The new Lakers are as athletic as ever

Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James goes up for a dunk during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, in Philadelphia. (Matt Slocum/AP)

The Los Angeles Lakers may be seasoned, but they still have some athletic juice. It’s going to come in spurts, but we will see it. Their new additions seem more closely aligned with their championship squad. The 2019-20 Lakers were a team that prided themselves on physicality and size. With both boxes checked, the Lakers hope to follow the same path to glory.

Frontcourt Standouts: Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan, LeBron James

Despite questions about Marc Gasol, the Lakers still have a great collection of frontcourt talent with unmatchable attributes. Anthony Davis is one of the league’s best big men, but injuries have somehow tainted his name in the conversation. He’s still an anchor on defense. He’s a mismatch on offense. This is because of his unique agility and speed for a man his size.

Dwight Howard, and presumably DeAndre Jordan, are great backups for the minimum. These are, arguably, two of the most athletic centers to ever play the game. Time has robbed them of those gifts, but they still have kept in enough shape to use their length and power.

And then there is LeBron James. At 36 years old, he’s still a freight train. He’s still an alien. He’s much different than the Young Hammer from Akron, but he’s more Mjölnir, full of wisdom and power.

Backcourt Standouts: Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Nunn, Malik Monk, Talen Horton-Tucker

It doesn’t get any more dynamic than Russell Westbrook in the backcourt. He’s not the young man that was a blur in Oklahoma City, but he’s still a cut above the league in his qualities. He presses the gas in transition and is strong as an ox. It’s a definite contrast between last year’s use of Dennis Schröder.

Alongside him are two young guns with speed and underrated leaping ability in Kendrick Nunn and Malik Monk. Nunn is as close to a “runner” that’s similar to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope that the Lakers employ. He’s the young legs they need chase opponents around screens. Monk is an absolute leaper. You blink and he’s cutting for a slam. In the open floor, he will finish and surprise you. Talen Horton-Tucker is a scout’s dream. He’s got incredible length, a barrel-chest, and strength. He’s not as fast as Nunn or Monk, but he can still get to where he wants to go on the floor. He also has incredible hand size for a guard. The combination of these players will fill Staples Centers with a lot of jaw-dropping moments.

Athleticism not only gives us viewing pleasure, but it’s also a great wrinkle that translates to wins. It allows your defense to mold in favor of surviving against your opponents. It dictates some of your effort. On offense, it can help you get easier buckets. Defense translates into transition offense. And bigger players and active players can get the rebounding edge. I have no doubts that Head Coach Frank Vogel will recognize these things and use them to their advantage. It’s fun times in L.A. that are coming. I hope fans will have their popcorn ready.

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