Is a Healthy Kobe Enough to Lead LA Back to the Playoffs?

Last season, the storied Los Angeles franchise had arguably it’s worst season in almost a decade, with an abysmal record of 27-55, only a .329 win percentage. With the deteriorating health and age of superstar Kobe Bryant and the loss of big man Pau Gasol, many fans in purple and gold are left to wonder, “what’s next?”. After a disappointingly mediocre 2012-13 campaign(which ended with a 45-37 record and a quick departure in the first round), no one could have imagined the down fall of arguably the most storied franchise in basketball.

Bryant returned from his devastating Achilles tear on December 8, 2013 against the Toronto Raptors however “The Return” was short-lived, as Kobe broke a bone in his left knee on December 20th against the Memphis Grizzlies. After yet another season sidelined, the 35-year-old Bryant(soon to be 36 on August 23rd) returned to the lab after last year’s campaign and began putting in work. While reports say Kobe has impressed so far, would that really be enough to contend for a playoff spot in a tough, gritty western conference?

LA’s off-season has not exactly been spectacular. While they did manage to get Julius Randle with the 7th overall pick, the loss of star big man Pau Gasol leaves a gaping hole at center. Randle doesn’t have the size to play center, neither does Carlos Boozer, whom the Lakers claimed off waivers. A center rotation of Robert Sacre and Jordan Hill is not daunting, but it might be enough to get the job done. Another void left is the point guard position. It’s yet to be seen if Steve Nash can even play anymore, and Jeremy Lin hasn’t been able to live up to the hype of “Linsanity” nearly three years ago. While it is possible Nick Young could start at the point, his specialty is not distributing the ball. 

Projected Lakers starting lineup: (PG) Jeremy Lin, (SG) Kobe Bryant, (SF) Wesley Johnson, (PF) Carlos Boozer, (C) Jordan Hill.

If this lineup could be inserted into the Eastern Conference, then there could be discussions of a probable playoff spot, but they’re in the west, and will have to battle teams such as San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Houston, Portland, Golden State, Dallas, Memphis, and their friendly neighborhood rival Clippers. With a solid, not great, starting lineup, the return of the Black Mamba, a potential Sixth Man of the Year candidate coming off the bench, along with a potential star in Julius Randle, expect to see the Lakers slugging it out with Phoenix, Memphis, and Dallas for that eighth and final spot in next year’s western conference playoffs.

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