With the NBA season starting on Tuesday, the biggest storyline revolves around this new Lakers team. Lead by LeBron James, many consider this team a championship contender, while others are questioning whether they can make it past the first-round of the playoffs. This article will focus on the major strengths of this new Lakers team and will discuss what needs to improve in order for this team to become a legitimate contender.
- LeBron James
In the history of the NBA, there are few players that can make an immediate impact on the success of the team. LeBron James, despite playing in his 16thseason, is still one of those individuals who can propel any team toward a playoff berth. Regardless of the play of anyone else on this Lakers team, LeBron by himself will be able to optimize the most out of this particular team. Along with being the greatest playmaker in Basketball, LeBron has demonstrated that he still has the physical durability to create for himself anywhere on the court and has even improved his three-point shooting to a solid 36%. Simply put, the only reason this team is even garnishing this much attention is due to the known abilities of LeBron James. If he somehow has an injury this season, or has even a slight drop-off this team will not make the playoffs. However, if LeBron continues to play at a high level, the lakers are guaranteed at least a 4thseed in the west.
The second biggest strength on this roster is the number of different playmakers. These are people that are both able to create their own shot or are able to create for fellow teammates. With Rondo and LeBron, the lakers have two of the greatest minds in all of basketball able to dissect defense and find the best shot possible for their team on every procession. Alongside, rondo and lebron are players like Lance Stevenson and Kyle Kuzma, who have both demonstrated an ability to create their own offense. This will be great for rondo and LeBron, as they will because it forces defenders to stick to their assignments. This creates open lanes for both rondo and LeBron, and if the defender does try to double team, one has given two of the best decision makers in basketball an easy assist. Overall the playmaking of this team could potentially make this one of the most exciting and fluid offenses in the NBA.
- Assortment of talent
Personally, I think this is the most diverse team in terms of different skill sets. This assortment of talent on this team can be utilized to create an array of different lineups and mismatches. If they want to play up-tempo they could have Lebron, Lonzo, Kuzma, Ingram, Rondo. This lineup would create on of the fastest tempos in the game and would lead any missed shot to a potential fast break opportunity. Furthermore if they wanted to slow the game down they could have Lebron, Mghee, Stevenson, Ingam, and Rondo. This line-up could utilize essentially bulying the other team with isolation basketball. This is also a solid defensive line-up and has the potentials of slowing down many of the high-powered offenses in the league. There are a multitude of different combinations that can be utilized for certain situations, but it will ultimately be up to coach Walton to optimize the different skill sets of his players. If done effectively the Lakers can create one of the most diverse rotations in the league.
Areas of Improvement.
- Young talent
The Lakers have three very talented young players. They are Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Lonzo Ball. In order for this team to be considered legitimate contenders, all three of these young stars have to improve significantly in order to be considered contenders. Brandon Ingram who is the best player of the three has to become a more consistent scorer. He has the talent to be the second leading scorer on this team, but the question is whether he will able to adjust with the addition of LeBron and rondo. These additions will put the ball in his hands less and will force him to play more off-ball. If he is able to maximize both his off-ball and off-the-dribble shots, he could easily make a leap to an all-star caliber player. Kuzma on the other hand has proven to be a consistent scorer and I believe that offensively he will improve thanks to addition of James and Rondo. The only issue I have with Kuzma’s game is a lack of commitment on the defensive end. While he is not a bad defender, he has been exposed multiple times on the defensive end of the floor. He has the physical attribute to defend multiple positions, and if he takes the step to improve this part of the game he could end up becoming on of the premier defenders in the game. This alongside his offensive skills would help the Lakers on both ends of the floor. Now Lonzo among the three young stars has a lot to improve upon this season. While learning under LeBron and rondo, it is imperative that he is able to hit his shots. Lonzo have a below average field goal percentage of 36% and had an abysmal 3-point field goal percentage at 30%. If he is unable to score the ball effectively, then he will just be a liability on the offensive end on the court. While Lonzo is a solid defender and good playmaker, the Lakers currently do not need either. If the young talent does not develop, there is no way that this Laker team can compete against the upper echelon teams in the west.
- 3-point shooting’
It does not take a genius to understand the importance of three-point shooting in the modern NBA. Teams need legitimate threats from outside to be considered contenders. The Lakers quite frankly lack a pure shooter, and even their best marksmen (kuzma, LeBron, Ingram) shoot off the dribble. The only true “pure” shooter is pope, and he is still developing. This could be a legitimate hurdle that will need to be overcome by this Lakers team. They will need one of the young stars to alter their game and play in that role. If they do not have a consistent shooter, it is quite unlikely that they will be successful in this modern NBA.