The Faceoff: Will the Lakers be a top contender for a conference championship?

There is no denying that the Los Angeles Lakers are struggling out of the gate.

Their 1-4 start is one of the worst in franchise history, leading not only to discussion of the Lakers as an overrated team but also the sudden firing of the team’s head coach Mike Brown on Nov. 9.

It’s a long season, and it is far too soon to count a team with four future Hall of Fame players out of the championship discussion. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a championship caliber team isn’t either. Despite their poor start, the Lakers still have all the ingredients to make a strong push come June.

When Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak traded for perennial Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard, the talk of a championship began to swirl. Howard joined a Lakers team already featuring shooting guard Kobe Bryant, point guard Steve Nash and power forward Pau Gasol. According to, each of these four NBA stars has more than a 50 percent chance of making the Hall of Fame.

Throw in Metta World Peace and you have a starting lineup that has combined for three MVP awards, four Defensive Player of the Year awards, 33 All-Star appearances, 21 All-Defensive teams and 31 All-NBA teams.

While the credentials are staggering, past awards and honors won’t win the Lakers games this year; however, last year’s statistics may give insight into what’s to come. Player Efficiency Rating, or PER, measures a player’s per-minute production. In the 2011-2012 season, the Lakers’ big four all finished in the top 38 for PER among NBA athletes who tallied at least 1,000 minutes of play.

Further statistics show critical categories that are all accounted for on the Lakers’ roster. In 2011-2012, Nash finished second in assists per game with 10.7, Bryant finished second in scoring with 27.9 points per game, Howard finished first in rebounds per game with 14.5 and fourth in blocks per game with 2.1 while Gasol finished with 10.4 rebounds per game, enough for eighth in the league.

The numbers show that they have the talent. The Lakers just need more than five games to gel as a team.

Howard missed five of the team’s eight preseason games, giving him little time to learn the offense and acclimate to his teammates. Nash suffered a fractured fibula during the team’s second regular season game, sidelining him for several weeks. Bryant is averaging 4.4 turnovers a game, a career high.

The team will smooth out these problems over the course of the season. With Brown and his ill-advised Princeton offense out of the picture, the Lakers can only improve. Based on the amount of threats they have on both offense and defense, the Lakers are still poised to make a championship run.

Editor's Note:

As of Wednesday Nov. 14, the Lakers hold a 3-5 record.

The Lakers announced the hiring of Mike D’Antoni on Monday Nov. 12 to fill the head coach position.

D’Antoni, the former Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks coach, signed a three-year deal worth $12 million.