A little more than two months into the 2012/13 NBA season, I posed a question that would have seemed ridiculous last fall, asking Hoops Rumors readers whether the Lakers would make the playoffs. The No votes slightly outweighed the Yes votes at the time, but L.A. did eventually sneak into the postseason, only to be quickly dispatched by the Spurs.
Last season’s team featured a star-studded starting lineup and championship aspirations, while the expectations for this year’s squad have been scaled back significantly. The Lakers will be without Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace, who are now playing in Houston and New York respectively, and they’ll likely start the season without Kobe Bryant, who continues to recover from an Achilles injury.
The Lakers still have Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, and they retooled their roster with a few potential bargains like Chris Kaman, Wesley Johnson, Nick Young, and Jordan Farmar. But as the 2012/13 Mavericks will tell you, relying on veterans and players on one-year contracts isn’t necessarily a formula for a playoff team.
The road to the postseason in the Western Conference will be particularly tough this season, with a number of 2013 lottery teams having upgraded their respective rosters over the summer. In addition to obvious contenders like the Thunder, Spurs, Clippers, Rockets, Warriors, and Grizzlies, clubs like the Nuggets, Timberwolves, Trail Blazers, Pelicans, and Mavs will be vying for playoff berths.
ESPN.com projected in August that the Lakers would finish 12th in the West, a forecast that will surely motivate Kobe and the rest of the team this season. So what do you think? A year after an underachieving Lakers squad squeaked into the playoffs, will the 2013/14 Lakers overachieve and finish among the West’s top eight?