The most exciting season in some time for the Los Angeles Lakers is set to tip-off on Tuesday night when the purple and gold match up against their crosstown rivals. With the hype surrounding the season and plenty of questions about the strengths and weaknesses of this team, some of the Lakers Outsiders staff got together to predict some of the talking points of the season to come, starting with the juiciest topic.
Which team will win the 2020 NBA Championship
Kyle Hartwick: I have Sixers over Clippers in six. The Sixers have a great starting five, along with one of the best benches that they have had since becoming relevant again. The Clippers don’t have anyone to shut down Joel Embiid and will be exhausted after making it through the gauntlet of the West. That gauntlet includes the Lakers, who will fall just short due to tertiary signings that did not live up to heightened standards (i.e. Rondo sucks).
Donny McHenry: This is going to be a pretty boring answer, but I honestly think the champion will be the most healthy team out of the Lakers, Clippers, Bucks, or 76ers. I think those are the best four teams in the NBA (Bucks and 76ers more clear cut in their conference) with the Lakers, Clippers, and 76ers players having some past injury concerns. Since I still haven’t given an answer, I’ll just say that if LeBron James and Anthony Davis go into the playoffs fully healthy, it’s over and the purple-and-gold are getting number 17.
Dillon Hiser: The Lakers. LeBron and AD are the best duo in the NBA and they’re so good within their roles, which happen to pair together perfectly, that it will overcome some of the depth questions. No team in the league is without a weakness so I’m going with the team with the best two players.
Jon Austin Nelson: I’m going to go ahead and say the Lakers provided they’re healthy. I don’t think the Lakers have the best supporting cast. I don’t think they have the best top-to-bottom coaching staff. Everything needs to go right for the Lakers to win it all, but what they do have that no other team has is two players that could legitimately be the best players in the league. No other duo in the league can say that their two best players could be the best player in the world and that is where the Lakers have an advantage over everyone.
Stefan Smith: Alright, so my non-biased answer is that the Lakers win the title, I truly believe there is no team in the west that has an answer for Davis and James. The key will be how fresh they are once the playoffs start, and how quickly the team can gel. If AD and LeBron can stay fresh throughout the season, the Lakers will have favorable matchups against almost every team.
Honi Ahmadian: I guess we should have expected for many Lakers fans in one setting to mostly pick the Lakers to win the championship. I don’t think the Lakers are favorites (I would actually propose that the Bucks are) but I’m still going with the purple and gold. I’m a big believer in going with the best player, especially when the teams are close, in a playoff series and despite all the doubt, I still think LeBron is the best player in the world when the postseason comes.
Who will be the Lakers MVP?
Hartwick: Anthony Davis. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Lakers new big man is the league MVP as well, but I think his game rises to a new level in Los Angeles. It will be hard, near impossible to guard him while also having to focus on LeBron on a nightly basis. Davis will also have an impact on the defensive end that will surprise casual fans.
McHenry: It’ll be Davis. He’s very clearly the best big man in the Western Conference and it’s not even close. He’s going to have a lot of nights where he’s just abusing the opposite team’s frontcourt.
Hiser: LeBron James. I think Davis has a legit shot to win league MVP but for the Lakers team, it all starts and ends with LeBron for me. He’ll be the quarterback on offense and the leader of this team and with extra time off from last year a re-focused James is the key cog to this team.
Nelson: LeBron. Davis is entering his prime, and LeBron is entering the final years of his career, but the entire team will go as far as LeBron takes them. He will have the most to shoulder come playoff time, as he will be asked to generate offense for everyone and defend the other teams best perimeter player on most nights. Anthony Davis will have to transcend to best player in the world status to overtake him as the best player on the team, and he’s capable, but I’m sticking with LeBron for now.
Smith: With Lebron more than willing to take a back seat and make Anthony Davis the focal point, I see AD being the team MVP. There could be an onus to keep LeBron fresh and rested throughout the season, as well, to cement the team MVP for AD. Davis being a perennial Defensive Player Of the Year candidate also gives him the edge in team MVP (and league MVP) honors.
Ahmadian: I’m going to get a little cute with my answer. I’m going with Davis, not because I think he’s the better player compared to James – I’m still a big believer in LeBron being the best in the world – but because the Lakers’ commitment to featuring Davis as the focal point should spell a healthier and fresher James when the games truly matter. Oh and he’s gonna feast against smaller teams, especially with JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard helping him protect the paint.
Who will be the Lakers biggest surprise contributor?
Hartwick: Dwight Howard. The Lakers “legend” returns at long last, and this time in a much smaller role than he had before. Howard will be playing every night for a spot on the team, as it has been reported that the center’s leash will be short in regards to any shenanigans. D12 (or D39) will fall into a back-up center role and shine in the minutes he sees on the court.
McHenry: Alright, hear me out: Dwight Howard. I really think there’s going to be some nights where he’s padding the stats, not so much because I think he’s having some career revitalization, but more so because I think he’s in a truly unique spot within the roster to really succeed.
Hiser: I’ll go with Quinn Cook. This should only really be a surprise because of the fact that there are other guards on the roster who might be higher on the pecking order to begin the season but his skill set is one the Lakers don’t have with other guards and compliments their superstar duo perfectly.
Nelson: Quinn Cook. Maybe I’m overreacting to one preseason game, but I was legitimately impressed with his shooting and playmaking. I think a lot of people expect him to be a fringe rotation player behind a couple of guards, but I think if he can get healthy he might end up being one of the Lakers’ best guards.
Smith: I’m thinking my fellow San Diegan Jared Dudley for surprise contributor this year. He has been able to stretch the floor throughout his career(39.2%)which they will need on the floor after how disastrously they shot the three last year. He can also hold his own on the defensive end as a small ball stretch-four, at least down on the block.
Ahmadian: It might not be a surprise after how he started the year last year, but I think JaVale McGee will have an even bigger season playing alongside Davis. We’ve already seen flashes of that in the preseason with the center being a lob threat for Davis (and James) especially when the Lakers get their new star downhill in four-on-three situations after a pick-and-roll. Perhaps more importantly, McGee’s production will impact Davis’ health throughout the season so I’m looking for a big year from my fellow Nevada legend. Go Wolf Pack!
Who finishes the year as the starting point guard?
Hartwick: LeBron James. The Lakers will quickly find out that the point guard position is much weaker than it was last year, with Lonzo Ball being a casualty in the Anthony Davis trade. Alex Caruso is a god, but he can only do so much. Rajon Rondo is, without mincing words, garbage. James is the best playmaker on the team and will do well in the role as the primary ball-handler. I envision a starting line-up in the Lakers’ final game (barring injuries) of James-Bradley-Green-Davis-McGee with Kuzma the first off of the bench.
McHenry: I know most Lakers fans will want me to say Alex Caruso, but it’ll be Rajon Rondo, possibly LeBron James if they realize they can maximize their potential more with a weird, little lineup. If you’re thinking I’m going to give some statistical analysis for why I think it’ll be Rondo, I don’t have any. That’s because all statistics back up Caruso, Avery Bradley, and Quinn Cook more. But hey, Frank Vogel likes him, Rob Pelinka likes him but, most importantly, LeBron James and Anthony Davis like him.
Hiser: I actually think they ride the no-true-point-guard lineup through the year. With LeBron being the primary facilitator there is less need for someone like Rondo to be out there and I just don’t see Vogel starting Cook or Caruso over Bradley unless he’s completely abysmal on both ends.
Nelson: Avery Bradley as the pseudo point guard in a Bradley-Green backcourt. Cook will be the first point guard off the bench.
Smith: Can my answer for starting at the one spot at the end of the season be LeBron? No? Please? Still no, eh? Ok, while I’m hoping it ends up being Alex Caruso, there’s still the fact that Rondo is very well-liked by both Davis and James. Just hope by the end of the year if Rondo isn’t completely getting bench splinters that he is still being used as a playmaker to have out there with LeBron off the floor. Does the small sample of games in Memphis play over to this entire season to have Avery Bradley start throughout the season?
Ahmadian: Alex Caruso. I’m not justifying this answer because it doesn’t need justification. The Bald Mamba Rises.
Give us your hottest take for the year.
Hartwick: Lakers go 3-1 in the regular-season series against the Clippers but drop 4-2 in the conference finals. (Editor’s Note: Kyle has been fired for this take. Kyle’s note: No you.)
McHenry: Kyle Kuzma is going to win Sixth Man of the Year. Book it.
Hiser: Kyle Kuzma is an all-star this year. I’m not entirely confident in this but if the Lakers are off to a scorching start this year and Kuzma comes in and plays well alongside LeBron and AD, putting up similar numbers on maybe better efficiency, I could see him getting enough votes to make it as a reserve.
Nelson: LeBron James and Anthony Davis are considered 2 of the 3 best players in the league along with Giannis Antetokounmpo by years end. Giannis continues to retweet highlights of his brother, Kostas, in a Lakers uniform; everyone complains about it.
Smith: LeBron gets some All-Defensive Team recognition!! Well, Davis does plan on holding LeBron accountable on that end of the floor, maybe it keeps the competitive juices flowing and inspires the King to really go all world LeBron on that end?
Ahmadian: Zach Norvell will get some rotation minutes in the regular season. Watch your step, Jordan Poole.