With the 2019-20 NBA season quickly approaching, we're rolling out 30 Teams in 30 Days. Between now and opening night, we'll dedicate one day to each team in the league.
Today, we're looking at the Los Angeles Lakers.
2018-19 season record
37-45 (10th in the Western Conference)
Projected 2019-20 season record
50-32 (5th in the Western Conference)
Kostas Antetokounmpo (waivers)
Avery Bradley (free agency)
Quinn Cook (free agency)
DeMarcus Cousins (free agency)
Troy Daniels (free agency)
Anthony Davis (trade)
Jared Dudley (free agency)
Danny Green (free agency)
Talen Horton-Tucker (draft)
Dwight Howard (free agency)
Frank Vogel - head coach
Lonzo Ball (trade)
Michael Beasley (free agency)
Reggie Bullock (free agency)
Tyson Chandler (free agency)
Josh Hart (trade)
Brandon Ingram (trade)
Moritz Wagner (trade)
|PG||LeBron James||Rajon Rondo||Quinn Cook||Alex Caruso|
|SG||Avery Bradley||Kentavious Caldwell-Pope||Troy Daniels|
|SF||Danny Green||Jared Dudley||Talen Horton-Tucker|
|PF||Anthony Davis||Kyle Kuzma|
|C||Dwight Howard||JaVale McGee||DeMarcus Cousins*|
* Cousins is expected to miss the entire 2019-20 season with a torn ACL
3 key storylines
LeBron James and Anthony Davis
This dynamic duo has the potential to be one of the scariest pairings in NBA history.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis are two of the most versatile players in the league and when they're both healthy, there's essentially no way to completely shut them down.
MORE: James and Davis are the scariest pick-and-roll duo in the NBA
James is coming off of the longest offseason of his career since missing the playoffs back in 2005. His injury-riddled first season in Los Angeles didn't go exactly as planned, but he still found a way to average 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game on his way to an All-NBA selection. He'll now team up with arguably the best teammate he's ever played with in Davis, who has plenty to prove in his first season in LA.
Davis had a complicated 2018-19 campaign, headlined by him requesting a trade from the Pelicans. He appeared in only 56 games due to a combination of injuries and the franchise sitting him out while they pursued trades, but the All-Star big man still posted 25.9 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.4 blocks and 1.6 steals in the games he played. AD is a perennial top-10 talent in the league but has yet to prove himself as a winner with just one playoff series win in seven seasons in the NBA.
With each of their superstars playing with a chip on their shoulder, the Lakers will without a doubt be one of the top teams in the West. This duo shouldn't take long to mesh and once they do, the rest of the league is in trouble.
Can the role players step up?
Last season, the question was "can the role players step up around LeBron James?" This season, even with Anthony Davis added to the mix, the overarching question remains the same.
A few of the faces are the same - Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo and Alex Caruso are all back. When the Lakers missed out on signing Kawhi Leonard, they made sure to spend their money a little more wisely than they did last offseason.
They addressed one of their major issues from last year by bringing in a number of 3-and-D guys, headlined by two-time NBA champion Danny Green. Along with the sharpshooting Green comes Avery Bradley, Quinn Cook, Troy Daniels and Jared Dudley.
They signed DeMarcus Cousins at a discounted price but the former All-Star centre tore his ACL this offseason and is expected to miss the entire year. Although this was a tough break for the Lakers, they decided to give Dwight Howard a second chance to fill that void, bringing the three-time Defensive Player of the Year in on a discount as well.
MORE: How does Howard fit with the Lakers? | How Lakers signings help LeBron and Davis
When James and Lonzo Ball went down with injuries last season, the team struggled to stay afloat to remain in playoff contention. This year, the role players seem to better fit the mold of a LeBron-led team and with Davis by his side, the role players should thrive with plenty of open looks.
There's a ton of pressure on Kuzma to take a big step forward as a go-to guy in Year 3. There's possibly even more pressure on Caldwell-Pope, McGee and Rondo, who were all a part of the unsuccessful first season of this Lakers project. LeBron and AD will certainly lead the way, but if the Lakers role players don't step up, it could be the difference between this team contending for a title and not.
Ending the playoff drought
It may not seem that long ago, but the Lakers have not made the playoffs since 2013. That's six consecutive seasons without a playoff appearance - the longest drought in franchise history.
In their last playoff appearance in 2013 - with a roster that featured players like Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Dwight Howard - the Lakers were bounced in the first round. You would have thought the signing of LeBron James in the 2018 offseason would certainly end that drought but injuries ruined those chances. Trading for Anthony Davis should also help end that drought, but with how balanced the league is this year, you never know.
Patience is running thin with purple and gold faithful and with a roster like this, the expectations are not "make the playoffs" - the expectations are to win a championship. The bar is set extremely high with a very slim margin for error. Can LeBron, AD, Kuzma and the rest of the team live up to these expectations?
5 games to watch
Oct. 22 at LA Clippers
As the headliner for NBA Opening Night, this is the first of four marquee matchups between the two teams that reside at the STAPLES Center. This will be our first chance to see the new-look Lakers take on the new-look Clippers, two of the most loaded teams in the NBA. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are gunning to take over as the best team in Los Angeles and it's up to LeBron James and Anthony Davis to prevent that from happening.
Nov. 27 at New Orleans Pelicans
There couldn't be more familiarity between these two rosters. Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Brandon Ingram seek revenge against their former team while the Pelicans as a whole will be trying to send a message to Anthony Davis. Zion Williamson - the most anticipated rookie since LeBron James - will go toe-to-toe with The King in their first-ever matchup.
Dec. 25 vs. LA Clippers
On the biggest stage the NBA regular season has to offer, the Lakers and Clippers will battle for the STAPLES Center on Christmas Day. This will be their first meeting since Opening Night, so you can imagine the losing team in that contest will look forward to their next chance to take a crack at their in-town rival.
Jan. 18 at Houston Rockets
The Rockets are expected to be one of the biggest threats in the Western Conference after trading for Russell Westbrook this offseason. As strange as it seems, this is the first meeting between these two powerhouses. It should work in our favour that we have to wait until the calendar turns to 2020 to see this matchup, as the two superstar duos should be well-acquainted at this point in the season.
Jan. 25 at Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers have a great shot at representing the Eastern Conference in next year's NBA Finals. It'll be a treat to watch LeBron James and his prototype Ben Simmons face off while two of the most entertaining bigs in the game in Anthony Davis and Joel Embiid battle it out in the paint. This could be an NBA Finals preview, though it will be too early to tell in this first contest between the two.
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