Lakers Still The Team To Beat

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Can anybody stop the Los Angeles Lakers from three-peating?  In our final NBA team preview, we take a look at the two-time defending champs who might actually have their best team in the recent years.

By: David Kay

Los Angeles Lakers (57-25 in 2009-2010)

2010-11 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Pau Gasol/Andrew Bynum/Theo Ratliff
PF: Lamar Odom/Derrick Caracter
SF: Ron Artest/Matt Barnes/Luke Walton/Devin Ebanks
SG: Kobe Bryant/Shannon Brown/Sasha Vujacic
PG: Derek Fisher/Steve Blake

2010-11 Team Salary: $95.7 million

Offseason Moves:
-Lakers re-sign G Shannon Brown to 2-year, $4.6 million deal
-Lakers sign SF Matt Barnes to 2-year, $3.6 million deal
-Lakers sign C Theo Ratliff to 1-year, league minimum deal
-Lakers re-sign PG Derek Fisher to 3-year, $10.5 million deal
-Lakers do not extend qualifying offers to PG Jordan Farmar and SF Adam Morrison
-Lakers sign PG Steve Blake to 4-year, $16 million deal

Off-Season Grade: A

With the mission of adding veteran role players to the championship puzzle, the Lakers once again exceeded off-season expectations.  Adding Matt Barnes, Steve Blake, and Theo Ratliff with only the mid-level exception at their disposal is outstanding work.  Plus, the Lake Show brought back key backcourt contributors Derek Fisher and Shannon Brown without having to open up the check books too much.  I also like the additions of Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter through the draft.  Most importantly, Phil Jackson agreed to pull the strings for one more season.

2010-2011 Outlook:
We know who the Lakers are.  They have a zenmaster head coach, superstar, elite post player, and a team full of veterans who understand and embrace their roles.

In Kobe Bryant, L.A. has a yearly MVP candidate who plays with an unmatched determination and desire to win.  He has been in every clutch situation imaginable and succeeded in them all.  The past two years, Kobe has played alongside the scoring, rebounding big man needed to win an NBA Title.

The Lakers pretty much stole Pau Gasol from Memphis and he has been Kobe’s new Shaq since arriving in Hollywood.  If Andrew Bynum can fully recover from a knee injury and stay healthy once he returns around Thanksgiving, the Lakers will be scary good inside.

The rest of the Lakers roster is exactly how a championship roster should look.  In Lamar Odom, there is the veteran third option who can play multiple positions from point forward to even center if needed.  With Derek Fisher and Blake, L.A. has a pair of veteran point guards who thrive in the triangle offense and can knock down open shots.  Ron Artest and Barnes provide the Lakers with a pair of versatile wing defenders who can board and are capable enough on the offensive end.  Even Ratliff gives L.A. a defensive-minded big who relieve Gasol and/or Bynum.

A three-peat seems likely this season unless the Heat or Celtics can knock off the Lakers in the Finals.  They have all the assets needed to make another run and you could even argue that they are better this season than they were the past two years.

Looking Ahead to Next Summer:
With Sasha Vujacic being the significant contract coming off the books, the Lakers will once again be massively over the cap.  Their focus will be on role players Shannon Brown and Matt Barnes who both have player options for the 2011-2012 season.  The Lakers have also always made the most of their mid-level exception or finding veterans to come in and play for the league minimum.  That will be their plan for next summer barring some sort of disastrous turn of events during this season.

NBA Power Ranking: 1st

Other NBA previews/power rankings:
#2 Miami Heat
#3 Boston Celtics
#4 Orlando Magic
#5 Oklahoma City Thunder
#6 Chicago Bulls
#7 San Antonio Spurs
#8 Dallas Mavericks
#9 Portland Trail Blazers
#10 Milwaukee Bucks
#11 Atlanta Hawks
#12 Houston Rockets
#13 Utah Jazz
#14 Denver Nuggets
#15 Phoenix Suns
#16 Charlotte Bobcats
#17 New Orleans Hornets
#18 Memphis Grizzlies
#19 Philadelphia 76ers
#20 New York Knicks
#21 Los Angeles Clippers
#22 Indiana Pacers
#23 Golden State Warriors
#24 Washington Wizards
#25 Detroit Pistons
#26 New Jersey Nets
#27 Sacramento Kings
#28 Cleveland Cavaliers
#29 Toronto Raptors
#30 Minnesota Timberwolves

Check out David’s Fantasy Basketball Rankings

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