Season Predictions

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 17: The Los Angeles Lakers huddle before taking on the Boston Celtics in Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 17, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

It's time to put our cards on the table, hombres. We've previewed the living hell out of this new season from every angle we could think of. All that's left is to answer the last, and only, question that truly matters about the 2010-11 Los Angeles Lakers, the one issue that will define success or failure for the franchise and its fans....

Will Hot Rod Hundley have to fill in for Stu Lantz at some point?!?

Wait, sorry. That's not right. It's just - you know how I am when it comes to ol' Hot Rod. I just... I really miss him sometimes. But OK, the question I should have posed is....

Will the Lakers win another championship this season?

That's it. That's the essence of life in Lakerdom these days. It's a binary proposition brutal in its simplicity.

Per longstanding Silver Screen and Roll tradition (in other words, we did it last year), we've collected the bottom-line predictions of each of our authors and are posting them on your computer screen for posterity. Read and enjoy and/or mock them after the cut. And naturally, we'd like to hear what you think. Will the season ahead end in heartbreak? Or in glorious, joyful burning and looting outside Staples Center? Let your voice ring out!

Gil Meriken

Lakers' Regular-Season Record: 54-28

Will the Lakers reach the NBA Finals? Yes

Who will be their opponent in the NBA Finals? Orlando Magic

Will the Lakers win the title? Yes

The Lakers will coast through the regular season and do just enough to garner the number one or two seed in the West, bolstered by the knowledge that they can defeat anyone in the West with or without home-court advantage. Meanwhile, in the East, Dwyane Wade's Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics will waste all their energy on each other in an epic conference semifinals, with the winner of that series being served on a platter to a rested Orlando Magic and Dwight Howard. The Magic give a valiant effort behind the technical genius of Stan Van Gundy, but Howard's failure to make free throws ultimately loses the series for them in six games. The Lakers win the title again, Ron Artest and Steve Blake record a rap single featuring Rihanna called "Love Dem Rings" to celebrate, and Pat Riley is consoled only by the fact that he owns the trademark for the phrase "three-peat."

Wondahbap

Lakers' Regular-Season Record: 62-20

Will the Lakers reach the NBA Finals? Yes

Who will be their opponent in the NBA Finals? Boston Celtics

Will the Lakers win the title? Yes

Let's face it: last season the Lakers backed into home-court advantage in the Finals and won the title in large part due to having Games Six and Seven at Staples Center. They know how important it was to have the two most important games of the season at home. They won't be so lucky this season. Fifty-seven wins will not get them HCA. Miami, Orlando and even Boston will be gunning for the top seed as well. Games Six and Seven were that important. So don't listen to clichés of how the Lakers and Celtics only proved how little the regular season matters. It matters to the teams who know they should be in the Finals. None of those teams can afford to pace themselves.

Still, I expect the Lakers to do their best balancing act of keeping guys healthy, while still gunning for the number-one seed. They will return to the Finals, hopefully intact; I'm just not sure who it will be against. It could be Boston, or it could be Orlando. I'm not sold on Miami yet. They just might earn the best record in the NBA, but not one good big man plays on their roster. Chris Bosh doesn't count in my book because he can't play Dwight, and I think Boston would swallow softie Bosh whole, or at least give him a lesson Pau had to learn the hard way. Zydrunas Ilgauskas is finished, and Joel Anthony is Joel Anthony. So even after LeBron gets the help his excuse-makers say he never had, expect the regular-season king to have another elbow inflammation flare up. Size matters, and quality size matter even more and Miami doesn't have much, if any.

What will be the deciding factor is just how much Dwight improved this summer. If he was able to get down just one or two of the Dream's devastating moves (or any move at all), it's over in the East, and pencil the Magic in to lose in the rematch of the 2009 Finals. It will all depend on Dwight's ability to overcome Kendrick Perkins and company. If Dwight comes back the same guy? Rubber match: Celtics vs. Lakers. Three-peat.

Dexter Fishmore

Lakers' Regular-Season Record: 60-22

Will the Lakers reach the NBA Finals? Yes

Who will be their opponent in the NBA Finals? Miami Heat

Will the Lakers win the title? Yes

I'm concerned about the Lakers' advancing age and how Andrew Bynum simply will not play a full season no matter how much I beg for it. I'm also concerned that there are three other teams in the league that look worthy and capable of winning a championship. But you know what? All three of those other teams are in the East, and in the end the Lakers only have to get through one of them. With a low degree of confidence, I'm picking the Heat to emerge from that side of the bracket. With a higher degree of confidence, I'm picking the Lakers to get past them for banner numero 17.

No team in the NBA can match the Lakers' combination of top-line talent, bench depth (for once!), coaching acumen and all-around organizational smarts. There will be lulls in effort during the regular season, as usual. Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher will do various things to drive us nuts. Sasha Vujacic will induce a facepalm or nine. Come May and June, though, the Lakers will once again bring the heavy thunder. A part of us will wonder where that energy was hiding for six months, but a bigger part of us won't really care, because we'll be too busy toasting another championship.

(And no: at no point will Hot Rod have to fill in for Stu.)

C.A. Clark

Lakers' Regular-Season Record: 64-18

Will the Lakers reach the NBA Finals? Yes

Who will be their opponent in the NBA Finals? Miami Heat

Will the Lakers win the title? Yes

I expect the Lakers to improve their performance over last year's regular season. Look at their record from last season, and consider how many factors went wrong in order for them to play that poorly. Plenty of missed games in the Lakers' frontcourt, plenty of games which should have been missed for Kobe, bad to mediocre seasons from Fisher and the bench, and a poor offensive showing for Artest. All of those things could happen again, and many of those things seem likely to happen again, but there are too many signs pointing to improvement (the bench, Artest on offense) and increased depth that I think 60 wins is the minimum benchmark for the team.

I have no idea who's coming out of the East. I picked Miami because I had to pick somebody, but so much mystery remains about the sizable question marks behind their extremely talented top three. They have severe matchup disadvantages against both the Celtics and Magic, but LeBron and D-Wade cause severe matchup advantages in their favor. In the end, however, I think the Lakers have the edge on everybody. We've seen what they can do to Orlando and Boston, and against the Heat, they have the size to take advantage of Miami inside and a slew of strong perimeter defenders (Kobe, Artest, Barnes, even Ebanks if needed) to throw at LeBron and D-Wade. The Lakers match up favorable with anybody from the East, and remain miles ahead of everybody in the West.

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