Much was expected from the Los Angeles Lakers as soon as Superman and Canada’s Finestagreed to join Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace in L.A., but the team that everyone was waiting for has yet to be seen.
The Lakers are 14-14, just reaching .500 with their most recent win against New York on Christmas Day. They’ve traded in Mike Brown for Mike D’Antoni and the move has proved to be a pointless one. So far this season the Lakers have lost to Utah twice, Sacramento, a Granger-less Indiana, Cleveland and Orlando—five teams that a contender shouldn’t lose to.
Similar expectations of the Miami Heat were had just a couple seasons ago and while they eventually did win one of the titles they predicted they would win, this Lakers squad is far from a 17th championship.
With a roster hard to create in video games, the Lakers have a group of players that also have failed to live up to expectations—minus Bryant.
If Kobe Bryant is on your roster there’s a good chance you aren’t doing too bad so far this season. He went further in most drafts than he has in the past because of an expectation that he would take a step down statistically. That step was never taken with Steve Nash out and the team struggling, but if the Lakers continue to play how they have with the return of Nash expect a move to be made once again—this time it will be Gasol to go.
With the sorry situation going on inside the Staples Center (and this time we’re not talking about the Clippers), the players worth starting on your fantasy team who are amid this mess will face some changes that those fantasy basketballers ought to know.
Nash made his return to the Lakers lineup earlier in the month and it’s too soon to tell how productive he may or may not be. But if I were to guess I would expect Nash to get around 15 points and close to 9 assists per game. Being that he is in a system he has seen before and a talent level he has yet to play with in his career, Nash should be one of the most valuable Lakers from a fantasy standpoint.
Howard has been very productive yet inconsistent this season for the Lakers most of this season, averaging 17 points per game and just under 12 rebounds a game. But with the probable departure of Gasol, Howard should be able to see an increase in productivity and consistency. Playing with the combination of Nash and Bryant on a more consistent basis will also help his numbers get back to what they were in Orlando.
Bryant has done his best to keep a sinking ship afloat in L.A. while it seems everyone else is dealing with problems of their own. His numbers have been better than expected due to an increase in shot output that would have been less without the injuries dealt with this year. But with Nash’s return I wouldn’t expect as many shots to be put up which would bring down his overall numbers. If the Lakers are able to continue the success they have had mid-December, expect Bryant to relax a bit before playoffs start.
With Nash back Bryant won’t have to do as much and trading him to an owner who doesn’t realize that would be in the best interest of your team. Also, there are always owners who could care less about the numbers and more about the name. If you know of any owners in your league that fit that description shoot that person an email letting them know Bryant is available.
While I’m not a fan of Gasol’s soft play these past few seasons being soft doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t be able to fill a stat sheet in a new environment. Just as Mike Brown took the bullet for the Lakers struggles early on in the season firing D’Antoni won’t be a move Lakers management will make. Getting rid of Nash and Howard would be admitting a mistake this past offseason and that’s not something you’ll see happen. This is why the only option they have is to deal Gasol—the same guy that joined Kobe in L.A. to help him when his most recent, and probably last, NBA Title.
If you own Gasol I would hold onto him until he is dealt and expect numbers he wasn’t able to garner in L.A. No matter where he is dealt he won’t have to deal with playing alongside the greatest rebounder in the game and without Howard, Gasol should be able to see an increase in his numbers both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
With the long 82-game season a lot can happen. But for the Lakers to become that team they hoped to be after the moves they made in the offseason, a lot will have to happen for this team to finally reach those expectations.