How many future Hall of Famers make up this Los Angeles Lakers roster? In the starting lineup, there are at least four with one more coming off the bench. That doesn’t even include the former multi-rebounding champion, as well as a former Laker champion from 10 years ago. The Lakers aren't messing around this offseason. Combined with the trade for Russell Westbrook, this offseason showed that the Lakers want to win a championship, or this season was a complete bust.
Granted, many of these players are well past their prime years. The starting lineup features four 30-year olds with Anthony Davis lurking in the shadows at age 28. LeBron James has a quest to hunt down Michael Jordan and his six championships. One more championship could put him over the edge in the GOAT conversation. Can this team pull it off?
Point Guard - Russell Westbrook
Westbrook is turning into a journeyman in the NBA these days. In the last three years, he has played for the Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, and Washington Wizards. This is the third time that he has been traded in three years. Despite all that, it hasn’t stopped him from playing in the playoffs each year, including last year where he averaged the fourth triple-double in his career with 22.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 11.7 assists.
Questions are surrounding the fit with LeBron, another ball-dominant player in the league. If you combined the two usage percentages from last year, it would come close to 60%. For two players to touch the ball nearly two-thirds of the game, that will not be an effective game plan moving forward. Westbrook is going to have to accept a new role if this is going to work. Can he push pride aside to win his first ring?
Shooting Guard - Wayne Ellington
Don’t sleep on Wayne Ellington. For the Pistons, his 42.2% three-point shooting was the best overall mark since 2013. Ellington isn’t here to score 20 points a night, which is something he has never done. The team lost their top two three-point shooters in Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope via the trade with Westbrook. Ellington just needs to provide a couple of three's to make up for the lost production.
This is one heckuva value deal for the Lakers, especially if he will slide into a starting role. Ellington and Caldwell-Pope have similarities in their game, but the difference is that Ellington is 33 years old. Regardless, this move could replace KCP well if Ellington is efficient in his 22.0 minutes per game.
Small Forward - Trevor Ariza
For now, the veteran gets the nod even though this might be a short reign on the depth chart. According to Shams Charania, with Westbrook joining the lineup, that will shift Davis to a starting role at center. However, Talen Horton Tucker, the team’s third-year rising star is “expected” to compete in camp for a possible starting role.
Ariza played in just 30 games last season, averaging 9.4 points and 4.8 rebounds. In comparison, Horton-Tucker averaged 9.0 points and 2.6 rebounds in 65 games. Ariza is 36 years old, while Horton-Tucker is 20 years old. The Lakers have a chance to go older or younger here. It will certainly be a coin flip. For now, the veteran who owns a championship with the Lakers franchise from his early playing days will get the starting nod.
Power Forward - LeBron James
What else is there to say about LeBron? Two years ago, he played as the team’s point guard and led the league in assists. Now, he slides back to his natural position at small forward. For reasons previously stated, this marriage between LeBron and Westbrook has flaws on paper. With that said, the team also has great strength and that is their ability to get to the basket.
Westbrook and LeBron could be as lethal as LeBron and Dwyane Wade in transition. The two are incredibly talented at attacking the rim. Assuming if the Lakers went small, Westbrook and LeBron could create for their outside shooters. The only problem is that others are going to have to step up with Kuzma and KCP gone. Either way, LeBron hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down yet, so we should assume he remains a top-5 player in the league.
Center - Anthony Davis
Assuming Davis is healthy, he is a top-10 player in this league. The combination of LeBron and Davis was so smooth their first year that the team won a championship. Davis battled injuries last year and it freed up the middle. The Lakers will be much more fortified if Davis can serve as the primary rim protector again.
Davis was the Defensive Player Runner-Up in 2020 to Giannis Antetkounmpo. One could argue that Davis is a top-2 two-way power forward in this league with Giannis ranked ahead of him. With two strong rebounders added to the team, Davis might be able to float out more on offense. Defensively, the Lakers could return to being a top-5 defensive team with Davis leading the way.
Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Nunn, Mac McClung, Wesley Matthews, Malik Monk, Joel Ayayi, Austin Reaves, Talen Horton-Tucker, Kent Bazemore, Chaundee Brown Jr., Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan
How deep is the Lakers bench? Let’s start at the beginning. For starters, Kendrick Nunn averaged 14.6 points and shot 38.1% from the three-point range. Nunn should replace Wesley Matthews minutes, who shot a career-worst from three-point range (33.5%). The shooter to keep your eye on is Malik Monk. Entering Year 5 in the league, the 23-year old had a career year for the Charlotte Hornets last year by averaging 11.7 points and shooting 40.1% from three.
Horton-Tucker is another interesting bench piece. The Lakers believe in his development so much that the team kept him out of trade negotiations at the deadline. As previously mentioned, he is in the conversation for starting. Another interesting starter is Dwight Howard if the team chooses to go bigger.
Howard was the energy bunny that gave the bench life in 2019-2020. If the Lakers go small, Howard can come in relief, but he could get a starting nod if the team goes a traditional starting lineup. Howard turned 36 years old and averaged 7.4 points and 8.0 rebounds. He will be an essential piece to the team’s rotation. Howard is not anywhere near his dominant years where he was leading the league in rebounding or winning Defensive Player of the Year. With that said, he is essentially Bobby Portis on steroids.
As for the other biggest names on the roster, Carmelo Anthony finally gets to play alongside his friend LeBron James. Anthony was the Trail Blazers’ second-best shooter last year and has accepted his role as instant offense off the bench. The other is DeAndre Jordan, who fell out of the Nets’ rotation with Nicholas Claxton rising, and the addition of Blake Griffin. Jordan averaged his worst rebounding numbers since 2012 but figures to be an upgrade of the now-departed Andre Drummond. Rajon Rondo will turn into a superstar when the playoffs start, of course.
It’s Championship Or Bust
The headline says it all. This roster features a plethora of All-Star appearances and at least five Hall of Famers. The bench features at least four players who were considered starters last year. The team is about 10 players deep, while their young players have solid resumes from college. This Lakers deep is the deepest we have seen since the days of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
The roster is older, which is no surprise given that players took less money to try and win a title. That is why Anthony joined. Both Howard and Rondo want one more chance. Heck, Monk and Nunn could have been paid on a multi-year contract, but they recognize that they can play and win a title at a young age. Kent Bazemore is someone who can still contribute in this league on a grand level, but he may play less than 10 minutes a game just with who is ahead of him on the depth chart.
Offensively, this team will need to mold into what works. The obvious questions around how Westbrook and LeBron will share the ball will need to be addressed. If the team can live up to their reputation and just attack the rim, there will be plenty of open looks for other players. Given how good both players are at drawing multiple defenders, would anyone be surprised if both LeBron and Westbrook averaged double-digit assists this year?
This is a critical year for LeBron. He turns 37 years old this December. If he doesn’t win a title this year, getting to six championships is all but done. Westbrook is getting closer to being considered a great player that couldn’t win a title. Anthony is potentially this year away from owning that title himself. The Lakers are flooded with talent. Now, the team needs to put it all together.