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Path to the Championship: Los Angeles Lakers

Last Season: The turning point of the Los Angeles Lakers season came December 25th, 2018: the team sat fourth in a highly competitive Western Conference before their Christmas day match-up with the Golden State Warriors. While they did defeat the back-to-back champion Warriors, it came at a high price. LeBron James exited the game with a hamstring injury; this caused him to miss seventeen consecutive games. The Lakers then saw critical members of their rotation such as Lonzo Ball, Rajon Rondo, Brandon Ingram, and JaVale McGee pick up lengthy injuries over the remainder of the season. They ended the season with a 37-45 record, missing the playoffs and finishing 10th in the Western Conference.

Transactions: The Lakers had a very busy off-season: they acquired Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, their 2019 fourth overall pick, their 2021 and 2022 first round picks, and 2023 and 2024 first round pick swaps. They signed free agents Danny Green, Jarrett Dudley, Quinn Cook, Avery Bradley, and Demarcus Cousins. They also re-signed Rajon Rondo, Javale McGee, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Title Hopes: On April 28th, 2013 the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 103-82 to complete a first-round playoff sweep. The sweep would foreshadow the next few years for the Lakers’ franchise: the team missed the playoffs for a team-record six consecutive years. The first year of the LeBron James era didn’t yield a deep playoff run as expected or even a playoff berth. To add insult to injury, newly signed center Demarcus Cousins tore his left ACL and is now out for the year. This year, things will almost certainly be different. With a balanced roster of solid veteran players to surround LeBron James and Anthony Davis, it’s championship or bust for the purple and gold.

The Western Conference Champion Golden State Warriors will look different next year, as the off-season saw superstar Kevin Durant leave; veterans Andre Iguodala, Quinn Cook, and Shaun Livingston exited the team as well. Fielding a team still formidable but not as strong as in the prior years presents all the teams in the Western Conference a legitimate chance to win a championship. The Lakers, as well as the Los Angeles Clippers, seem to be the clear front runners to represent the Western Conference in the 2020 NBA Finals.

The Tragic Flaw: Although the Lakers improved their shooting/floor spacing, added players with championship pedigree, and possess the personnel to run teams off the court with their small ball lineup featuring Anthony Davis at the center spot, they still have a lot of flaws for a championship hopeful team. The Lakers have numerous questions on the defensive end; aside from Danny Green and Anthony Davis, every player on the roster could end up being a defensive liability in key possessions of games. Another potential issue: limited shot creation. If LeBron misses games during the season to preserve his body for a deep playoff run, the offense will run through Anthony Davis. Outside of him, though…who’s creating their own offense? The most glaring concern: LeBron James’ age and health. James is the key to the Lakers’ entire season; it is imperative he be managed well during the season, and is healthy come playoff time.

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