The time has finally arrived my friends: the 2015-2016 season is here! And of course with that, comes final prediction time.
The Los Angeles Lakers, entering yet another rebuilding year, haven't had their season pegged too optimistically by the Las Vegas odds makers. Depending on where you look, the Lake Show's over/under for wins stands at 29.5 -- a win total that would make this one of the very worst teams in franchise history. Yikes.
If you were a betting man or woman (which none of us are, obviously), which would you take? What's the one most prevailing reason?
Tom Fehr: Under. The Lakers are going to be really really bad. I hope I'm wrong, but I don't expect the young guys to be very good right away, Kobe is probably going to continue struggling, the team as a whole is going to be terrible at defense, and Byron Scott, who is maybe the worst coach in the NBA, is in charge. It wouldn't surprise me if they got to 30 wins, but It's more likely they'll be in the 20s than the 30s to me.
Harrison Faigen: Under. I think this team is relying too much on youth to count on 30+ wins. Their likely starting point guard is a 19-year old who is still learning on the job. Julius Randle will need continuing time to develop, and Jordan Clarkson will have to continue to grow into his new role off the ball. The defense ranked 27th in efficiency among NBA teams during the preseason despite a 43 point drubbing of Maccabi Haifa. The team is on the right track, but there is still work to be done.
Chinmay Vaidya: Over. The Lakers have more scoring on the second unit and the rookies are talented enough to adjust quickly to the NBA game. Randle will be a solid post scorer and Russell's passing will get the Lakers better shots. Roy Hibbert will significantly help a defense that was 29th in opponent points allowed and opponent FG%.
Sabreena Merchant: Under. DUH. If the Lakers were in the East, this would be a definite consideration, but in the comically loaded West, it's hard to see where the wins will come from. I could see Byron Scott playing the vets a little bit more in crunch time situations to try to boost the win total and entice potential free agents in the summer of 2016, especially since there is little incentive to tank with only a top-3 protected pick. However, I don't think the Lakers will be in striking distance in the fourth quarter very often, so the best bet is to play the rookies/sophomores as much as possible, which means losses will be the norm for the third straight season.
Drew Garrison: If I were a betting man I'd take the over -- I will not confirm or deny I immediately put a few calls in to family members who are more interested in these kinds of numbers to express my confidence in this as soon as I saw the odds here. I know the Lakers are going to struggle, but is this team not at least 8.5 games better than last year? Are they not 2.5 games better than the '13-14 squad? I think they end up close to this mark, and I'd peg them at 32 because of upgrades across their veteran depth and advancements with their young talent.
Ben Rosales: I'd take the under. The team will be significantly more fun this year, but by the same token, they're going to have an awfully hard time turning that excitement into actual wins. Barring Anthony Brown or Larry Nance playing their way into the rotation and being far more competent on perimeter defense than rookies have any right to, the team has zero able defenders on the perimeter to help out Roy Hibbert's admittedly stellar interior defense, limiting the impact the latter can have on the Lakers' overall defense. Combine this with Byron Scott's system and unwillingness to do away with the stolid and confining Princeton sets in favor of just about anything else and you have a team that's going to struggle every night. All this isn't to discount the team's future core, but the first year of the proverbial future will be a rough one.
The CDP: Under. There's a lot to look forward to this season with this Lakers team - a ton of developing young talent, the return of Metta World Peace, and some stabilizing veterans in the locker room - but I don't expect it to translate into wins right away. This team has to play 50 games in the West, a murderer's row of loaded playoff contenders, where wins should be hard to come by. I'm also hoping that Byron realizes that is job security is tied to player development, meaning that he needs to play the young guys as much as possible instead of leaning on the vets for a few `extra W's.
Anthony Irwin: I'm going to buck the trend here and go with the over. It won't be by much at all, but I'm oddly high on how this team came together. Predicting wins and losses in a league that features several serious injuries annually doesn't make much sense, so I may as well be optimistic about the team I'm watching.
Jameson Miller: Over—but just barely. Let's not go nuts, the Lakers will still likely be pretty bad, and they still won't sniff the playoffs—primarily because their best players veer too far to opposite poles of the age spectrum, leaving a middle ground populated by guys who aren't quite good enough to stand as the kind of difference makers that can facilitate any kind of quantum leap in the standings. Also defense. Any D-E-F-E-N-S-E chants at Staples Center this year will likely have an upward inflection on the end, as in, Defense? Anyone other than Roy? Anyone?
Ryan Kelapire: I'll take the over, but barely. For that to happen though, they need to stay relatively healthy and I'm also expecting that Roy Hibbert can make the defense respectable at times. The Lakers have a plethora of scorers/playmakers, and if Hibbert can make the impact I am expecting him to, the Lakers could be in a lot of close games and ultimately win a decent share of them. If you remember, despite the tank being in full force last season, the Lakers were in a ton of close games last year. Basically, I'm assuming that the added talent and (hopefully) Kobe's improved health should have them on the winning end of a few more of those this year.
Ultimately, where do you think the win total sits?
Tom Fehr: If I had to project a win total, I would guess it falls somewhere in the 25-27 range.
Harrison Faigen: I could see scenarios where the team wins 30+ games, but that is ultimately a pipe dream and the team will probably be closer to 25-28.
Chinmay Vaidya: The Lakers will win between 32-35 games. The team is still going to be bad, but there will be plenty of good signs throughout the season.
Sabreena Merchant: It's possible that the Lakers, although they have a really interesting young core, could be the worst team in this conference, and that will result in about 25 wins.
Ben Rosales: About 28 wins or so. This team is clearly better than last year's team by leaps and bounds, but it takes an awful lot to imagine that resulting in a double-digit win increase.
The CDP: I do think that this team is better (and hopefully healthier) that last year's edition, so a mid-to-high twenties win total wouldn't surprise me. Ultimately, the measure of Laker progress will be an exciting young team with hope for the future to draw free agents, not wins this season. 26 wins.
Anthony Irwin: Again, predicting wins and losses in this league is essentially a crap shoot - I can't emphasize this enough. If the Lakers stay healthy and the young guys aren't completely useless, I could see the win total hitting right about 30-31 games.
Jameson Miller: 31. There's a potentially offensive saying out there about farm animals and lipstick but I won't have anyone talking about our Lakers that way dammit. Really though, just having NBA-caliber bodies available, a real, season-long commitment to the blue chippers and (fingers crossed) a mostly healthy season from Kobe should make for an infinitely more watchable team, while tacking on a few extra W's along the way.
Ryan Kelapire: 30-32. Which, all things considered, would be a great season for the Lakers.