be interesting to see how will they adjust to playing with multiple players who not only like to have the ball in their hands but also like to shoot the ball at an alarmingly high rate.
Expect to see some vintage “Black Mamba” glares when Young or Williams take one too many shots in a game this season.
Bryant is going to have to learn how to play with these guys, or these players are going to have to learn to defer to the elder Bryant more often than they have been used to in their careers.
4. Roy Hibbert has a lot to prove.
Roy Hibbert was a two-time All-Star and defensive force at one point for the Indiana Pacers before he seemed to fall off the wagon the past couple of seasons.
During the 2014 NBA playoffs, Hibbert went scoreless in consecutive games during the first round. He would go on to have two more scoreless games in the playoffs and set a record for the most scoreless playoff games by an All-Star, with four.
After the Pacers drafted center Myles Turner out of the University of Texas with their first round pick in the 2015 NBA draft, it was apparent that Hibbert was no longer in the future plans for the Pacers.
After Hibbert exercised his $15 million player option for the 2015-16 season, the Pacers General Manager Larry Bird traded Hibbert to the Lakers for a future second-round pick.
At one point, Hibbert was widely regarded as the best center in the NBA, as he helped lead the Pacers to back-to-back conference finals appearances in 2013 and 2014.
However, Hibbert seemed to have lost all confidence by the end of his tenure with the Pacers, as the 7-foot-2 center seemed to be hesitant to shoot the ball in almost any situation.
In what is a contract year for Hibbert, the former Georgetown product has a lot to prove and hopes to show fans that he can return to the dominant rim protector that he once was for the Pacers.
“Defense is something you can control. I pride myself on being one of the best rim protectors,” Hibbert said after being traded to the Lakers.
3. D’Angelo Russell is going to be special.
The Lakers used their second-overall draft pick in this years 2015 NBA draft on D’Angelo Russell, electing to choose the Ohio State point guard over Duke big man Jahliil Okafor, point guard Emmanuel Mudiay and Latvian mystery man Kristaps Porzingis.
The Lakers have not had that high a draft pick since they took Hall of Famer James Worthy with the first overall pick in the 1982 NBA draft.
In his only year at Ohio State, Russell averaged 19.3 PPG, 5.0 APG, 5.7 RPG and 1.6 SPG. He was selected as a member of the First-Team All-American Team, First-Team Big 10 and also named the Big 10 Freshman of the Year.
He showed great patience in his passing skills and did not seem to be phased by teams who double-teamed him or swarmed him with a press defense.
Russell showed incredible scoring ability throughout his one year at Ohio State and has the skills to be a successful combo-guard in the NBA.
With Bryant as a mentor, Russell is primed to breakout into one of the NBA’s young new superstars.
The left-handed Russell has drawn comparisons to Steph Curry and James Harden, as he has shown the ability to get the hoop or the free-throw line like Harden but also step back and shoot the long-distance shot like Curry.
Russell certainly struggled during the NBA’s Summer League; however, the experience he received was invaluable and should only contribute to his success as an NBA point guard.
He did turn the ball over at an alarmingly high rate during the Summer League but did not experience such issues while playing in a full season at Ohio State. The turnovers could be attributed to a mix of jitters, plus the rise in competition in the NBA level compared to the collegiate level.
2. This could be Kobe Bryant’s last season.
Bryant has given Los Angeles 19 seasons of stellar basketball, and the 2015-16 season could be his last.
He has won five championships as a Laker, not to mention he has been named an All-Star 17 times in his 19-year career.
Bryant won the NBA MVP Award in 2008 and is a two-time winner of the NBA Finals MVP Award (2009, 2010).
He is a two-time NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion, an 11-time All-NBA First Team member, a nine-time NBA All-Defensive Team member, a four-time NBA All-Star Game MVP, a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and is also the Lakers’ all-time leading scorer.
Bryant has put together an incredible resume, all while playing for the purple and gold, and is surely one of the greatest (if not the greatest) Lakers of all-time.
Before the recent injury troubles he experienced over the past two years, Bryant had never missed significant time in his NBA career.
He averaged as high as 35.4 PPG in a season (05-06) and was the last player to be named as a starter in the All-Star game, despite not starting a game for the Lakers before the All-Star game that same year (1997-1998).
Bryant has put together one of the best NBA careers we have ever seen in the most unique way possible. He is one of the fiercest competitors the sport has ever seen and has never been about making friends in the NBA.
His killer instinct is second to none, and his passion for winning has made him one of the most frustrating players to play with.
Countless former teammates have complained that he talks too much or he shoots too much, but his sole motive has always been and will always be being the best basketball player to ever live.
He strives to be the best every day, and in terms of effort, there might not be a player who is more hard-working than Bryant.READ MORE: Suspicious Vehicle Prompts Response From SWAT, Beverly Hills Police
Regardless of the results of the coming season, Bryant deserves your attention in what could be his final year in the NBA.
Bryant has not yet confirmed that this will be his final season, as he is not in the market for a “goodbye tour,” as he travels across the country this season for the Lakers.
He has been called many things over the course of his career, but one thing that no one can argue, is that Bryant is a proven winner.
Lakers fans have been privileged for nearly 20 years to watch a young Kobe Bean Bryant grow into a mature and seasoned veteran of the NBA, and the worst thing fans can do is to turn their backs on him now.
He is a stalwart of the game and will always be remembered as not only one of the greatest Lakers of all-time but also one of the best basketball players of all-time.
1. The Lakers CAN make the playoffs.
That’s correct. The Lakers CAN make the playoffs this year.
Let’s breakdown the Western Conference and the projected guaranteed playoff teams.
The Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers should all make the postseason, barring any major injuries or collapses.
After those six teams, the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference are somewhat up for grabs.
The Dallas Mavericks lost out on DeAndre Jordan and lost starting SG Monta Ellis and starting C Tyson Chandler to free agency. While they did add Wesley Matthews and Deron Williams, there is no certainty that the new additions will mesh with Dirk Nowitzki and absolutely no guarantee that the team will make the playoffs.
The team was the seven seed in the Western Conference last year, and as Dirk Nowitzki is now a year older, I am not sure that they added the necessary pieces around him to ensure a successful postseason campaign this year.
The New Orleans Pelicans were the eight seed in the playoffs last season, barely beating out the Thunder for the final playoff spot.
Led by Anthony Davis, the Pelicans were able to keep their roster intact, and contrary to the Mavericks, a year of experience will most likely help the Pelicans and their nucleus of young talent.
Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans all have postseason experience now, but they will have to adjust to a new coach in Alvin Gentry.
With the change in coaching regimes for the Pelicans, there is no guarantee that the team will be back in the playoffs this year. The team is an Anthony Davis injury away from being a lottery team, and Gentry will have to find a way to motivate his role players if he wants to lead the Pelicans to the playoffs.
The Portland Trail Blazers were the four-seed in the Western Conference Playoffs last year, but they experienced a massive overhaul this summer, losing their superstar forward LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez and swing-man Nicolas Batum.
The Blazers lost four starters and despite their extremely talented point guard Damian Lillard averaging 20 PPG for his career, it will not be enough for them to make the playoffs this year.
The other teams expected to contend for the final spots in the Western Conference playoffs are the Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz.
The Suns missed out on LaMarcus Aldridge but did add center Tyson Chandler to their team. However, after the trade of twin brother Marcus, Suns star forward Markieff Morris has requested a trade and says he does not want to be back in Phoenix.
The Timberwolves are loaded with young talent and are certainly going to be a fun team to watch, but the core of Andrew Wiggins, Karl Anthony-Towns, Zach LaVine and Shabazz Muhammed needs another year or two to mesh with one another.
Finally, the Jazz are one of the most exciting young teams in the NBA with their star center Rudy Gobert.
“The French Rejection” or the “Stifle Tower” made a name for himself last season blocking shots, and paired with young guards Trey Burke and Dante Exum, the Jazz were expected to make some noise this season,
However, when playing for the Australian National Team this summer, Exum tore his ACL and is expected to miss the NBA season.
That leaves the Lakers, Kings and Nuggets as the only Western Conference teams not mentioned thus far.
The Kings and their “innovative” owner Vivek Ranadive are always a mess, and their acquisition of Rajon Rondo sounds a lot better than it is.
Their cornerstone player, DeMarcus Cousins, has expressed his discontent with new Head Coach George Karl, and the two are already starting off on the wrong foot. With the attitude problems of Cousins and Rondo combined, I don’t expect the Kings to be in contention for a playoff spot.
The Nuggets will get Danilo Galinari back from injury this season, but after Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler and recently drafted Emmanual Mudiay, the Nuggets’ remaining roster is very thin.
That leaves the Lakers.
Bryant is in what could be his final year, and no one was more disgusted with how the past two seasons have gone for the Lakers than he was.
If he can remain healthy, which he has not been able to do for the past two years, the Lakers have a legitimate chance to compete for a playoff spot this season.
The additions of Hibbert and Williams were very impressive after the team struck out during their pitch to LaMarcus Aldridge.
Hibbert is a former All-Star and Williams is the reigning Sixth Man of the Year.
Hibbert at one poin was one of the best defensive centers in the NBA, and with the Lakers ranking 29th in the league last season in defense, Hibbert is exactly what the doctor ordered.
The big man is playing for a new contract this season, and if that isn’t enough motivation, he’ll likely hear plenty of advice from Bryant as well.
Williams is a proven scorer and joins a talented and loaded backcourt of new draftee Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Bryant.
Clarkson was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team last season and also had a stellar Summer League season.
The Lakers are also returning the seventh overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft, Julius Randle, who will give their front-court some needed depth after an abysmal year from Lakers big men last season.
In what could be Bryant’s last hurrah, the Lakers have the talent to make the playoffs; it is just a matter of will they mesh and play winning basketball under coach Byron Scott.
Everything hinges on Bryant, and while the team surrounding him may not have a Pau Gasol or a Shaquille O’Neal, it does have many young and talented players who can score, defend and give maximum effort day in and day out.MORE NEWS: UCLA Runs Past Cal 42-14 To Wrap Up Eight-Win Regular Season
Don’t be surprised if the Lakers sneak in the playoffs as the seven or eight seed in the Western Conference.