The Lakers have too much frontline depth for the Spurs to handle. (Eric Gay / Associated Press…)
With the Lakers' roster changes pretty much finalized, it's safe now to envision how the team will fare heading into the 2012-13 season. Sure, the Lakers will have to narrow their 14-man roster during training camp, and no one knows what deals leading into the trade deadline could change the NBA landscape. But in the spirit of seeing how things have evolved for the Lakers since the 2012 NBA playoffs ended, this is one in a series breaking down potentially troublesome opponents.
Team: San Antonio Spurs
Lakers' record versus Spurs last season: 1-2
How the Spurs fared last season: Finished first in the Western Conference with a 50-16 record; lost to Oklahoma City, 4-2, in the Western Conference Finals.
Why the Lakers are a threat to the Spurs: The Lakers simply have too much talent that the Spurs can't fully contain. Beyond Tim Duncan, the Spurs have no one else who can fully stop Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol in the post. The Lakers now have a point guard in Steve Nash who can match and even surpass the playmaking Tony Parker brings for the Spurs. San Antonio still features great outside shooters in Manu Ginobili and Matt Bonner. But the Lakers made significant upgrades in acquiring Nash and Jodie Meeks to offeset such a threat. The Spurs still have a talented bench that finished sixth last season in points, but the Lakers' additions in Antawn Jamison and Meeks should provide significant scoring punch as well.
Bottom line, the Lakers are overwhelmingly superior in top-heavy talent. They also have closed the gap in the Spurs' various advantages, including bench depth, backcourt play and outside shooting. Because of all these factors, the Lakers would have no problem dismissing the Spurs in the playoffs.
Why the Spurs are a threat to the Lakers: Every year the general public counts out the Spurs because of their aging roster, but San Antonio continues to remain a Western Conference contender. So why should this year be any different? They've maximized their core in Duncan, Parker and Ginobili by limiting their minutes, playing at a fast offensive tempo and utilizing a deep bench. That formula could still work in beating the Lakers. Beyond Howard, the Lakers don't have a player in their starting lineup who could keep up with San Antonio's pace. Even if Howard's a great defensive insurance policy, that may not fully stop Parker from driving to the basket or finding open teammates in the lane. And as much as an upgrade the Lakers made to their bench, they don't have enough continuity to match San Antonio's.
The Spurs could still beat the Lakers by playing some nasty. Coach Gregg Popovich, as he always does, would make tactical and lineup adjustments to throw the Lakers off their rhythm. And they'll always play team ball. Because it's possible the Lakers wouldn't apply these formulas, it's likely the Spurs could exploit them by fully using what they have.
Verdict: On paper, the Lakers shouldn't have a problem with San Antonio. Still, the Spurs have shown over the years that they can remain a Western Conference contender by playing team ball and centering their system and personnel around Duncan, Ginobili and Parker. But as the Spurs discovered in last year's Western Conference Finals series against the Thunder, they'll soon run out of gas against a talented Lakers lineup. The Lakers would take this series in six games.