Los Angeles Lakers offseason primer

R.I.P. 2013-2014 Los Angeles Lakers season. You made us watch over 2,000 minutes of Wesley Johnson and somehow made us think that Nick Young (aka Swaggy P) was a responsible, charismatic leader and a decent defender. You were a year that robbed us of 76 games of Kobe Bryant and made us feel like games were more of a chore than a delight. In no way will you be missed.
 
With perhaps the worst six months of Lakers basketball of all time over and done with, we can finally look towards the next six months: the offseason. VP of Player Personnel Jim Buss and GM Mitch Kupchak have a ton of work to do, which includes trying to rebuild a team around a returning Kobe Bryant and of course, dealing with the team’s first lottery pick in almost a decade. It’s fair to say that this is the most pivotal Lakers offseason since 2004, when the same front office traded Shaquille O’Neal and re-signed Bryant.
 
Let’s take a look at the biggest storylines throughout the summer.
 
Who are the Lakers taking in the NBA Draft?
 
For the first time since 2009, the Los Angeles Lakers have a first round draft pick and have the potential to keep the pick for the first time since 2007. But not just any draft pick at that: a genuine lottery pick. Right now I feel like one of the Amish in the middle of a Best Buy: I’m confused and excited and I most definitely need a new pair of pants.
 
(Peep the rest over at Silver Screen & Roll)

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Settle, Lakers fans: NBA Draft’s top four talents are seldomly drafted in the top four

As the Lakers lose night after night, part of the fan base laments another bad loss with uncompetitive fourth quarters becoming the norm. However, the other part of the fan base–maybe the louder portion–reluctantly expresses glee at their favorite team being taken down once again. The reason? Keeping “the tank” rolling towards a high pick in this year’s draft.
 
The more games the Lakers lose, the better probability that the team will have a higher–and thus logically better–selection in June’s NBA Draft. It’s a painful reality to face when one realizes that losing now may be the best way to ensure the organization’s long-term chances of winning. Fans have embraced it almost too easily, a strange reality considering the franchise’s long history of winning year after year.
 
If kept on the current trajectory over the next week and a half, the Lakers will most likely fall somewhere between pick no. 5 and 8 in the Draft. With a stroke of luck, they could end up with as high as the number one pick, though the percentage chance of that happening ranges from 2% all the way up to a sizzling 12% depending on how the rest of the season shakes out.
 
While this isn’t the most glamorous pick, as my colleague Ben Rosales pointed out in his superb article last week, there’s a bevy of great players to be had in those spots. The point of his post was to address Lakers fans out there who have cried doom if the Lakers don’t get within the Draft’s top four selections when potential future All-Stars like Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Dante Exum could all be available. I too have seen the same type of cries, with some suggesting that if the franchise doesn’t grab a top-4 pick, this season of losing won’t even be worth it.
 
Aside from the players that Ben covered in his piece, I’ve examined the drafts going back to 2003 to see exactly how they unfurled. Combining an inexact formula of All-NBA Team berths, Win Shares and the simple eye test, I’ve examined the best players in each draft class along with their actual position, as well as the “busts” from every year in the top 5. Again, this is an inexact science, so if I offend your sensibilities, my apologies.
 
I’m kidding. I don’t really care about your sensibilities.
 

(Read on at SS&R)
 
 
 
 … Read more…

20 Days of Thinking Blue: What makes this team different than last year’s National League runner-up?

The countdown has begun, kids. Actually, it’s a little bit past. The opening series (well, the American version) is here, as the Dodgers take on the Padres down in San Diego. To prepare you for the regular season, MAMBINO will tackle 20 of the most important–and some not so important–questions that will get you set up for a year of almost unparalleled expectations. Let’s get it going:
 
What’s different about this year’s Dodgers and last year’s Dodgers? In other words, what’s changed to win them six more games in the postseason?
 
As I wrote yesterday, I’m not sure the Dodgers could have done much more towards the end of last season other than “be more healthy”. But that’s not necessarily something you say to a guy with a sprained ankle and another with cracked ribs from a stray fastball, is it?
 
The Dodgers were two victories away from a World Series and six from a championship. As the old adage goes, as long as a team makes the postseason, they have as good a shot as anyone to win the World Series. The journey to the chip is a combination of luck and momentum, with an emphasis on the latter. The Dodgers had the momentum last season, but couldn’t overcome a few unlucky injuries to key players and of course, one flukishly bad performance from ace Clayton Kershaw.
 
But the point is to remove as many variables as possible and leave as little room for luck to derail your team. Did the Dodgers do enough of that to make them a true World Series contender this offseason? Theoretically, yes.… Read more…

20 Days of Thinking Blue: What could stop the Dodgers from winning the World Series?

The countdown has begun, kids. Actually, it’s a little bit past. The opening series (well, the American version) is here, as the Dodgers take on the Padres down in San Diego. To prepare you for the regular season, MAMBINO will tackle 20 of the most important–and some not so important–questions that will get you set up for a year of almost unparalleled expectations. Let’s get it going:
 
What is the leading reason why this team may not win the World Series?
 
Last season, the difference between the first Dodgers pennant in 25 years might have been an errant fastball to the ribs and, well, Michael Wacha. Some would say that with a healthy Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Hanley Ramirez, the Dodgers wouldn’t have had the same flaccid offense that kept them four wins away from winning the World Series. Was LA the better team? I’m not sure. But as I wrote last October, it felt as if the difference between a Dodgers win and a Cardinals win was just a little bit of luck.
 
So here we are six months later, with the Dodgers healed up and hoping for better breaks. With dominating starting pitching, a powerful bullpen and a star-studded offense, LA is the odds on favorite to win the West and has to be one of the favorites to win the National League pennant. So what could stop them from what’s considered a very, very possible destiny?… Read more…

20 Days of Thinking Blue: Who is the team’s secret weapon?

The countdown has begun, kids. Actually, it’s a little bit past. The opening series (well, the American version) is here, as the Dodgers take on the Padres down in San Diego. To prepare you for the regular season, MAMBINO will tackle 20 of the most important–and some not so important–questions that will get you set up for a year of almost unparalleled expectations. Let’s get it going:
 
Who is the team’s secret weapon?
 
With the league’s highest payroll and in the country’s second biggest media market, it’s hard for there to be an uncovered corner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Ordinarily, most team’s unheralded bulllpens could easily be their “secret weapons”, but seeing as GM Ned Colletti put together a group of relievers with big money guarantees and a ton of previous closing experience, I can’t put them under consideration here. After all, is there any situation in everyday life in which Brian Wilson can ever be considered “secret”?
 
I’d also usually point to the fourth and fifth starters in the rotation, but considering one is a former World Series MVP (Josh Beckett) and the other is a three-time All-Star with two top-10 Cy Young Award finishes (Dan Haren), they’re hardly quiet roster additions.
 
That leaves me with a surprising answer: Scott Van Slyke.… Read more…

20 Days of Thinking Blue: The toughest competition in the NL West?

The countdown has begun, kids. Opening Night (well, American Opening Night) is fast approaching as the Dodgers take on the Padres down in San Diego on March 30th. Leading up until then, MAMBINO will tackle 20 of the most important–and some not so important–questions that will get you set up for a season of almost unparalleled expectations. Let’s get it going:
 
Who is the Dodgers’ toughest competition in the NL West?
 
Can the answer be no one?
 
No, it can’t. This isn’t soccer. There are no ties.
 
Let’s get this out of the way: barring a string of injuries, the Dodgers will win the NL West. And it could be by a wide margin. Let’s take a look at the field:
 
Colorado Rockies: The Rox finished last in the NL West last season, and with good cause–they were pretty horrible. The team is obviously in the midst of a rebuilding movement, with Todd Helton retiring and young guys like Nolan Arenado, D.J. LeMahieu and Willin Rosario taking over key positions around the diamond. Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau should add a little more pop behind All-Stars Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki, but the problem with the Rockies is, and is usually never the offense.… Read more…

20 Days of Thinking Blue: Who is the pre-season offensive MVP?

The countdown has begun, kids. Opening Night (well, American Opening Night) is fast approaching as the Dodgers take on the Padres down in San Diego on March 30th. Leading up until then, MAMBINO will tackle 20 of the most important–and some not so important–questions that will get you set up for a season of almost unparalleled expectations. Let’s get it going:
 
Who will be the team’s offensive MVP this year?
 
An interesting question, considering my stance on the team’s offense overall. If for no other reason besides lack of variables, it’s most likely going to be Adrian Gonzalez.
 
The contenders of course will be the returning Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Yasiel Puig and of course, Hanley Ramirez. But with each of them, there are massive questions, each of which we’ve more or less covered in depth in our 20 Days of Thinking Blue preview:… Read more…

20 Days of Thinking Blue: Early returns on the offseason’s best move

The countdown has begun, kids. Opening Night (well, American Opening Night) is fast approaching as the Dodgers take on the Padres down in San Diego on March 30th. Leading up until then, MAMBINO will tackle 20 of the most important–and some not so important–questions that will get you set up for a season of almost unparalleled expectations. Let’s get it going:
 
What’s an early season candidate for the front office’s best offseason move?
 
Right now, it’s got to be to fortifying the bullpen with former closers and power arms.
 
At the disappointing end to the 2013 season, LA’s ‘pen was extremely formidible. With all-world closer Kenley Jansen holding down the ninth inning, former All-Star Brian Wilson, J.P. Howell and Ronald Belasario helped to create a very good relief corps. The game was essentially just 7 innings long, with a future that was almost nearly as promising. Youngsters Paco Rodriguez (who admittedly struggled down the stretch) and Chris Withrow looked to be long-time future fixtures of the bullpen with breakout seasons in 2013. Combined with Jansen and young flamethrower Jose Dominguez, LA’s relievers looked very solid going into 2014.
 
But what GM Ned Colletti did was not take the future for granted, and instead bought his young arms more time to fail.… Read more…

20 Days of Thinking Blue: Early returns on the offseason’s biggest blunder

The countdown has begun, kids. Opening Night (well, American Opening Night) is fast approaching as the Dodgers take on the Padres down in San Diego on March 30th. Leading up until then, MAMBINO will tackle 20 of the most important–and some not so important–questions that will get you set up for a season of almost unparalleled expectations. Let’s get it going:
 
What’s an early season candidate for the front office’s biggest offseason blunder?
 
Without question, turning down Mark Ellis’s $5 million dollar option looks like a staggeringly bad move by the organization’s head decision makers.
 
As I’ve written this spring, the second baseman’s lack of production has led to a domino effect of disaster for the Dodgers. Perhaps in anticipation that Cuban import Alexander Guerrero would be Major League-ready, LA turned down Ellis’s option for the season. Instead, the Dodgers found that Guerrero was not at all prepared to man second, leaving potential utility player Justin Turner as the starter. This wouldn’t be such a problem if the team had anyone else to take hold of that utility spot. Instead, Dee Gordon and Chone Figgins–both who may not belong in the Majors at this point–are going to be the back-ups around the diamond.… Read more…

20 Days of Thinking Blue: The strangely disheartening effect of Paperless Tickets

The countdown has begun, kids. Opening Night (well, American Opening Night) is fast approaching as the Dodgers take on the Padres down in San Diego on March 30th. Leading up until then, MAMBINO will tackle 20 of the most important–and some not so important–questions that will get you set up for a season of almost unparalleled expectations. Let’s get it going:
 
Does anyone else think the move to paperless tickets ONLY is a disastrous one?
 
(An answer from our friend Jack Stonetree in his MAMBINO debut post!)
 
It’s 2014. We’re at the point with our technology where I can literally do everything from home. I can work, shop, “see” friends, and stay completely connected to everything on the outside. This is good for a hermit crab such as myself. However, allow me to vent to the lovely MAMBINO readers about one technological advancement that has been thrust upon Dodger fans without our consent.
 
Paperless tickets.
 
Now you might say, “dude, what’s the big deal? Of course there should be paperless tickets for Dodger games. Save some trees bro, get with the times.” Okay dude, just put down the bubbler for a second and listen to me. This season, the Dodger front office has decided to make a mandatory switch to paperless tickets. The fans were not given a choice… you do not even have an option to use paper tickets. I’m not taking issue with the move to paperless… I’m taking issue with the mandatory nature of it.… Read more…