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Category: '08 Report Card

NBA general managers believe Miami Heat will win title

LeBron James/Kobe Bryant

Here's five things to take from an NBA General Managers poll:

1. The Lakers won't win the NBA title.That honor, according to 74.1% of the pool of respondents, belongs to the Miami Heat. Even worse, 67.9% believe the Lakers will lose to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference finals. Those looking for a silver lining can point to the fact that 63% were wrong last season in believing the Lakers would three-peat. So perhaps reverse psychology will work. Probably not.

2. Kobe Bryant won't win the 2011-12 MVP.That will go to Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant (55%) or Miami's LeBron James (44.4%). Now when Bryant says he feels slighted for people saying he's too old, he should blame it on the league executives, not the media. In fairness though, Bryant is still considered the best shooting guard (55.6%), the best at getting his own shot (35.7%) and the best closer (48.1%).

3. League general managers remain impressed with Lakers Coach Mike Brown. The Lakers have experienced a deep learning curve and have fallen to fatigue. So it remains to be seen if Brown's grind-it-out mentality will maximize the Lakers' play or just burn them out. Still, league general managers tab Brown with the second-best defensive scheme (11.5%) and the fifth best-run offense (7.4%).

4. Plenty of people remain confused by the Lamar Odom trade.A plurality of GMs remained perplexed with the NBA's decision to nix the Chris Paul trade to the Lakers (33.3%). Believe me, so does everyone else except for David Stern. But in a sign that's hardly encouraging for Lakers fans, 29% of respondents don't understand the Lakers' decision to trade Odom to the Mavericks. 

5. Derek Fisher will coach someday. The cynical Laker fan will vouch this idea simply so Fisher abruptly retires. But as he showed with his game-winning shot Monday against Dallas, the 37-year-old Fisher still knows how to win. And if the 29% of league general managers are correct, Fisher will likely hang up his sneakers and then wear a suit on the sideline. 

RELATED:

NBA general managers predict the Lakers will three-peat

--Mark Medina

Email the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: The Lakers and Miami Heat won't meet in the NBA Finals, according to a league general manager survey. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Report Card - Kobe Bryant

Kobe_mvp_4 I'm going to just cut to the chase with this one: A

At the risk of shortchanging Kobe a fair share of deep analysis his teammates received (I'm confident he'll recover from any hurt feelings), does this really require a detailed explanation?  Dude was first-team All-Everything, league MVP, put up the usual great numbers (some may not realize how high his boards ranked among SG's), helped take a team many said would be a chaotic, eggshell-walking, playoff bubble team to Game 6 of the Finals, played half a season with a torn finger ligament, conducted himself during some early-season unhappiness with total professionalism and grew tremendously as a leader.  If those October-June resume items don't strike you as "A"-worthy material, I'm honestly stumped what will, so it's really not worth a debate.  I asked Kobe during his exit interview if he felt (as I and many writerly types do) this was indeed the best season of his first ballot Hall of Fame career.   

"I think so, just because of how we played as a team" he said. "I've had better individual seasons, which was necessary for me to have in order for us to make the playoffs. But I haven't had a season that was more enjoyable or better in terms in leading a group of guys than this season."

No argument on my end.

AK

(Note: Before anybody freaks out, I consider an "A" to be the highest of grades.  The high school and college I attended didn't do the "plus" thing for an "A," no matter how special, so that's how I roll.  If you want to think of it as an "A+," no worries.  If you want to think of it as an "A++," super.  If you want to think of it as an "A++++++++++++++," that's a might dramatic, but have it. Just don't think of it as me somehow "slighting" Kobe and don't bother asking me to change the grade, because it's remaining as is.  Gracias.)

Report Card - Lamar Odom

Lo Business as usual: An off-season that features speculation over Lamar Odom's future with the Lakers, a ritual that gains even more intrigue this summer with his contract entering its final year.  Business as anything but usual: Seeing Lamar Odom finally become the player everyone wished he could be, which ironically stemmed from finally being the player he wished he could be.

Until this season, Odom's time in purple and gold was spent operating outside his comfort zone, which is filling out the less glamorous sections of a stat line and not making points a primary concern.  Middle ground was achieved in fleeting bits, which led to the consistent "inconsistent" tag.  It's not that Lamar can't or won't score.  He just doesn't have a scorer's mentality and happens to be the rare player actually honest when claiming not to judge a performance by points.  When he gets the ball, his first instinct isn't to figure out how to make it stroke nylon.  Never has been and never will be.

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Report Card - Vlad Radmanovic

Vlad_3 The good news about Vladimir Radmanovic's 2008?  It was better than 2007.  Granted, without landing in the slammer, getting injured in a freak bull-riding mishap, or just retiring at 27, last year was almost impossible not to improve upon.  But still, Vlad was better, and not just compared against a season lost to a snowboarding accident and playoff inactivity.  He established a career-high FG% (45%) and was within a personal top-three for 3-PT%, FT% and assists. But those marks hardly establish this year as a great one for Vlad. Not really even a good one.  Much remained missing during Vlad's season, continuing a perpetual cycle of wondering what it'll take for Radmanovic to discover that extra gear and finally bust out at a level that many still feel he's capable of.   

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Report Card - Jordan Farmar

FarmarSome folks were surprised to even see Jordan Farmar in a Laker uni come late October, given how the off-season included the Lakers' drafting Javaris Crittenton from Georgia Tech, then signing Derek Fisher when family matters led to his release from the Utah Jazz.  Both developments, along with Farmar's mighty struggles in the 2007 playoffs (albeit against Steve Nash, who often makes many a point guard look bad) led to speculation that the Lakers were putting him on the block.  To his credit, the former Bruin didn't sulk upon the arrival of either new teammate and by all accounts, handled the situation by upping an already gym-rat-centric schedule.   

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Report Card - Sasha Vujacic

Vujacic_2 There aren't a lot of guys on an NBA roster (much less the Lakers') in whom I've had less faith than Sasha Vujacic. Not because I didn't want him to succeed, or because I didn't think he worked enough to make it happen.  Quite the opposite on both counts. Nice kid, hard worker, great drive, hustles 24/7.  All elements that made me actively root for him, but not necessarily believe his well-documented ability to shoot lights out in practice (the dreaded "11:30" tag) would translate into quality play once the games actually started.  Mind you, Sasha always insisted he could play at the NBA level, assuming he got a crack at consistent PT.  But even if I did buy that theory (which I didn't), this season began looking like he wouldn't even get a chance to prove it, as Sasha started out buried on the depth chart, alternating between garbage time and DNP-CDs. 

Then a long-awaited opportunity emerged, along with my eventual need to bake some crow at 375 degrees for half an hour, slap it on a plate, and eat heartily.

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Report Card - Andrew Bynum

Bynum_2 Andrew Bynum arrived at training camp in the awkward position of being at the center of a storm he did nothing to create.  An unhappy Kobe Bryant was caught on tape in a parking lot expressing an opinion that Drew's rear would be best served shipped to New Jersey for Jason Kidd. The front office reacted by making it fairly clear that unless the exchanged player was named "Kevin" or "Garnett," no trade would go down involving their third-year center, especially not in a blatant effort to appease their disgruntled star.  For his part, Bynum simply showed up at Media Day thick in body, from his serious summer workouts, and in skin, claiming not to be hurt by The Mamba's rant (even if he found the situation kind of "messed up").   

But then a funny thing happened amid the uncertainty.  Bynum began the year off the pine and found an immediate groove with Jordan Farmar, overmatching most second-string big men while anchoring an instantly prolific "Bench Mob." And despite regularly clocking equal or better minutes than starter Kwame Brown, Phil Jackson was content to keep playing him as a sub, both to strengthen the bench and keep him hungry.  But then an ankle and knee injury to the former #54 thrust Bynum into the starting five, a development that saw the youngster's production truly skyrocket.   

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Report Card - Luke Walton

Walton_2 It was, in short, a struggle. 

On the heels of signing a generous - many thought overly so - six-year, $30-million deal after a solid 2006-07 campaign, Luke Walton came into camp this season with the increased expectations that came with the new contract and couldn't deliver, unable to find a groove on the floor as his role with the team changed and he battled health problems. And though by some of the comments on this site you'd think he was solely responsible for everything from each regular season and playoff loss to global warming to the weak dollar (all while clubbing baby seals in his spare time), there's no question Walton wasn't the player L.A. needed him to be for the majority of the season. 

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Report Card - Trevor Ariza

Ariza_2 Just before Thanksgiving, the Lakers sent Brian Cook and Mo Evans to Orlando for Trevor Ariza, a swap met with little buzz around town.  And the attention it did receive centered more around Mitch Kupchak finding a taker for Cookie's deal or if Sasha Vujacic could handle being Kobe Bryant's main backup than Ariza himself.  But after a week or so of acclimating himself, the L.A. native was worked into the rotation and began opening Lakers fans' peepers by sporting two skill sets not in great supply on this roster: Slashing and the ability to defend a variety of positions along the perimeter. December saw a brief starting stint before moving back to the pine in favor of Luke Walton, a move I didn't agree with.  I also didn't think it was a particularly big deal.  Especially since Ariza's reintroduction to the bench mob didn't really cost him much in the way of PT.

A broken foot in January, however, did. 

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Report Card: Ronny Turiaf

There is no question that over the last two seasons, the Lakers have enjoyed an unbelievable bargain in Ronny Turiaf.  This year, at barely over $770K, Turiaf gave the Lakers over 18 minutes a night, and Turiaf career highs in points (6.6), rebounds (3.9), blocks (1.4), assists (1.6), and free-throw percentage (75.3).  All that, plus epic sideline dances and other displays of his seemingly boundless energy and enthusiasm for the game and his teammates. 

The days of supreme value, however, are over.  If the Lakers are to keep Turiaf, they'll have to pony up.  How much, I'm not sure.  L.A. can match any offer, but given the rarefied air Dr. Buss is breathing these days, well above the luxury tax, if another team makes a big offer, Ronny could very well be in another uniform next year.  I've never been good at predicting what a player might get on the open market, so I won't try.  Still, now that there's a business decision to be made about Turiaf's future in L.A., it's time to get to the business of figuring out what exactly Turiaf brings, putting aside for a minute how much everyone likes the guy.  (As well they should. If you don't dig Ronny-the-person, the problem is you, not him.)

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