When the Los Angeles Lakers announced that they had acquired star foward Anthony Davis via trade, fans and analyst alike were ready to proclaim them the 2019 NBA champions before the season even started. That hype lasted until deadline day, when cross town rivals Los Angeles Clippers made their own blockbuster trade, flipping picks and players to steal MVP candidate Paul George from the Thunder, then signing Kawhi Leonard, a guy you might have heard of before, who is fresh off leading the Toronto Raptors to their first ever NBA championship. The big brother Lakers were immediately demoted to the back seat, going from being the best team in the association to second best team in their own city.
Say what you want about the brilliant moves the Clippers have made, I had punched my ticket for a Lakers championship long ago, and I'm not ditching this hype train just yet. The first thing working in their favor is a healthy LeBron James. James missed 27 games last year, more than he's missed in any season throughout his lengthy career. After sitting out the last few games last year and having a whole offseaon to recover, we should see a refreshed, revitalized, focus James on the court this year. This is a man who, while playing through a groin injury, averaged 27 8 and 8, a year most star players would love to have. While some media members are quick to write LeBron off, he still has the respect of his peers. In the clip from a in terview Damian Lillard did on the Joe Budden podcast, he states that LeBron is still the best player in the league. He will prove him right this year to quite the disrespectful noise.
Another key factor going into this year, which I elluded to with LeBron, is the overall health of the roster. The 2018 Lakers were victimized by the injury bug. With a semi healthy LeBron in the lineup, the went 28-27, a game over .500. However, a lot of those games didn't feature other prominent members of the roster. Rondo, Ball, Hart, Lance, and Ingram all missed a significant amount of time due to injury. The trio of James, Ball, and Ingram played a total of 23 games together in which they went 15-8, good for a .652 winniong percentage. When healthy the Lakers were a competative squad, which I believe will be the case once again this season. If they can avoid another injury riddled campaign, then a ring isn't out of the question.
While remaining injury free may be the organizations top priority and seen as the key to redeming a lost 2018 season, the biggest reason I believe they have a real shot of taking it this year is due to the addition of one Anthony Davis. Kyrie was clutch, Love was a shell of himself, Wade was great when he played but injured to often, same stroy different book for Bosh, and by the time Shaq came to Clevland he was past his prime. All the aformentioned names are the biggest stars LeBrons teamed up with, but at this point in his career, Davis is the biggest, brightest star James has ever had. The fit between these two should be seemless. Davis is tailor made to run the pick and roll game with LeBron at the top of the key, can help stretch the floor from deep, and defensively can switch onto guards and protect the rim with incredible insticts and length he possesses. As the pick and roll ball handler LeBron ranked in the 84th percentile, running it close to 8 times per game. Anthony Davis shot just under 50% as the roll man last year, but with a team that has more spacing (and that says more about the Pelicans then it does the Lakers) and a player of James caliber feeding him the ball, that number should see a healthy jump this term.
While the Clippers may be the talk of the town for now, come the end of the season it will be celebrating "the other team" that resides in LA.
All stats were provided by NBA.com