Injuries killed the Los Angeles Lakers last season. Beyond anything else that happened down the roster, a hobbled LeBron James and an injured Anthony Davis were going to be a nearly impossible hurdle to overcome. As such, the team was bounced in the first round of the postseason, and the front office got to work. L.A. now has a nearly brand new roster, with only James, Davis, and Talen Horton-Tucker as holdovers from last season. Inbound are a collection of veterans and the occasional gamble on a youngster, all of whom are expected to help LeBron and the Lakers achieve the bar that is set for them every single year: winning a Larry O’Brien trophy.
Joel Ayayi (two-way)
Austin Reaves (two-way)
Projected Vegas Win Total: 51.5
Biggest Addition: Russell Westbrook
Hey, Russell Westbrook’s here now! The Lakers are now his fourth team in four seasons. Westbrook is the weird player who is here to win a ring, but is not necessarily ring chasing. It is possible this fit is a bit funky — scroll down a little for more! — but the thought of him in the open court alongside the team’s heavy hitters is legitimately thrilling. Can he help in the halfcourt? Can he defend at all? Will he defend at all? Who knows! At the very least, it’ll be interesting.
Biggest Loss: Kyle Kuzma
No, Kuzma is not an All-Star or anything like that. But the young forward had carved out a niche in which he’d do anything the team asked, and usually, he’d do it pretty well. Kuzma turned into a nice shooter, a reliable defensive option, and someone who was willing to embrace being a complimentary piece alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis during the Lakers title run. He isn’t a top-50 player or anything, but there is value in having a guy who did the stuff Kuzma did, and L.A. will miss it.
Biggest Question: [gestures at Russ, LeBron, and AD] So, is this gonna work?
The belief for years has been that you need to surround LeBron James with shooting. He gets the ball, he does stuff, he finds open dudes, they hit shots. Now, they have Russell Westbrook here, who, uh, needs the ball and finds open dudes who hits shots. Westbrook is also not a particularly good shooter, nor has he ever been. And then there’s Anthony Davis, whose shooting goes through streaks and is not going to be put in a stretch big man role or anything like that, as that is not the best use of his skill set. They certainly answered the shooting concerns with other signings this offseason, as Anthony, Ellington, Monk, Nunn, and Bazemore all bring spacing, but the Westbrook-LeBron fit remains a real question.
Frank Vogel has an interesting challenge ahead of him, particularly if this partnership shows signs of struggles in the playoffs. The good news for the Lakers is that guys tend to just end up making sense next to James most of the time, so it’s not hard to see a way this ends up figuring itself out.
What Makes This Season A Success: A championship. It’s the Lakers, a team defined by rings, and they have LeBron James, a player defined by rings. The bar is a championship and that is what they have to clear every single year.
What Makes This Season A Failure: See above! Well, this one was easy, eh?