Lines and Odds: Over 51.5 Wins, -110, Under 51.5, -110
The Los Angeles Lakers had an extremely controversial 2018-19 season. They finished with an overall record of 37-45 (.451), finishing 10th overall in the Western Conference. This resulted in them falling two spots short of playoffs, which shocked the basketball world as a Lebron James team did not even clinch a playoff spot. This was Lebron James first season on the Lakers, and it’s one he is hoping to forget. Especially as it was his first time missing the playoffs since the 2004-05 season, just his second NBA season. This season was filled with up and downs, trade rumors and injuries, and ultimately ended as a failure. No matter what team Lebron is on, they are expected to compete. However, the Lakers record doesn’t tell the whole story.
The Lakers season started off average, boasting a record 20-14, sitting as a playoff team through the first 34 games. However, things would only go downhill from here. In the game against the Golden State Warriors on Christmas day Lebron James would leave with a groin injury. This injury ended up sidelining King James for 17 games and was just the beginning of the Lakers struggles. The Lakers were a below average team without Lebron, and it showed. They went 6-11 without Lebron during the 17 game stretch, giving them a 26-25 record when Lebron returned.
Almost immediately upon return, chemistry issues began to emerge. Lebron had team meetings to try and motivate the young Lakers core to pick it up. These talks were seen as controversial by the media, and began to divide James from the young core of players such as Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, and others. The biggest controversy of the season was the Anthony Davis trade talks. For weeks leading up to the trade deadline the Lakers were in talks with the Pelicans about a blockbuster deal to send Anthony Davis to the Lakers for a massive haul. This haul included 6 players and 2 first round draft picks. 6 players is nearly half an active roster, all for one player? Seeing how easily replaceable “GM Lebron” and the front office viewed this young core, it destroyed chemistry, any that was left at that point at least.
The Lakers ended up being the talk of the basketball world for all the wrong reasons. This included basketball legend and hall of famer Magic Johnson stepping down as president of basketball operations, with fingers being pointed at Lebron for the reason why. Regardless of who was right or wrong, what was true, the facts are they ended out of playoffs and that is a failure. However, the Lakers did not waste time and completely revamped their roster in the offseason.
The Lakers offseason was one for the record books. It was filled with blockbuster trades and free agency rumors. The same can be said for the NBA as a whole, in what many regard as the craziest offseason in the leagues history. With numerous superstars switching teams, ridiculous contracts, blockbuster trades, and countless storylines I would have to say it was the craziest offseason of my lifetime. The Lakers being a key catalyst in this madness.
First things first, the Lakers biggest move of the offseason was the long awaited acquisition of Anthony Davis. As mentioned earlier, the rumors and prospect of this reality dominated the Lakers season. It finally happened, at a hefty price. However, it was worth it. The Lakers ended up shipping Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and three first round draft picks to the New Orleans Pelicans for AD. With this deal the Lakers were able to keep Kyle Kuzma, a young stud with a lot of potential. Still, this is a ridiculous haul for one player, but teaming up Lebron and AD, with ample amount of cap space to fill out a championship roster was an opportunity the Lakers could not miss, and they didn’t.
Immediately after acquiring AD the Lakers began trying to surround their two superstars with more talent. The name at the top of the list being recent NBA champion, and finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. Reports claim the decision for Kawhi came down to the Clippers, Lakers, or remaining with the Toronto Raptors. In a heavily anticipated decision that put the basketball world on hold, Kawhi decided to take his talents to the Clippers. Kawhi did end up in LA, just on the other team. Where the Clippers quickly traded for Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder, creating an instant classic: The battle for LA. This will be one of the main storylines for the upcoming season, with Kawhi and Lebron at the forefront.
After seeing Kawhi sign with the Clippers and the dream of forming one of the most lethal big threes in NBA history was dead, the Lakers began to fill out their roster. This included signing role players by the likes of recent NBA champ, Danny Green, former Brooklyn Nets forward Jared Dudley, former Golden State Warriors center Demarcus Cousins, and Memphis Grizzlies guard Avery Bradley. Bradley played on the Clippers last season before being sent off to the Grizzlies in a trade. These acquisitions help fill out the Lakers roster with a great shooter in Green, lockdown perimeter defender in Bradley, and a top tier center in Cousins.
They didn’t stop there. The Lakers also brought back role players such as point guard Rajon Rondo, center JaValle McGee, and guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Combine these signings with the new acquisitions and the Lakers have a championship squad. Vegas agrees with this, as they have the Lakers with the second best odds at the title. They are +400, with the favorites being the Clippers at +350.
The Lakers have made dozens of moves to win games, but, will it work? I think it will and heres why. While last years Lakers were a failure, this is a totally different team. If Lebron never gets hurt, I believe they make the playoffs. Lebron will be healthy this season, and they added AD, Cousins, Danny Green, Avery Bradley, Jared Dudley, and resigned Rondo, and McGee. All while keeping Kuzma. This is a very talented squad, and frankly pretty deep. The AD trade is done, the drama associated with that is over, the noise around Magic stepping down has settled and it is time to just focus on basketball.
Lebron is one of those players who makes everyone around him better, and the guys around him are already good. This could go down as one of, if not the best team Lebron has been on.
The potential issues I see are injuries, chemistry, and strength of competition. First off, this Lakers squad looks tough to beat, but if they start getting hurt that could derail them. If this team wants to live up to the hype, they’re gonna need to stay healthy. Second, with this many new faces on the roster it could be a rough first few games as the players learn about each others tendencies, and play styles. I don’t view this as a major threat because it’s short term, and I believe this team will click quicker than others. Last but not least, the Western Conference is absolutely stacked. The title favorites Clippers are in the West. The Houston Rockets have acquired Russell Westbrook to play with James Harden. The Utah Jazz acquired Mike Conley to their already talented, deep roster. The Denver Nuggets who were the two seed this year got some great draft picks and didn’t lose many key guys. The Portland Trailblazers resigned their stars Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Then of course the Warriors, they may have lost Kevin Durant but got D’Angelo Russell, and you know, still have Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.
While the West will be good, I don’t see the Lakers being underdogs in many games. The Lakers are coming off a bad season but excuses can be made for that. Lebron will be back, with a chip on his shoulder. 52 wins is a lot but this team has potential to be one of the best we’ve ever seen, and I don’t want to be on the wrong side of that. For those reasons, I’m taking the over.