2022-09-30 · 3 min read · NBA/Basketball
LeBron in the Lakers' NBA Media Day

Associated Press

Heading into a brand new NBA season, no team has a higher floor-to-ceiling variance than the Los Angeles Lakers (maybe other than Brooklyn).
What do I mean by that? Well, basically you could tell me the Lakers will finish in the bottom of the conference, or as a top three seed, and both are equally within the realm of possibility.
Most people have the Lakers coming in somewhere in the 7-10 play-in range. Not exactly ideal for a franchise that’s championship or bust, especially with LeBron James in the twilight of his career.
Personally, I actually tend to be higher on this iteration of the Lakers than most, and we’ll get to why in just a second, but no matter what happens, one thing that’s a guarantee is that it will be a circus all year long.
The case for the Lakers being bad is simple; in a league that’s arguably more talented than it’s been in 20 years, the Lakers just don’t have much going for them outside their two stars James and Anthony Davis.
Russell Westbrook is just not the kind of superstar that can adjust and adapt his game in the late career stages to become a role player. He still thinks he’s 2016 Russ, and at this point, it’s wishful thinking to believe he can just lower his usage rate, start caring about defence and actually move without the basketball, all overnight.
Ultimately, the most likely scenario with Russ is the Lakers trading him in January to a team that’s looking for an expiring contract to free up cap space next summer.
Now, if Russ CAN accept a new role and come in as an energy guy off the bench, it actually could turn into something that might work on the court. But I’ll believe it when I see it, and the simple fact is, he’s not a starting point guard in this league anymore if you want to actually go anywhere.
Look at Allen Iverson, he was great until all of a sudden he wasn’t, and he never really came to grips with that fact, hence why his career fizzled out in the least spectacular fashion possible. Russ is on the same track.
Moving beyond the Westbrook albatross, this team just doesn’t have the shooting they need to really compete. It’s puzzling some of the roster-building choices management has made in the last few years, especially since they won a title just three seasons ago with a team filled with shooting wings around James and AD.
The blueprint was right there and they haven’t followed it.
LeBron needs shooting around him, that’s how his teams have always been successful, and LA lost their best shooter in Malik Monk from last season.
The likes of Lonnie Walker, Austin Reaves, Pat Beverly and Kendrick Nunn (who we’ll get to) just aren’t going to cut it.
Now, the Lakers do have a few cards to play. The Westbrook expiring with a pick attached could bring back some decent role players in return if they can find a trade partner.
There’s also Nunn (don’t laugh), who missed all of last season to injury. If he’s healthy, he’s probably the best option at starting point guard right now, and his defensive toughness and breakdown ability on offence will definitely help.
Patrick Beverly, for all his quirks, will also bring some much-needed heart and toughness (especially on defence) to this team.
But the most compelling argument for the Lakers exceeding their over/under win total is the return of Anthony Davis to superstar status.
In sports, we tend to have a short memory, which is why it’s easy to forget that not even two calendar years ago, Davis dominated the bubble playoffs and finals, and was being crowned as the next Tim Duncan.
I’m not going that far, but if he’s healthy and engaged he’s proven to be a top ten player in the world on both ends of the court.
I want to preface this next point by saying: ALWAYS take summer workout buzz with a grain of salt, but all the reports out of Laker land say Davis is in his best shape in years and is ready for a bounce-back season after the last two were marred with nagging injuries, lack of conditioning and overall complacency.
There’s a world here where Davis and LeBron go back into domination mode. Their sheer size, strength and skill as a one-two punch are a matchup nightmare for anyone when they’re rolling.
LeBron seems to have at least one year of being amazing in the tank (even if he hasn’t really played defence in two seasons now) and there’s a possibility we’re all seriously underestimating the Lakers.
I wouldn’t bet the house on it, but I’m just saying if January rolls around and the Lakers are 25-10 with Davis looking like an MVP, don’t be surprised.
I certainly won’t.
Sports Tree Profile

By: Eddie Huband


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