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2022-23 NBA Preview: Los Angeles Lakers

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The Lakers are coming off arguably the most disappointing season in franchise history. Expectations were high after acquiring Russell Westbrook in the 2021 off-season to form a “Big 3”. The idea of acquiring Westbrook was to take the load off of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, while also keeping the team afloat in case of any injury. That obviously didn’t go accordingly. They also brought in older veterans such as Carmelo Anthony, Kent Bazemore, Dwight Howard, Wayne Ellington, Trevor Ariza, Avery Bradley to fill out the roster and that proved to be a massive mistake. The older vets weren’t able to play with consistency in a full 82 game season as fatigue and age caught up with them which was evident by their play.

This off-season, the Lakers took a completely different approach going with a younger supporting cast to surround their core for this upcoming season. With LeBron James going into his 20th NBA season, they can’t afford to punt another year and have to be competitive in a much improved Western Conference.

 

Point Guard:

As things currently stand, Russell Westbrook is still on the Lakers roster, although that can change as the Lakers will continue to explore their options until training camp. Westbrook is coming off averaging 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, 7.1 assists in 78 games last season. His fit with LeBron James was not a very good one. Darvin Ham reportedly wants him to become a more reliable defender and spot up shooter. Whether that plan will work out or not, remains to be seen.

Kendrick Nunn, who’s currently listed as the backup point guard missed the entire season last year with a knee injury. Nunn is an explosive scoring point guard who will look to bounce back in a contract expiring year.

 

Shooting Guard:

Lakers brought in Lonnie Walker to replace Malik Monk, who signed with the Sacramento Kings. Walker is a high-flying scorer who came over from the San Antonio Spurs. His playmaking and defense can improve but he’s a player that can get hot at any moment.

Austin Reaves was one of the few bright spots for the Lakers last season. His numbers aren’t eye popping but he’s an extremely high IQ player who can do a little bit of everything. There’s no doubt he’ll compete for the starting shooting guard spot along with Walker. Expect his game to continue to expand as he enters into his 2nd NBA season.

Talen Horton-Tucker is a player who can play multiple positions. Lakers had him playing the 1, 2, and 3 last season coming off the bench. Horton-Tucker had his moments last season including a 40-point game against the eventual champion Golden State Warriors but struggled to find a consistent role with the team. The plan is for Darvin Ham to find a more suitable role for him and use the soon to be 22 year-old as a key defensive rotation player.

Max Christie is a young prospect who the Lakers who drafted in the second round. Wouldn’t expect to see much of him unless injuries occur or he makes a high impression on the coaching staff.

 

Small Forward:

LeBron James continues to defeat father-time. Coming off his highest scoring average in over a decade with 30.3 points per game to go along with 8.2 rebounds, and 6.2 assists at the age of 37. Going into his 20th season, the only question regarding him is his health as he turns 38 in December.

Stanley Johnson was a nice surprise for the Lakers last season. He was one of few bright spots who competed in most games with his scrappy play. Expect him to be a key part of the team’s rotation going into this season.

Lakers signed Juan Toscano-Anderson from the defending champion Warriors. Toscano-Anderson is a high energy player, who didn’t get many minutes with Warriors but the Oakland native will definitely have a chance to be a key rotation piece for this Lakers team.

Troy Brown Jr. is another high energy forward who the Lakers signed in free agency. Brown Jr. similar to Toscano-Anderson, didn’t play much with his previous team in Chicago but will compete for minutes in the forward position.

 

Power Forward: 

Anthony Davis has a lot of work to do to change the narrative surrounding him after having back-to-back injury riddled seasons after the 2020 championship. Davis averaged 23.2 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 2.3 blocks per game in 40 games last season. According to Yahoo Sports writer Chris Haynes, coach Darvin Ham plans to run the offense through him this upcoming season. Davis has reportedly lost some weight to get in better shape and has been in the gym improving his shooting.

Wenyen Gabriel is a high motor big that had his share of moments last season as a Laker. Minutes for him in a crowded frontcourt will be challenging.

 

Center: 

Lakers signed two quality centers for the veteran minimum, bringing back their old draft pick from 2017 in Thomas Bryant and Damian Jones, who played 8 games for the Lakers in the 2020-21 season. Bryant, who came off an ACL injury last season will provide much needed shooting for the Lakers. Bryant is a career 35% shooter from 3. Jones on the other hand is coming off his best season as a pro last year for the Sacramento Kings, averaging 8.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists on 65.8% from the field and 34.5% from 3. The starting center position is up for grabs for the both of them.

 

Outlook:

With this roster currently constructed there’s a lot of question marks. The lack of shooting is very concerning. A LeBron James led team is most dangerous being surrounded with shooting. No player on the roster currently shot better than 35% from 3 last year. While the Lakers got younger, there’s still a lot of holes. Perimeter defense is still a huge concern. Lakers will also need figure out whether Russell Westbrook will be on the roster or not by training camp to get him to fully buy in. Lakers will be competitive if James and Davis are healthy but as far as competing for a championship, it’s hard to imagine with this current roster. A few more moves will have to be made and the Lakers know they have to maximize the LeBron James window while he’s still playing at an elite level.

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