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Lakers 2014-2015 season projections

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On the precipice of the 2014-2015 season, how many games does the SS&R crew believe the Lakers will win?

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We've done player by player previews, taken extensive looks at the defense and offense, picked apart coach Byron Scott's preliminary schemes and recapped every minute of preseason ball. Now, with the season right at our doorstep, the crew here at Silver Screen & Roll asks the important question: How many games will these 2014-2015 Los Angeles Lakers win?

James Lamar

30 wins is my ceiling for this Lakers team. Of course, adding talents such as Julius Randle, Jeremy Lin, and, chiefly, Kobe Bryant helps matters, seeing as last season's team was devoid of all things talented. But the West is still terrifying, and the Lakers have no real depth.

Losing Steve Nash for the season changes only so much, given his 67 appearances the two previous seasons, but it's an indictment on the Lakers' bare cupboard of options. Past Bryant, Lin, Randle, and Nick Young, there isn't much to revere. The effort will be there on defense, but the results will disappoint. The team will score points, but they won't be enough. Ultimately, the Lakers will finish out of the playoff chase again, hoping to make good on a potential top-five pick next June.

What Will Hold Them Back: As mentioned, the team's depth, and lack of overwhelming talent, will be its undoing. Every playoff team boasts at least two star-caliber players, and the Lakers are hoping their lone proven star (Bryant) can return to elite form after two career-threatening injuries.

Beyond that? You have Lin, Randle, Young, and Jordan Hill -- all of whom are viable contributors, but not by overcompensating with high-end roles. The Lakers could be a scrappy bunch, just as they were last year, but that's a far cry from the championship bravado Byron Scott has expressed since taking over. He believes 3's don't win titles, but numbers say otherwise. He thinks this team can win a championship, but the preseason did anything but console contrary opinions.

Simply put: the talent isn't there, and the Lakers must accept this before they're rebuilding much longer than originally planned.

Ben Rosales

The Lakers will win around 25 games this season. Put plainly, they lack the personnel to field an even remotely adequate defensive unit and so long as Byron Scott continues to defy modern NBA conventions of how an offense is supposed to be run, they'll be awful on the other end as well. Over the course of a season, a successful offense simply can't succeed on the strength of long twos, which the Lakers' sets seem designed to produce at every opportunity. Combine that with horrid spacing, both personnel- and self-inflicted, and you have a recipe for a truly miserable team.

There are perhaps some configurations of this bunch that could engender more success, such as playing Ed Davis more for defensive purposes -- or any reason, really: it's pretty clear that Davis is the team's second best player by a long shot at this point -- or consigning Carlos Boozer to the end of the bench in favor of Ryan Kelly to improve spacing, but that's contingent on Byron realizing his foibles and changing his ways. And given what we know from Bryon's career and how he's conducted himself so far, that's not really in the cards. Indeed, with an excellent pick-and-roll point guard (Lin), a superb roll man (Davis), and a handful of bigs who can either hit threes or spot-up from 20 feet or so (Kelly/Randle/Boozer), this team will pine for Mike D'Antoni's system, the irony of which should not be lost on anyone at this point.

The final nail in any projections of success this season is that the brutal opening schedule -- the team might not win five games by the end of November or even crack double-digit wins by New Year's -- probably compels the team to start dumping any fungible assets at the deadline. That means Lin, Hill, and others being dealt with young players and/or picks as the return, further downgrading what is already a slim talent pool. By the end of the year, the Lakers should be trotting out Randle, Clarkson, and Kelly at every opportunity to prepare for the future. Success this season will likely end up being defined by what assets they've collected for the future (read: get that top five pick) rather than any wins they collect, which should make the playoffs question rather moot.

The Great Mambino

As I see the team right now, I project that this Lakers team has a ceiling of 25 wins. Of course, this could change if the front office trades for an All-Star-caliber player like Rajon Rondo or Deron Williams, but projecting a season based on a speculative trade that may never happen is an exercise in futility. So, as it stands, I'm not sure this team is a) more talented than last year's or b) demonstrably better constructed.

While there are much flashier, sexier plot reasons for why this team won't be very good, the time-tested rationale is the most damning: a lack of defense.

The Lakers simply have too many players that are either net neutral or net negative defenders, and those players (because of the team's lack of depth) are going to get major minutes in almost any scenario. Kobe Bryant, Ryan Kelly and Carlos Boozer cannot defend their positions at this point in their respective careers, and expecting above average performances from rookies Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson might be asking too much right out of college. Jeremy Lin has solid metrics, sure, but I'm very curious to see what his defensive "value" is when he doesn't have Dwight Howard patrolling the paint behind him. Ed Davis and Jordan Hill are by far the team's best defenders, but because of the team's lack of floor spacing on offense, it feels as though coach Byron Scott may not play them together much.

Though it was only the preseason, the team seemed to be completely lost on defense, easily losing players on switches and without Davis on the floor, at a complete loss for paint protection. The Lakers lost 55 games last season largely based on the third worst defensive scheme in the league. How is this team better in that regard?

Quite honestly, I don't see how this team can win more than 25 games. They will have (arguably) one of the worst 5 to 10 defense, offenses and reserve corps in the league, as well as one of the 5 worst coaches in the league. What am I missing? I'll be rooting for this team, of course, but on the precipice of the 2014-2015 season, I just don't see how this isn't one of the very worst teams in the NBA.

Drew Garrison

Where are the Lakers heading after a franchise-worst 27-win season? Well, that win total should go up, if only marginally. Even if you consider Byron Scott a downgrade as a head coach, that Lakers team was bled out by injuries and still managed just under 30 wins. Kobe Bryant is back, Jeremy Lin is a definite upgrade at point guard, and they have many of the same components as last season. I'll go ahead and say they win 31 games this season, but just barely.

As a team this is a bad group. There's aged veterans, green rookies, and young players auditioning for their next pay day. The pieces aren't going to fit most of the time, but there's still enough talent to have a better season than whatever the heck it was they showed last time around. I have faith they hit the 30-win mark, as "crazy" as it may sound.

I personally wouldn't call winning three more games than last season crazy, but it won't be an easy path regardless. Things are going to have to go right, which hasn't been the case for a bit, but I think there are enough eggs that aren't cracked in the carton to make an omelet. That isn't saying much, but at least we'll be able to eat breakfast. Or something.

I'm as pessimistic/realistic/whatever about this season as any, but I think 31 wins is a real possibility. Does it matter whether they win a few extra games than last year? Record-wise not really, but for the purposes of the future of the franchise? Well, who knows. 31 wins would have been the eighth-worst record in the NBA last season, which is where the Cleveland Cavaliers ended the season, and they wound up with the first-overall pick of the 2014 NBA Draft. Lakers fans probably wouldn't mind that sort of outcome this season, even if Wiggins isn't on the other end of the 82-game gauntlet. We're splitting hairs debating four-to-five additional wins, when all that'll matter at that point is whether they swipe that top-five protected pick back from the Phoenix Suns.

Sabreena Merchant

This Laker season figures to be one of the most difficult to watch in recent memory. Ideally, a team this devoid of talent would play deep, and run and space the floor, but Byron Scott has made it clear that not only will this team be bad, but it will have no fun in the process. Furthermore, Kobe Bryant - the Lakers' present - and Julius Randle - the Lakers' future - don't make much sense in that kind of system. Like last year, there is some potential waiting to be mined from Xavier Henry, Ryan Kelly, and Wes Johnson. Newcomers Ed Davis and Wayne Ellington, as well as Jordan Clarkson, also still show promise. Unfortunately, Scott's inability to coax any real improvement from more talented youngins in Cleveland is troubling. Any hope for progress in the win total from the 2013-14 debacle likely rests on the shoulders of Bryant, and whatever motivation he can generate playing for a lottery team.

The Lakers could still win more than 27 games if they stay healthier than they did last season. However, the string of preseason injuries have already put a damper on that hope. Ultimately, it seems like this season will be best served developing the youngsters, to see if Randle can become another golden goose of a Laker lottery pick, or if Clarkson, Kelly, Ellington, Davis, or even Bobby Sacre can prove to be valuable pieces of a contending team at some point. I don't see this Laker team winning more games than last year's, especially in a ridiculously loaded Western Conference. The most interesting plot line of this season will be if the team will stubbornly commit to winning as many games as possible, or reject the grandiose expectations of the franchise and invest in its core for the future. I'd prefer the latter, especially if it means keeping a top-five pick, so the Lakers can start next season with a little more optimism.