NBA Season Preview: Los Angeles Lakers

2019-20 Regular Season Record: 52-19 (.732%), 1st in Western Conference, NBA Champions
Head Coach: Frank Vogel

LeBron James’ 2nd season as a Laker was decidedly better than his 1st. Teaming up with All-NBA teammate Anthony Davis, the duo led the Lakers to the promised land in their first season together. Both were spectacular throughout the season – Davis averaging 26.1 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.5 steals & 2.3 blocks on better than 50.3% shooting and LBJ went off for 25.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg and a league-leading 10.2 apg. Both players were named to the All-NBA 1st Team (Davis for a 4th time, James for a 13th), and were the alpha dogs that led the rest of the rag-tag Lakers to the championship. Whatever direction the LBJ/Davis combo were taking, the rest of the team was to follow. Multiple veteran players added depth to the Lakers, and were integral pieces to the championship, like Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard, Danny Green and Markieff Morris. Youngsters Alex Caruso and Kyle Kuzma were also important in the Lakers run, as they built good chemistry with both James and Davis. The Lakers cruised to the title in the bubble, as they only lost 5 games on route to winning 16, resulting in the franchise’s 17th NBA Championship, tying the Celtics for 1st all-time. 

LBJ & Davis

With two All-NBA 1st Team players, it’s clear where the Lakers strength lie – with the best all around player in NBA history, and the current best big man in the league. It’s a dynamic, superior partnership that no other team can match – not Kawhi & George, not Westbrook & Beal, nor Luka & Porzingis. Those duos are close, and can even beat the Lakers combo here and there. But over the course of a season, and in the playoffs, it’s usually going to come up Lakers. Combined, they run flawless pick-and-rolls, are impossible to defend in transition and were far and away the number one assist combo in the league. The result is a dominant wing-big man combo that cannot be matched in size, experience, talent and clutchness. Expect nothing different from these two in 2020-21, despite some careful “load management” through the regular season. 

Tom’s Take: Davis and LBJ will be voted for their 5th & 14th All-NBA 1st Teams, respectively, in the 2020-21 season.

How Good was the Lakers Offseason?

The Lakers undoubtedly had a great offseason, regardless of how short it was. Their top two priorities were to re-sign Anthony Davis and to extend LeBron James. They did both. And while both of those signings seemed inevitable, the Lakers were able to replace all their lost players and even upgrade. They traded away Danny Green and replaced him with Wesley Matthews. Rajon Rondo joined the Atlanta Hawks and will be replaced by Dennis Schroder. JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard are no longer Lakers, being replaced by reigning Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell and Marc Gasol. With Schroder replacing Rondo they have a younger, more offensive-focused point guard that can take some of the offensive pressure of LBJ and Davis. Despite being older with diminishing athleticism, Marc Gasol is still a great signing for the Lakers. He will be able to help space the floor with his shooting touch from downtown, make excellent passes in the half-court set and play top-notch help defense and one-on-one defense in the post. Harrell signed a 2-year, $19M deal with the Lakers and brings toughness and rebounding to the team, as well as scoring from in close - he finished 4th in the league in scoring in the paint last year. Signing Matthews isn't an earth-shattering move, but a 1-year deal for $3.6M is a solid signing for the Lakers, as the veteran brings 10 years of experience and a career 3-point shooting of 38.1%. 

Can the Lakers Repeat?

The million dollar question. Can the Lakers replicate their success from last year? With the duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and the additions they made in the off-season, the Lakers are a better team than last year. As the defending champs, they will have a target on their backs and teams will give them their best effort every night. The Lakers will need to navigate coming off the longest season in league history, followed by a short offseason, by keeping their star player's minutes down and ensuring that team chemistry remains high. The moves made in the offseason to upgrade their complimentary pieces will go a long way in helping the Lakers defend their championship. 

Tom's Take: The Lakers will run through the Western Conference and win their 18th NBA Championship. 

Photo Credit: Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire