Lakers Upgrades to Look For

Contrary to what the pundits have said, the Lakers have serious upgrades from last year which promises a significant turnaround from last year– a playoffs type of turnaround. And here’s why:

Byron Scott. The coaching change is already paying dividends simply in the changed culture of the team. D’antoni was very much an more passive coach, who never seemed really sure of himself. Pau Gasol many times complained of discipline lacking. This team needed something very different for a place like L.A. and a team like the Lakers. The conditioning and defense-first approach will affect the personnel that takes the court first and foremost. Whether or not they are a team of defensive specialists, they will put forth efforts, implement defensive schemes and play defense by committee. Just watching practices and interviews point a new attitude and a changing culture. Look for that to translate onto the court.

Byron Scott as an analyst noticed time and time again how players like Wesley Johnson and Jordan Hill were not used where they could be successful. Wes guarded power forwards and stayed around three point line. Hill saw fluctuation in playing time in favor of a stretch four. Bigs just were not used correctly. D’antoni force-fed run and gun offense on a team that needed to feed the ball down low to control tempo and keep teams from easy transition buckets. Expect the change in offense to put players in a position to be successful, decrease transition and increase paint points. Not as exciting as D’antoni but wins are much more fun.

The Return of Kobe and Nash. Funny how those words mean nothing to the pundits. There will be a huge increase in offensive production as well as more control of tempo. These guys are a step slower but there’s no doubt that this is a major upgrade.

Point Guard Position. The point guard position got much younger and faster. Jeremy Lin is not far removed from Linsanity. He brings an ability to create his own shot, get to the basket quickly and create shots for others. Nash will start but Lin will see plenty of minutes. The Lakers also managed to nab Ronnie Price and Jordan Clarkson who will both add more depth at that position and back up Nash. Needless to say, there is less likely of a chance for blow-bys on the perimeter with these younger, quicker point guard additions.

With the loss of Gasol, Lakers still managed to shore up the power forward/center position with future star Julius Randle, all-star forward Carlos Boozer and newly added Ed Davis. Scoring may have dipped but rebounding and paint protection took a major upgrade. Rob Sacre also can provide an effective 7-footer in spurts.

Look for a more controlled, organized, defensive-minded team that can rebound effectively. Look for a priceless mentorship from Nash, Kobe and Boozer that will show up on the court. Goran Dragic was a product of being under the tutelage of Steve Nash. Look for less transition by the other teams and increased post play.

Finally, look for a stunned panel of naysayers who placed the Lakers in the nba cellar. The Lakers Optimist said so.

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