NBA 2023-2024 Preview: Are the Los Angeles Lakers Geared Up for the Championship?

Los Angeles Lakers NBA Preview 2023 2024 copie 11

For a month, our editorial team delves into previews for all 30 teams of the NBA. We turn our attention back to California for an in-depth look at the Los Angeles Lakers.

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A 2022-2023 Season of Two Halves

Before the trade deadline, the Los Angeles Lakers were positioned at 13th in the Western Conference, with a record of 25 wins and 31 losses. Initially labeled as the team’s X-factor for the season, Russell Westbrook struggled to find his groove, which was evident in the team’s performance. It didn’t help that stalwarts LeBron James and Anthony Davis faced recurring injuries. However, a significant shift came on February 9th with a trade that brought in D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Malik Beasley in exchange for Westbrook.

From that point on, the Lakers underwent a transformation, significantly bolstered by the addition of Rui Hachimura, who emerged as a sharpshooter off the bench, especially during the Playoffs. Austin Reaves also stepped up, becoming a valuable second-in-command for the Lakers, delivering clutch long-range shots that helped them overcome Memphis (4-2) and then Golden State (4-2). Naturally, the primary contributors to these victories were LeBron James and Anthony Davis, both averaging over 20 points per game throughout the Playoff series, including their matches against the Nuggets. However, the Lakers’ journey ended in the Conference Finals, as they were swept by the Nuggets (0-4), concluding a season marked by an impressive turnaround.

Offseason Moves for the Lakers

Departures

  • Mo Bamba (to Sixers)
  • Dennis Schroder (to Raptors)
  • Lonnie Walker IV (to Nets)
  • Wenyen Gabriel (Free agent)
  • Troy Brown Jr (to Timberwolves)
  • Malik Beasley (to Bucks)
  • Shaquille Harrison (Free agent)
  • Tristan Thompson (Free agent)
  • Cole Swider (Free agent)

Extensions

  • Austin Reaves
  • Rui Hachimura
  • D’Angelo Russell
  • Jarred Vanderbilt

New Arrivals

  • Christian Wood (from Mavericks)
  • Gabe Vincent (from Heat)
  • Cam Reddish (from Blazers)
  • Taurean Prince (from Timberwolves)
  • Jalen Hood-Schifino (17th pick of the 2023 Draft)
  • Maxwell Lewis (40th pick of the 2023 Draft)
  • Colin Castleton (Undrafted, two-way contract)
  • D’Moi Hodge (Undrafted, two-way contract)
  • Alex Fudge (Undrafted, two-way contract)

Lakers’ Starting Lineup

D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves, LeBron James, Jarred Vanderbilt, Anthony Davis

Bench Rotation

Point Guards

Gabe Vincent, D’Moi Hodge (two-way)

Shooting Guards

Max Christie, Jalen Hood-Schifino

Small Forwards

Maxwell Lewis, Cam Reddish, Alex Fudge (two-way)

Power Forwards

Rui Hachimura, Taurean Prince

Centers

Christian Wood, Jaxson Hayes, Colin Castleton (two-way)

Strengths and Weaknesses of the 2023-2024 Los Angeles Lakers

Weaknesses

Taking Risks on Underperforming Players: The Lakers have banked on players who’ve recently had struggles. Christian Wood, Cam Reddish, and Jaxson Hayes have all come off less than stellar seasons. Despite their recent form, they are expected to have significant roles in the Lakers lineup, especially the big men. The gamble becomes even more crucial if Anthony Davis faces injury issues, leaving these players as primary options in his absence.

Strengths

Improved Roster & Promising Young Talent: The Lakers have made evident upgrades from last season. Rookie Jalen Hood-Schifino, a versatile guard, will likely get a fair share of playtime as the season progresses. Similarly, Maxwell Lewis, a scoring wing player, is one to watch out for. Another young talent, sophomore Max Christie, will have ample opportunity to showcase his capabilities as a shooting guard, especially given the team’s lack of depth at that position.

Mix of Veterans and Young Players: The team has also added experienced players to the mix. A notable acquisition is Gabe Vincent from the Heat, who is expected to command the second unit brilliantly. Taurean Prince’s arrival adds much-needed veteran experience on the wings. Overall, the Lakers roster represents a fine blend of youthful energy and veteran savvy. Moreover, the team has retained its core that advanced two rounds into the playoffs last year: Russell, Reaves, LeBron, Vanderbilt, Hachimura, and Davis.+

Player to Watch: Austin Reaves

Emerging as a genuine surprise last season after a promising rookie campaign, Austin Reaves became a hot topic of conversation this summer. Although he was a restricted free agent and a target for many teams, the Lakers executed a masterstroke by re-signing him for just $56 million over four years – a significant bargain considering there were talks of a $100 million deal. His stats tell a compelling story, averaging 13 points on 52% shooting, including a 40% mark from beyond the arc during the regular season. But he took it up a notch in the Playoffs, averaging 16.9 points on 46.4% shooting and a remarkable 44.3% from three.

So, what can Lakers fans expect from their new fan favorite? At the very least, they’d hope for Reaves to sustain the efficiency he showcased last year, even while potentially being the team’s third or fourth scoring option. However, the bigger anticipation is on the defensive end. While Reaves isn’t a liability on defense, he’s merely average. The hope is for him to elevate his game, transitioning from being just a role player to a two-way threat.

End-of-Season Prediction: 2nd in the West

Rob Pelinka has done commendable work, from the trade deadline moves to the offseason acquisitions, meticulously crafting a team around superstars Anthony Davis and LeBron James. With top-tier sidekicks, veterans bolstering the roster, and young rookies and sophomores eager to make their mark, everything seems set for coach Darvin Ham’s squad to make a deep playoff run. And given their potent mix of talent and experience, why not aim for the championship?

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