The Lakers finished with the best record in the wild, wild West and advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2004. They were clearly outplayed by Boston and lost in six games, but it was a very impressive season for Los Angeles.
Fantasy-wise, their team numbers in the main categories were outstanding, as they finished fourth in ppg (108.6), third in field-goal shooting (47.6 percent), fourth in rebounding (3,620), fourth in assists (2,003), sixth in steals (654), fifth in blocks (438), and fifth in three-pointers made (662).
Key additions:Joe Crawford, Dwayne MitchellKey losses:Ronny Turiaf
It was a pretty quiet offseason for the Lakers, as their biggest move was re-signing Sasha Vujacic to a three-year, $15 million deal. Crawford and Mitchell are both scoring guards who will have trouble getting into an NBA game this year. The Lakers will miss Turiaf a lot as a teammate, but if Andrew Bynum and Chris Mihm return healthy, they'll be able to make up for Turiaf's on-court production.
After finishing in the top five in minutes per game from '05-07, Kobe Bryant played a little bit less last year (38.9 mpg) and ranked just 11th. Don't be surprised if that number falls below 38 this season as the Lakers try to keep him fresh. ... Point guard is a different story, though, where Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmar are locked in a battle for PT. Last season, the minutes were split 27.4 for Fisher vs. 20.6 for Farmar. Farmar posted the better regular season PER and Roland Rating, but Fisher was superior in the playoff. For now, I'll project 26 minutes for Fisher and 22 for Farmar, but those numbers could be flipped around sooner rather than later. Vujacic only saw 17.8 minutes in the regular season, but that jumped up to 21.8 in the playoffs, so 18-20 mpg in '08-09 sounds about right.
Will Lamar Odom be traded? Well, with Ron Artest already changing zip codes, that seems unlikely at the moment, but we'll have to see how everything pans out. The last time Odom played significant minutes at small forward (where he'll get the bulk of his minutes now) was in '05-06. His PT is sure to drop from the 38-40 mpg that he played the past three years. ... Vlad Radmanovic will likely be downsized, as well, from 22.8 mpg. ... Pau Gasol spent all of his 35.6 mpg at center last year, but now I'm projecting him to play about 25 minutes at power forward and eight at center. ... If Bynum is healthy, I can see his minutes increasing to 30 this year (but not much higher), while Mihm will get some backup minutes if he's healthy enough. ... I haven't even mentioned Luke Walton or Trevor Ariza yet, two very capable small forwards who will get a chance to play at some point. In other words, the Lakers are so deep that it's hard for their bench players to have any value!
Farmar had a very impressive sophomore season, and it will be hard for the Lakers to deny him more minutes in '08-09. Despite not starting a single game and playing just 20.6 mpg, he still had fringe fantasy value, so just wait till he starts getting more PT. His per-36 minutes stats were very solid (16.0 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.8 dimes, 1.6 steals, 2.4 threes and 2.3 turnovers per game), and his 15.4 PER was much better than Fisher's 13.8. While Farmar is still just 21-years old, D-Fish turned 34 this summer and has lost a step on the defensive end. Fisher will enter training camp as the Lakers' starting PG, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if Farmar takes over at some point in the season. And if Jordan finds a way to earn 26-plus minutes per game, he's going to be an excellent late-round value pick.
If you throw out Bynum's first game (just 19 minutes off the bench) and last game (just 20 minutes before getting hurt) of '07-08, he averaged an impressive 13.5 points on 64.1 percent shooting, 10.4 rebounds and 2.15 blocks in just 29.4 mpg. Bynum was third in dunks per game behind Dwight Howard and Amare Stoudemire, and he would have led the league in field-goal shooting if he qualified. He's still just 20 years old, and with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tutoring him, his offensive output could improve by leaps and bounds in the future. For all of those reasons, he is legitemately being considered as a second round or early third-round pick by some people.
If you ask me, using a top 30 pick on Bynum seems a very risky move for this season. As you all know, he's returning from a serious knee injury and we've yet to see him back in action. Even if he does return 100 percent healthy, we don't know how productive he's going to be with Gasol in the lineup. Can Bynum still pull down 10 boards per contest with both Gasol and Odom around? And what about that insane shooting? It will be very hard to improve on 64 percent. With all of these question marks surrounding him, I won't even think about drafting AB until the end of the third round, and that's if his knee looks good in preseason.
(Where you should draft these guys in an eight-category roto league with 12 teams and 14-man rosters)
Bryant: Top 5Gasol: 4th-5thBynum: 4th-5thOdom: 5th-6tFisher: 12th-14th (depending on who you think will start)Farmar: 12th-14th (depending on who you think will start)
Vujacic, Radmanovic, Walton, Ariza: Don't draft (but consider if someone gets hurt).