Los Angeles Lakers 2012 Season Preview: The Predictions

We've done what we can this preseason to prepare you for what will undoubtedly be one of the craziest seasons on record in Lakers history. Compact schedule? Check. Insane trade rumors? Check. A roster that could legitimately contend for a trophy or miss the playoffs? Check. Questions at every position? Check. With that in mind, we looked at the offense, we looked at the defense, and we looked at all the players. Now it's time to put our reason to the test and let you all know what we think will happen.

After the jump, without further ado, the predictions of your SSR writing team.

Wondahbap

Wondah_medium

Predicted Record/Finish: 46-20 (3rd in West)
Predicted Post Season Finish: NBA Finals
Will the team make a major move during the season? Yes

Like most of our writers, I don't know what to make of these Lakers right now. I'm always optimistic about my favorite team, but sometimes my bias gets in the way. My gut tells me that this Lakers squad, as is, will be better than others expect but it will come with some frustrations along the way. I liked the Mike Brown hiring. Hindsight being 20/20, it made perfect sense to go the complete opposite route from Phil Jackson once a change was decided. I feel his defensive expertise will help carry a team that we know can play elite-level defense. Offensively, it might take some time to adjust to a new offense and new focus. Last season, the offense was never quite right, but for a stretch, because of defense they looked like they might run through the league.

What I'm anticipating is your typical San Antonio Spurs kind of season (save for last season). Not in style (although Brown has stated the offensive strategy will be similar to Duncan/Robinson Era Spurs), but more in the build-up to the Playoffs. They'll encounter some bumps along the road, not stressing best record so much, instead working into a peak in spring. It might take that long for the core to re-familiarize themselves and play comfortably in a new system with new teammates as well. I do expect Kobe to dial back on offense, but kick up a notch in defensive intensity. No more free-lancing. Bynum should have an expanded role on offense, which will allow Kobe to focus on what should be the Lakers' strength this season, defense. Because of the defense, they'll "surprise" some folks sticking a fork in them. The offense will come around.

Besides Kobe's and Bynum's roles, I expect Pau to have a bounce-back season, Devin Ebanks to delight us, Steve Blake to earn his money, Darius Morris to show real promise, Jason Kapono to eventually just watch from the bench, Metta World Peace to be in another uniform before the trade deadline, Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy to be good pick ups, but frustrating in man-up defending, and Derek Fisher to finally get laid down, then come through when it matter one last time. I'm picking them to finish 3rd in the West, and 2nd in the Pacific. They'll "shock" the World and return to the Finals. From there, I dunno yet.

Other predictions. The Thunder are going to murder the West in the regular season, and the Clips will finish 2nd. I also expect the Heat to run through the East. OKC, Miami, and Chicago are all comfortable and young. I'm picking Kevin Durant as MVP, LeBron as DPOY, Taj Gibson as 6th Man, Bynum as Most Improved, and OKC's Scott Brooks as Coach of the Year. Still, it's tough knowing what this team will ultimately look like when the Playoffs start. Even though I don't think Jim Buss wants to part ways with Bynum, I think if the deal is there, he has to take it. I was the clown who predicted (with extreme confidence) that Dwight would be in a Lakers uni by 12/12. I also felt that the Chris Paul trade was an attempt to keep Bynum. That failed and now Jimmy will have to pull the trigger on Dwight.

Actuarially Sound

Actuarially_sound_medium

Predicted Record/Finish: 43-23 (4th in West)
Predicted Post Season Finish: NBA Finals Loss
Will the team make a major move during the season? Yes

I am probably higher on this Lakers team than most. While I still have major concerns with the point guard position, I think the Lakers actually did quite well to address some of the issues that have plagued them over the last few seasons. They finally acquired a slew of solid shooters to provide the spacing needed to run the offense efficiently. They also brought in some athleticism to what was quickly becoming a plodding giant of a team.

I am not thrilled with the decision to essentially dump Odom for nothing. I really wish they could have tried to dangle Odom to another team in exchange for a solid point guard. Looking at the glass as half full however reveals an increased opportunity for Andrew Bynum to showcase his skills. Without the excellent play of Lamar Odom to back him up, I see more minutes and more of a scoring burden placed on the young big man. I think Bynum will take that big step this year to all-star status and will in fact be the starter for the West in the weekend showcase. It is this performance from Bynum that leads me to say that the Lakers will make a major trade.

I am expecting the Orlando Magic to struggle this year and by the trade deadline it will be clear that they are not a title contender. Worried about losing Dwight Howard for nothing, look for the Magic to give the Lakers a call and work some sort of deal built around Bynum for Howard. Orlando will continue to ask for Gasol to be included but they will have no leverage and the Lakers will force their hand and the deal will not include Gasol. The Lakers will thrive with a core of Kobe, Gasol, and Howard coupled with the numerous shooting threats. I think they will make it out of the West but will likely fall in the finals to a very good Bulls team that contains the perfect PG to exploit the Lakers at their weakest point.

How certain am I with this prediction? Less than 10%. I guess I really don't know what to expect this year. At least it will make the season exciting and fun to watch.

WildYams

Wild_medium

Predicted Record/Finish: 38-28 (4th in West)
Predicted Post Season Finish: Loss in 2nd round
Will the team make a major move during the season? Yes

I'll be surprised if I'm not the guy on the staff here who's most pessimistic about this season for the Lakers. I think we could very well see turmoil similar to what we saw with the Lakers during the last lockout-shortened season, when we had the Del Harris firing/Kurt Rambis experiment, the Eddie Jones/Elden Campbell for Glen Rice trade and the whole Rodman fiasco happen in the span of three months or so. That team was a very talented team (they didn't win 67 games and the championship the following season on accident), but the turmoil overwhelmed the talent in 1999 and the Lakers got swept out of the playoffs in the 2nd round by the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs.

This year's team is gonna have to try to learn a new system with new personnel all while having virtually zero practice time (they're gonna play on average more than every other day for the duration of the season - think about that), and there's almost surely gonna be moves of some kind being made here in the early going, simply as a result of the free agent period, training camp and preseason being crammed into less than a month. I do think in the end the Lakers will make the trade for Dwight Howard (Brook Lopez getting hurt seems to make this even more probable), and even though he might make the team more formidable (key word: might), it'll just be too many new and unknown factors and moving parts for the Lakers to expect any kind of chemistry or consistency which is needed to win in the playoffs. I think the Lakers' talent might get them past an overmatched first round opponent, but they'll quickly run into another team that'll have that requisite chemistry which will upend the Lakers.

It's OK though, out of so much turmoil and confusion some great things can emerge in the future. After all, look how the Lakers followed up the last tumultuous lockout-shortened season.

Saurav. A. Das

Saurav_medium

Predicted Record/Finish: 42-24 (2nd in West)
Predicted Post Season Finish: No clue
Will the team make a major move during the season? I damn well hope so

At no time in recent memory has so little been predictable about the Lakers. The team's core has been shaken up with the trade of Odom; front office has swung and (apparently) missed on a major trade, a rare occurrence in Laker land; and questions about ownership are growing all the more prevalent with Jim Buss' increased role combined with Jerry's health issues. Assuming an effort level characteristic of the Lakers of the past few years, the future looks mediocre.

There is the possibility the Lakers finally get it together for a full season in terms of effort and cohesion, but to be honest I doubt it. In between Kobe's injury, Bynum missing the first four games, and the massive turnover in terms of roster and coaching staff (of debatable benefit), there seems to be only a fool's hope that the Lakers put it all together to regain dominance. Similarly, with Paul having been traded to the Clippers and the Magic desperately trying to cling on to Dwight, prospects of a blockbuster trade are simultaneously failing.

The Lakers' period of dominance and glory appears to be fading, slipping into a temporary dormancy. It is unavoidable, no team can be permanently dominant, rebuilding is a fact of life. Only a fools' hope remains that the Lakers aren't quite done yet. But sometimes, a fool's hope is all one needs.

Ben R.

Ben_medium

Predicted Record/Finish: 42-24 (3rd in West)
Predicted Post Season Finish: Conference Finals Loss
Will the team make a major move during the season? Yes

Uncertainty is really the only proper way to describe the Lakers' current circumstances. At the point and the three, there are major questions of how a motley bunch of aging veterans and untested youth emerges into a solid rotation. Will Steve Blake rebound from a disastrous year in the triangle and perform well a more traditional offense? How will Darius Morris handle some real regular season playing time? Or Devin Ebanks for that matter? Is the fact Ebanks beat both Matt Barnes and Metta World Peace for the starting gig a worrying sign of their decline and overall lack of utility or simply an acknowledgment of Ebanks' potential? And of course, how will Derek Fisher deal with an offense highly unsuited for a glorified two guard and a coach who will call him out on his defensive limitations? The Lakers will have to adapt to Mike Brown's new system that definitely can work with this group of players on both sides of the floor but will require time to implement, which is hard to come by in a shortened season. Perhaps most of all, however, the Lakers' prospects will fall on the massive shoulders of Andrew Bynum, and how ready he is for a significant role. So much of what the Lakers do on both ends of the floor is predicated on him being a large, if not dominating, force and if there was ever a time for him to live up to his billing, it is now. Moreover, the better he plays, the more probable it is that a Dwight Howard trade doesn't leave the Lakers with a gutted roster going forward.

Despite the numerous issues above, there certainly still remains reason for optimism. For all the insanity of the offseason, the Lakers at least made a move to shore up their mediocre outside shooting, and expect internal improvement from Steve Blake and Devin Ebanks. This should open things up for what is still one of the best front lines in basketball in Bynum and Pau Gasol, even without Lamar Odom. The younger end of the Lakers' rotation has shown some interesting signs of at least being serviceable players, and they should help address the athleticism deficit the team has had in the past. The first two months will likely be a rocky affair with intermittent spots of solid play intermixed with the haphazard and disorderly, but I think the Lakers finish off the season with a nice head of momentum garnered from the team clicking on both sides of the floor and Kupchak pulling something out of his hat at the trade deadline, whether for Howard or via the Odom TPE. And once they get to the playoffs, who knows? As Chris has noted, this is still a very good roster, but the margin for error, the perpetual slacking against mediocre teams even in the playoffs, has decreased to a razor thin margin. Solid play from all quarters will be required for this team to make some noise, but at the same time, for once in a long time, motivation won't be in short supply for this team. Between a coach who will drive them every day and a desire to correct what went wrong last season, this team will at least give it everything it has for that seventeenth banner.

DexterFishmore

Dexter_medium

Predicted Record/Finish: 40-26 (3rd in West)
Predicted Post Season Finish: NBA Finals Loss
Will the team make a major move during the season? Yes

Honestly, I have almost no idea where this season is headed. There are so many strange vibes emanating from the organization right now. The depth chart is lumpy and burdened with too much deadweight. I can't tell how much faith the new coaching staff deserves. Even Mitch Kupchak seems a step behind the market. (I'm sorry, but that Lamar Odom trade was just weird, and I'm not at all convinced the resulting trade exception will ever be put to good use.) Anyone predicting they could miss the playoffs is being silly or idiotic, but the floor is as low as it's been since the pre-Gasol era. A first-round playoff loss is very possible.

At the same time, I look at the roster and see a lot of easily imaginable paths to improvement. Eventually the point-guard position will get sorted out: either Steve Blake will have a bounceback year or Darius Morris will grow into a prominent role. Same with the three slot. It's going to take time to sort through how to divide minutes among Devin Ebanks, Matt Barnes and Metta World Peace, but there's talent in that group. And I like both McBobs and Troy Murphy. If Bynum stays healthy and unsuspended (I know, I know) the front court could be just as good as it was last season. If there's one thing I'm confident about, it's that the Lakers will be better at the end of the regular season than they are today.

C.A. Clark

Me_medium

Predicted Record/Finish: 37-29 (6th in West)
Predicted Post Season Finish: 1st round Loss
Will the team make a major move during the season? Yes

There are so, so many ways this season can go for the Los Angeles Lakers. Despite the loss of Lamar Odom, they still have supreme talent, though they lack any kind of depth around that talent. They are a year removed from having strong chemistry, but are much less removed from a year in which their chemistry was found lacking, and now they have lost their glue guy. They were swept out of last year's playoffs in the 2nd round and did not address their biggest weaknesses, but that ignominious ending might bring out their prideful best. So many questions, so many possible answers. There's no way to look at it all and come to any kind of logical conclusion. Logic left the building a long time ago.

So my feelings about this season, and my predictions for how it will go, are rooted entirely in history. History tells us that the Lakers rarely spin their wheels. They are constantly in ascension, or crashing down as they reinvent themselves for the next climb. A decent regular season, combined with a 3 or 4 seed and a trip to the 2nd or 3rd round ... that's virtually identical to last season's run. I just don't see it.

You take a look at my predictions, and they look pretty depressing. It's not nearly as gloomy as it appears. I think the Lakers will struggle in the regular season because they don't have the depth to handle the compact nature of this year's schedule. I think they will be on the bottom end of the WC Playoff bracket because the teams which will finish ahead of them are better equipped for the regular season. And I think the Lakers will turn another history lesson, that of the 8th seeded New York Knicks making the NBA Finals the last time a compact lockout shortened season took place, as guidance that killing themselves for playoff position isn't worth it. I think one of the bigs will pick up an injury that will keep him out for a few weeks, and I think the Lakers will conserve energy with the intent of hitting the playoffs with some momentum and hoping for the 1st round upset. By then, Dwight Howard will be in Los Angeles, but the Lakers will be forced to give up enough that the depth surrounding Dwight and Kobe will fail them. They will enter the playoffs with the chance to "upset" a team in the first round, just like NY did all those years ago. It would not surprise me in the least if the plan is successful, if the Lakers end up making a deep playoff run even from a low seed starting point. But in the end, I think a lack of familiarity, a lack of cohesiveness, and a lack of health will make the team come up just short.

The only expectation I have of the season is that the Lakers will climb, or the Lakers will fall. I don't expect the difference between the two to be very large. But the Lakers' margin for error is razor thin, and I don't think this team can walk the tight rope this year.

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