Last season met none of the lofty expectations for the Los Angeles Lakers. After a promising offseason that saw the Lakers secure the signing of the most lucrative free agent available in LeBron James, the Lakers went on to have a season marred by drama and injuries, ultimately ending the year 37-45, 10th place in the Western Conference and out of the Playoffs.
Through their misfortunes, an opportunity presented itself to the Lakers in the form of superstar power forward Anthony Davis submitting his highly publicized trade request to the New Orleans Pelicans. With Davis and LeBron both under the umbrella of Rich Paul’s Klutch Sports agency, speculation began mounting that the two would unite in Los Angeles. Then, months later, the trade became official, and in the same vein as Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, the Lakers now have their superstar duo in LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
With this being said, let’s now explore if the Lakers are positioned better for success now that the NBA has entered an era of duos, or if they will once again fall flat of expectations.
Although the addition of Anthony Davis can hardly be seen as a negative for any NBA team, adding the former Kentucky standout came at the cost of losing Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart along with three future draft picks. While the players lost in the Davis trade have a lot of potential, the move is one I believe the Lakers absolutely had to pull the trigger on after last season. Anthony Davis is a star in the present and taking advantage of a LeBron-AD pairing is a once in a generation opportunity. If the end result is one or more championships, the Lakers will hardly miss those draft picks.
Along with the young players who were sent to New Orleans, the Lakers add to their revamped look by replacing Head Coach Luke Walton (now with the Sacramento Kings) with former Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic coach Frank Vogel, a move that follows President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson leaving his position in a public press conference.
With all the uncertainty and roster changes surrounding the Lakers, the talent is undeniable. LeBron James and Anthony Davis are two of the premier players in basketball and, with the offseason shaping the NBA into a league more based around duos (Kawhi Leonard and Paul George for the Los Angeles Clippers, Russell Westbrook and James Harden for the Houston Rockets, etc.), the newly formed two-headed monster in purple and gold should prove to be as formidable as any. The Lakers feature notable returns in Kyle Kuzma, Javale McGee, Rajon Rondo and Alex Caruso, the additions of veteran talent in Danny Green, Dwight Howard, Avery Bradley, and Jared Dudley as well as the promising young guard Quinn Cook from the Golden State Warriors. The Lakers have depth beyond their All-NBA caliber stars, and I believe that will carry them far into the postseason.
The greatness of LeBron James is hard to deny at this point. The NBA’s fourth all-time leading scorer with a current total of 32,543 points, three NBA championships, four Most Valuable Player awards and sustaining averages of 27.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.2 assists per game over the course of nearly 1,200 games, King James has well cemented himself as one of the greatest to over pick up a basketball. Something to keep an eye on though: LeBron turns 35 this December, and just posted his fewest games played in a season (55) due to injury. LeBron James may be an anomaly in a lot of ways, but Father Time catches up to every player, and the extent of which that applies to the King this season will have a lot of bearing on the Los Angeles Lakers’ success.
Of course, the Brow wasn’t brought to Los Angeles to be viewed as LeBron’s sidekick. A behemoth of a man, sporting a 7′ 6″ wingspan on his 6′ 10″ frame, Anthony Davis is a force on both ends of the court. Already a six-time all-star in his seven years as a pro, Davis has amassed totals of 23.7 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. With his trade request limiting his games played last season to 56, Davis should enter this season fresh and with the added motivation that comes with being on a title contender, something Davis has never had. Though his fellow Kentucky product and former New Orleans teammate DeMarcus Cousins most likely won’t be ready to step onto the court this season with a torn ACL, the imposing force of Davis along with the Lakers’ supporting bigs will be a lot to ask of any opposing team to match up to.
This Los Angeles Lakers team is not one to take lightly. With two certified superstars at the wheel, showtime may soon return to Staples Center. If the Lakers can keep their roster healthy in a way they were unable to this past season as well as establish chemistry as they go, this team has their eyes on the NBA Championship, and for good reason. The Los Angeles Lakers, for the first time in years, are back.