Team Name: Los Angeles Lakers
Last Year's Record: 27-55
Key Losses: Pau Gasol, Mike D'Antoni, Jodie Meeks
Key Additions: Jeremy Lin, Julius Randle, Carlos Boozer
1. What Significant Moves were made during the off-season?
There were two standout moves from the Lakers' summer. The first was drafting Julius Randle with the seventh-overall pick. Randle is the first stab at injecting young, draft-lottery talent into the Lakers in years, and represents what many hope is the future of the franchise's power forward. He's a player with NBA-ready talents that should translate early in his career.
The other was bringing Byron Scott in as head coach. Scott represents many things for Los Angeles, but what will matter most during his tenure is if he can bring success back to the Lakers. His ties to the purple and gold make him an easy sell to fans, but in the end results are what matter. If the Lakers struggle to look like a team turning the page for a brighter future, he may find his seat getting hot early into the four-year contract he signed this off-season.
Preaching defense and a tough, grind-out offense is one thing, but the proof will ultimately be in the pudding.
2. What are the team's biggest strengths?
The Lakers biggest strength? It's hard to say for now, but there are two possible answers to this.
The first is in their big man rotation of Ed Davis and Jordan Hill. Both players will be expected to anchor the defense, and should have the physical tools to do so. They're both hustle players who aren't going to weight the entire concept of team defense down as Pau Gasol had for the last few seasons.
The other possible area Los Angeles is strongest the shooting guard rotation of Kobe Bryant and Nick Young. The duo will account for a huge chunk of the offense, and should provide a great one-two punch in the wings.
3. What are the team's biggest weaknesses?
Defense. Byron Scott's focus has been overhauling the teams defense, but without the personnel to make it happen, it's hard to imagine the Lakers suddenly having an above average defense. Los Angeles allowed 110.6 points per 100 possessions last season, according to Basketball-Reference, and have a long way to go to improve this area as a team.
It's not easy for a horrible defensive team to become not-so-horrible, especially with a new coach and teammates to work with. There's no single player on the Lakers' roster that can be considered a bonafide "stopper" and you can almost cover your eyes and point your finger in any direction to find a player most would consider a poor defender.
The Lakers are going to get scored on. A bunch.
4. What are the goals for this team?
How do you place goals for a team without much of a chance at a title, little control over their 2015 first-round draft pick, and veteran players who will want to compete, not float?
Ultimately it seems like this Lakers team's primary goal is to be competitive and improve as a unit. That may not necessarily mean the playoffs are where their eyes should be set, but Scott has to prove he can build momentum for the franchise going forward. Add that with Kobe Bryant's drive and desire for another championship ring, and it's clear why competing is one of the top goals for the Lakers heading into the season.
A great secondary goal is developing Julius Randle. He's a beacon of light for a team devoid of youthful talent, and can be a part of a new foundation going forward. Randle is going to need to prove himself quickly in Los Angeles, and while fans may allow him to experience growing pains through his first season, he'll have to use his rookie season as a way to make sure he's ready to deliver in years two and three. He'll be allowed time to learn, but how much?
If all else fails and this team really is as bad as some expect it to be, finding a way to bring home their '15 first-rounder from the Phoenix Suns may be the outside goal. It's top-five protected, and while the Lakers might be bad, how bad would they have to be to have their pick returned? If it's going to be another horrendous season, a pick for their troubles could make it a worthwhile exercise.
5. What does Kobe Bryant have left?
He's got more fingers left that itch for rings, for starters.
Kobe Bryant's return to the NBA should be celebrated. He's still one of the most entertaining players to watch -- his baseline turnaround is timeless -- and there's not much time left with one of the greatest players of the last 20 years. Cherish it while you can.
So far Kobe's looked pretty good through preseason. His ability to hit mid-range jumpers no matter the angle and defensive pressure is a marvel to witness, and he'll probably find himself in position to facilitate the offense as well. It's been a long road for the Black Mamba since he tore his Achilles at the end of the '12-13 season, but he's back. We'll know more about what's left in the tank as the season progresses.