2021 Team Futures - Los Angeles Lakers Preview
- The reigning NBA Champions open 2021 as the favourites to repeat for the title.
- Despite receiving a long-term commitment from Anthony Davis, the Lakers still have roster issues to sort out.
- According to reports, LeBron James would sit out the first month should the NBA resume in December.
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The Los Angeles Lakers achieved their ultimate goal for the 2019-2020 NBA season. After entering the bubble at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, the Lakers defeated the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. It was the Los Angeles Lakers’ seventeenth NBA Championship, and LeBron James’ fourth.
The Lakers took a big risk last offseason, wholesaling their future, including NBA All-Star Brandon Ingram, for the expiring contract of Anthony Davis. Not only did it work out in their favour, but Davis was crucial in their championship run and has already agreed to an extension with the Lakers.
Los Angeles’ priority this summer will be improving their roster while maintaining flexibility for the 2021 offseason. James and Davis are secured, but they’ll want to sort out their shooting and playmaking issues for their title defence.
Los Angeles Lakers 2019-2020 Season Recap
- Preseason Odds: Championship +450, Over/Under 50.5
- Record: 52-19
- Won NBA Finals, defeated the Miami Heat (4-2)
|PTS/G||Pace||Off Rtg||Def Rtg|
|113.4 (11th)||100.9 (11th)||112.0 (11th)||106.3 (3rd)|
LeBron James is Closing in on Michael Jordan’s Legacy
Lakers’ LeBron James calls his mother to celebrate fourth title pic.twitter.com/hwSQHWyVkR
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) October 12, 2020
There is no question as to whom James is chasing in the annals of NBA history as his career comes to a close. With his fourth NBA title in hand, James trails the great Michael Jordan by just two NBA Championships.
James is still performing at a level that suggests he will be in playing shape for years to come, but he will not be interested in wasting any seasons. To make his case as one of the greatest of all-time, James will need at least two more championships and an MVP Award to match Jordan.
Running mate Anthony Davis seems to be the perfect player to help James reach his goals. At 35 years old James does not have time on his side. It will be up to the Lakers front office to surround him with players that can help him accomplish that task. Davis may be the best player James has ever teamed with, but from the Lakers’ playoff performance the rest of the team is far from flawless.
Will the Lakers Add to their Star Power?
Lakers had no answer for Chris Paul ? pic.twitter.com/HLENSniCBH
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 6, 2020
The Los Angeles Lakers already boast two of basketballs two biggest stars in LeBron James and Anthony Davis. As if Hollywood weren’t stacked enough on the silver screen and on the court, rumour has it that James will be looking to add long-time friend and zero-time NBA Champion Chris Paul to the Lakers’ ranks. The acquisition of Paul would be a game-changer to say the least.
The Lakers would be unquestionably stronger if they were to acquire the eventual Hall of Fame talent in Paul. One of the best point guards in his generation, if not all-time, Paul would solve the Lakers’ issues of playmaking and defending at the point of attack. The one sticking point for the Lakers is Paul’s four-year, $159 million contract that expires in 2022.
In order to acquire the perennial All-Star the Lakers would have to sacrifice a number of assets. While James has always been in favour of acquiring dependable veteran talent, it is more than risky for GM Rob Pelinka to acquire the eventual 35 year-old Paul who will be 37 upon the expiry of his contract.
Free Agency & Extensions
Los Angeles Lakers Free Agency Needs
The Los Angeles Lakers enter the 2020-2021 season with 11 players under contract, with two of those players yet to accept their player option. Their current depth chart reads:
|Point Guard||Shooting Guard||Small Forward||Power Forward||Center|
|LeBron James||Kentavious Caldwell-Pope*||Danny Green||Anthony Davis*||Javale McGee|
|Rajon Rondo*||Avery Bradley||Kyle Kuzma|
|Quinn Cook||Alex Caruso|
* Denotes that a player has a Player Option
The Lakers enter 2020-2021 with a more than capable roster, especially if guards Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Rajon Rondo choose to accept their player options. They lack depth in the front court, and will need as many pieces as possible to brave the intense regular season.
|Player||Age||19-20 Salary||20-21 Salary|
|L. James||35||$37.4 million||$39.2 million|
|A. Davis||27||$27.0 million||$28.7 million (Player Option)|
|D. Green||33||$14.6 million||$15.3 million|
|K. Caldwell Pope||27||$8.0 million||$8.4 million (Player Option)|
|A. Bradley||29||$4.7 million||$5.0 million|
|J. McGee||32||$4.0 million||$4.2 million|
|Q. Cook||27||$3.0 million||$3.0 million (Not fully guaranteed)|
|A. Caruso||26||$2.7 million||$2.7 million|
|R. Rondo||34||$2.5 million||$2.6 million (Player Option)|
|J. Dudley||35||$2.5 million|
|D. Howard||34||$2.5 million|
|K. Kuzma||25||$1.9 million||$3.5 million|
|M. Morris||31||$1.7 million|
|T. Horton-Tucker||19||$503, 656||$1.5 million|
|D. Waiters||28||$289, 803|
Priority Free Agents
Number one on the priority list for the Los Angeles Lakers is star forward Anthony Davis. After leading them to their seventeenth NBA title, Davis is by far the most important free agent of the class. It’s already been reported that Davis will opt-out of his contract and renegotiate a long term deal with Los Angeles.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got off to a slow start but came through for the Lakers as the season wore on. He was immense for Los Angeles in the NBA Finals, averaging 12.8 points on 37.7% shooting from distance.
The addition of Rajon Rondo for the Lakers was a necessary step for their post-season aspirations. While he wasn’t of much consequence during the regular season, his veteran leadership and experience paid off in the Finals.
2020-2021 NBA Season Odds and Predictions
After a gruelling regular season and an odd restart to the schedule, the Lakers were undoubtedly the team at the top of the league. If they can secure Davis for the long term and surround their stars with more productive players, there’s no reason the Lakers can’t repeat with LeBron James leading them.
2020-2021 Los Angeles Lakers Western Conference Odds
The Lakers were the kings of the Western Conference last season, trailed closely by their rivals the LA Clippers. Finishing with just three wins greater than the Clippers, you couldn’t say that the Lakers were in command of the West for the entirety of the season.
If one thing is true it is that LeBron James-led teams are built for the playoffs more than the regular season. With a shortened rest schedule, don’t be surprised if the Lakers are less interested in seeding this season.
2020-2021 Los Angeles Lakers NBA Championship Odds
Fans have prevented the opportunity to see LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard face off in last season’s NBA Playoffs, but he and his Clippers (+400) remain the chief contenders to their crown. Emerging from the East are the Brooklyn Nets, who return to the season with All-Stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in play.
It is less clear how successful the Lakers will be this season. They were always the favourites should they have gotten to the NBA Finals last season, but with the Brooklyn Nets (+600) fielding a team with equal star quality, the Lakers will have a tougher time. It should also be said that the Western Conference only looks like it’ll get stronger.
Odds taken from DraftKings Sportsbook, October 30.
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Christian Jope is a writer, social media strategist, and data analyst. A Queen’s University Alumni, Christian is an author and social media strategist with Raptors Cage, while also working closely with MLSE and Canada Basketball through community-driven events.
Email: [email protected]