The 2020-21 NBA season is set to tip-off on Dec. 22. To get you ready for the year to come, we're dedicating one day between now and the start of the season to each team in the league.
Today, the Los Angeles Lakers take the spotlight.
2019-20 season record
52-19, first in the Western Conference
Dennis Schroder, Trade
Wesley Matthews, Free Agency
Montrezl Harrell, Free Agency
Marc Gasol, Free Agency
Danny Green, Trade
Dwight Howard, Free Agency
Rajon Rondo, Free Agency
Avery Bradley, Free Agency
|PG||LeBron James||Dennis Schroder||Quinn Cook|
|SG||Kentavious Caldwell-Pope||Alex Caruso||Talen Horton-Tucker|
|SF||Wesley Matthews||Markieff Morris||Alfonzo McKinnie||Jared Dudley|
|PF||Anthony Davis||Kyle Kuzma||Kostas Antetokounmpo||Devontae Cacok|
|C||Marc Gasol||Montrezl Harrell|
3 Key storylines
2020 NBA title - The beginning of a dynasty
Ending the 2019-20 season as NBA champions, the Los Angeles Lakers tied the Boston Celtics for the most titles in NBA history with 17. It was the franchise's first championship since 2010 and helped them maintain their record of being the only franchise in league history with at least one Finals appearance in every decade.
Having won multiple champions across multiple decades, very rarely in NBA history will one see a one-off title by this franchise. They've always won championships in a heap. Determined to stick with that formula, the team locked-up both their superstars long-term.
And similar to every title-winning Laker team of the past, this roster also climbed to the top under the leadership of a superstar duo. LeBron James, the 2020 Finals MVP, and Anthony Davis, the team's other All-NBA star, led from the front all throughout last season and stepped up to carry the team each time it was required in the postseason.
Davis, a free agent, became the fourth player ever to sign a $100 million contract with the Lakers by re-signing for a five-year, $190 million max contract while James, who had a player option available prior to the 2021-22 season, signed a two-year extension worth $85.6 million that keeps him in Los Angeles till 2023.
With these deals, the Lakers have shaped a potential dynasty by remaining a contender, allowing a 'passing of the torch' of sorts from James to Davis in the coming years, ensuring that they remain a contender for the better part of the upcoming decade.
"When players like LeBron James and Anthony Davis reciprocate that trust with long-term commitments, that's just a nod to the work that they put in as players and that we put in," Lakers vice president Rob Pelinka told ESPN's Dave McMenamin. "It was just a really, really exciting day for Lakers fans to know that our two pillars and our two leaders are here for years to come."
Rob Pelinka makes statement by winning offseason
At the conclusion of the 2018-19 season, James' first with the Lakers, the franchise finished 10th in the West with a 37-45 record. At the end of that campaign, which extended the team's longest-ever playoff drought in franchise history to six years, also witnessed the dramatic stepping down of Magic Johnson as the President of Basketball Operations.
All of this along with Johnson's statements a month later on ESPN's First Take brought up a lot of questions on Rob Pelinka (the Lakers' General Manager at the time) and his capability to run the team.
When the Lakers raised the 2020 title, just less than 18 months after all of this, Pelinka silenced all those doubters. But the former agent wasn't done and didn't intend to settle just because the team had clinched the championship. He went ahead and ensured the Lakers have one of the greatest offseasons for a defending champion in NBA history.
For every player, they let go or traded, they acquired a viable replacement at the same spot on the depth chart. Wesley Matthews for Danny Green, Dennis Schroder for Rajon Rondo, Marc Gasol for JaVale McGee and Montrezl Harrell for Dwight Howard.
Given the team's spectacular offseason, not only does Pelinka become the frontrunner to win the 2020-21 Executive of the Year Award but he also does plenty to his own reputation as a more-than-capable front office leader.
Can the champs repeat?
There's a reason only seven franchises in NBA history have gone on to repeat as NBA champions.
Having the best offseason in the league, could sometimes, do more bad than good. It puts a target on your back and you get every team's best game each night. Take the 2019-20 LA Clippers for example.
To make matters tougher, being the champs, every team would be circling their matchups against the Lakers on their calendar.
There are a few circumstances that are different for the Lakers' roster for the 2020-21 season. To begin with, they have one of the greatest winners in NBA history in LeBron to motivate the team to bring it every night. In addition, there's a fair amount of roster turnover among the starters and the bench unit, which does take care of the team chemistry issues like lack of competitive drive and mental fatigue.
They certainly have the tools to win back-to-back championships but only time will tell if these Lakers can withstand the pressure and actually pull it off
5 games to watch
Feb. 20 vs. Miami Heat
The Finals rematch.
While the Los Angeles Lakers were the clear winners of the 2020 offseason, the Heat didn't too bad either. Re-signing a key player in Goran Dragic and giving Bam Adebayo a max extension while adding free agents like Avery Bradley and Maurice Harkless to replace Derrick Jones Jr. and Jae Crowder should make for an exciting contest.
Opening night - Dec. 22 vs. LA Clippers
It was a shocking end to the Clippers' season last year but they are still stocked with talent and the 2020 offseason added more storylines to this in-city rivalry.
Harrell switching locker rooms. Ty Lue, who was James' head coach when the Cleveland Cavaliers won the title in 2016, has been elevated to the head coach of the Clippers. Both franchises split the signing of former Raptors big men with Serge Ibaka choosing the Clippers.
So, if the existing storylines weren't enough, we've got more to make this three-game season series a thriller.
Jan. 21 vs. Milwaukee Bucks
The reigning league MVP versus the reigning Finals MVP. Last season's top seed in the West versus top seed in the East.
The Bucks were also one of the other franchises to re-tool and get better this offseason by acquiring Jrue Holiday. This season series was split in the 2019-20 campaign, how will it go this time?
Dec. 28 vs. Portland Trail Blazers
After the Lakers, the Portland Trail Blazers were among the biggest winners of the offseason. They got deeper and should return to full strength and their starting point guard Damian Lillard elevates his level of production every year.
Last year, with a depleted and tired roster, Portland pulled off a couple of upsets against the Lakers. What about this season?
Christmas Day, Dec. 25 vs. Dallas Mavericks
The Luka Doncic-LeBron duels were entertaining last season and the Mavericks have gotten a touch better over the offseason. Get your popcorn ready for these matchups.
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