The Los Angeles Lakers are back. The Lakers have made many moves since the retirement of Kobe Bryant, but the biggest one was signing LeBron James, arguably still the best player in the league and the best player of this current generation, and trading for Anthony Davis, who some say is a top 5 player in the league.
With the Warriors dynasty now over, it seems as if the Lakers are in a prime position to be champions once again. But the Lakers weren't the only team who has made some big moves recently.
The Los Angeles Clippers recently signed Kawhi Leonard and traded for Paul George and it seems as if they will be the ones to lead the West. With the combination of defense, shooting, and chemistry that the Clippers have, they are the biggest threat to the Lakers as of now.
But I believe the Lakers are the team to beat, and here's why:
1. Star Power
The Lakers are the only team in the league that has two top 7 players. Even with LeBron James being 34, him still being arguably the best player in the league says a lot. Last year, LeBron James averaged 27/8/8, which isn’t a surprise because that is what is expected of him. But this past season, LeBron has had one thing that he hasn’t had in a while: an offseason of rest.
LeBron has been to 8 straight finals dating all the way back to 2011, but that streak came to an end this past season as the Lakers failed to make the playoffs for the 6th straight season.
The same thing can be added to Anthony Davis who also didn’t play much this past season due to his trade demands, and the Pelicans also missed the playoffs this past season. The inaction that Anthony Davis and LeBron James received this past offseason paired with the added motivation the two share due to the criticism they have received should put fear into the rest of the league.
2. Veteran Presence/Championship Mentality
The Lakers made a ton of win-now moves this past offseason, signing Danny Green and Quinn Cook and re-signing Rajon Rondo and JaVale McGee. These signings now give the Lakers 5 players who have won a championship (Rajon Rondo, LeBron James, JaVale McGee, Quinn Cook, and Danny Green) compared to the Clippers only having one (Kawhi Leonard).
Rajon Rondo, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis are all players who elevate their games in the playoffs. That combined with the amount of depth/veteran leadership this team possesses is yet another thing that they have going for them.
3. Improved Shooting/Defense
Last year, the Lakers were bad on both sides of the ball. The Lakers had the second-worst three-point percentage (33%) of any team in the NBA and were a bottom 10 defense. Some of this was due to injuries but the real issue was the lack of correct personnel. The Lakers just didn’t have shooters or defenders and in this past offseason, they made an emphasis on that.
The Lakers signed Troy Daniels, Quinn Cook, and Danny Green -- all of which shot above the Lakers’ best 3 point shooter (percentage-wise/min 150 three-point attempts*) in Lance Stephenson. They also added Avery Bradley, a defensive-minded guard, traded for one of the best defenders in the league in Anthony Davis, and hired Frank Vogel, a coach who specializes in Defense.
Additionally, the Lakers signed Dwight Howard to a non-guaranteed one-year deal. Even at 33, Dwight Howard can still be a great rim protector/rebounder. The last time we saw Howard play, he was on the Washington Wizards and averaged 12.8 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. We can also look to the season before that in which he averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds while playing in all but one game for the Charlotte Hornets. The topic on Dwight lately has been that he is hard to play with and wants to do things his own way, but if he has changed like he said he has, he will be a great addition for the Los Angeles Lakers.
All in all, the Lakers are poised to make a deep playoff run. If everything goes well for them, it will be extremely difficult for any team to compete with them. The combination of Star Power, Shooting and Defense that the Lakers have makes me wonder how anyone can doubt them.