Enemy Lines: A rival scout sizes up the Lakers
2012-13 Record: 45-37; lost to Spurs in Western Conference first round
Coach: Mike D'Antoni (second season with Lakers)
Losing Dwight Howard is going to make it easier for coach Mike D'Antoni to run his system. He wants to space the floor and shoot threes, and he wants to run. To have two bigs in Pau Gasol and Howard just doesn't work.
With Howard gone, Gasol can play knowing that he is not in a battle for minutes and touches. They have to use all of his skills as a post player, shooter, passer and screener who can roll down the middle and finish. D'Antoni has never adjusted his system much on any team, but if you don't throw the ball in to Pau in the post, you are wasting his time, and you should be fired. As long as Kobe Bryant is out, D'Antoni has a roster of average players to go with Gasol and an aging Steve Nash. It would be ridiculous if D'Antoni didn't use Gasol.
They lose something defensively without Howard, but let's face it, D'Antoni doesn't coach defense. It's a "system" where D'Antoni tells these guys to just go out and defend. They don't learn anything new with him. They defend how they are used to defending, how they are taught by other coaches. They are going to hurt for shot blocking without Howard, but over the years D'Antoni's best defense was get the ball out of the basket and push it. They want you to take quick shots so they can outrebound and outrun you.
Without Kobe, they will run a lot of pick-and-rolls with Steve Nash. They are going to plant Jodie Meeks and Nick Young around the arc and have them ready to launch threes as Nash works off the screen. Then when Kobe gets back, he will pick points during the game to play isolation.
With the Achilles tendon injury hurting his explosiveness, Kobe will probably play a lot out of the post. He has an arsenal in the post. He has the turnaround jumper, he will fake and use footwork to get around you and he's always had that Euro step that most guys don't know how to use. And he has only gotten smarter. Kobe is not someone who predetermines what he is going to do when he gets the ball. He plays off what you do. That's what makes him great.
With an Achilles injury, the last thing to come back is defense, particularly the slides and backpedals. Look at Chauncey Billups last year. If the guy he was defending took one step past him, there was no shot of him getting back in position. Guys with Achilles problems are really slow defensively, and Kobe already isn't that quick anymore.
I thought that when they acquired Nash, they were going to play him more off the ball as a floor spacer because he is one of the best three-point shooters in the league. I figured he could extend his career if he played less pick-and-roll and became more of a shooter. Now, without Kobe, they don't have any other option but to have him be the main guy and have the ball. And if that's the case, I'm not sure that they are going to be able to keep him healthy for the full season. Having to rely so heavily on Nash [who turns 40 in February] is a little scary.
Nash never was a great defender. When you have Nash at the point of attack and Kobe coming back from Achilles surgery and no strong wing defenders and no Howard in the middle, the defense is going to be a major problem.
Steve Blake is a good backup point guard. He shot the ball better last season. He will see a lot of time at the 2 in small lineups.
Young is a wild card. He is going to hit four in a row one game and be a disaster the next. He will take a ton of bad shots, and when he is making them, he will win a game for you. But he is not going to be consistent. He likes to play one on one on the wing, but that's also where he gets reckless. He might be successful in this system, where he all he has to do is space the floor and shoot.
I don't know if Chris Kaman can keep up with the tempo. Nash likes to get a quick drag screen, but he'll have to wait for Kaman. Remember Amar'e Stoudemire with Nash in Phoenix? Stoudemire was down the floor as fast as Nash, setting that screen and putting the offense in motion. Kaman can't sustain that kind of pace. But you can throw it to him in the low post once in a while, and he can shoot from 15-17 feet.
If Wesley Johnson isn't making shots, he does nothing for you. There's only one way for him to be successful: Run down, find a spot and shoot it. And that's what D'Antoni will ask him to do. If he is not successful in this system, he might as well go to Europe.
Jordan Hill gave them a lot of energy last season before injuring his hip. He was active on the offensive glass.
Shawne Williams played his best under D'Antoni in New York. Maybe he is a perimeter threat at the 4. He's another guy who can play off Nash.