Predicted finish: 2nd in the West (1st in the Pacific, 1st in the power rankings)
Last seasons conference finish: 1st
The Defending NBA Champions come into this season refreshed with a better roster than the one that won them the title. Additions like Dennis Schroeder, Montrezl Harrell, Wesley Mathews and Marc Gasol have added depth to a team that already had the best duo in LeBron James and Anthony Davis. If there was one problem with this team last year it was depth and they somehow addressed that? The only real way you can talk yourself into reservations with this team would be LeBron and Davis’ health and how a bubble, the time off before it and the lack of travel may have helped them last through the finals. But at that point, that’s basically conspiracy theorizing your way into a problem and if that’s the only way, it would point to how good this team should be.
The big question for the franchise: Can they stay healthy?
When you upgrade every position of a championship team with pieces that make sense, the only thing that can really hold you back is injuries. Gasol is old and has had some stuff the last couple years but of course who you’re really concerned about is LeBron and Davis. Last season was Davis’ first real run of essentially complete health. Was it an aberration or the new trend? Similarly, after an injury the season prior one would’ve rationally expected LeBron to have some troubles as age becomes more of a factor and yet it never really did. If Davis is just going to continue to to be healthy and LeBron is going to continue to defy age, I struggle to see what stops this team around the NBA in the playoffs.
One move I want to see them make: Give Talen Horton-Tucker more minutes
The preseason MVP has inspired thoughts of flat out unfairness that of all teams to have this guy, of course it’s the team with an embarrassment of riches. After seasons of disappointment for Kyle Kuzma and some age at the other wing depth spots, a young piece like Horton-Tucker could help turn this team into a three to four year problem instead of just one or two. With the travel weird, the season and offseason squished, why not give young players like him and Kuzma more reps? It’ll help save Davis and LeBron’s legs for the playoffs and, maybe help develop either of their games.
Offseason Grade: A
I mean Schroeder, Gasol, Mathews and Harrell are laughably big upgrades over Rajon Rondo, Javale McGee, Danny Green and Dwight Howard. Not sure what more I can say on why this was a great offseason for the Lakers than that.
Young player I’m excited for: Talen Horton-Tucker
Have you seen this guy in the preseason? I get it’s meaningless games but this dude has been killing it for the shorthanded Lakers. In a season where they’re really just waiting for the playoffs to start, I can’t wait to see how Frank Vogel uses Horton-Tucker to see if they can develop another piece for an already stacked roster. If Horton-Tucker hits at just 20 years old for this team, I’m not sure what the league can do against them.
This team really won the title and went out and improved. At some point it’s time to call a spade a spade and these should be the runaway NBA title favourites right now.