A shocking offseason has the Los Angeles Lakers as a reborn franchise capable of achieving the glory that has long evaded them for the better part of this decade. However the well-storied organization will have to survive these four major storylines to make that postseason dream possible.
Heir to the throne: Will LeBron James cede the crown to Anthony Davis?
LeBron James has given every indication that he wants his new partner in crime, Anthony Davis, to be the featured scorer and the go-to player moving forward. The King has been outspoken about it through the course of the offseason, and if that wasn’t enough, he was willing to give up his iconic No. 23 jersey for Davis to keep through the course of his stay in Los Angeles.
These generous gestures are grandiose on paper, but they have yet to concretize on the court. James has been the focal point of the offense for 15 NBA seasons and shaking those habits won’t come easy.
While he’s willing to relinquish being the go-to player, is he ready to take a step back from being the best player in the NBA for Davis to grow into more than just a support role? Furthermore, there is still the sense that this is LeBron’s team and that Davis is the helping hand to aid him in his mission. Of course this is only the offseason, but that feeling should slowly start to wear off if James is playing his cards right.
Truth be told, this is very much a transition period for the Lakers, who now must operate with caution at the wake of James’ groin injury, which showed signs of vulnerability after 15 years of being an iron man on the court.
The Lakers will have to manage James’ minutes through the regular season to have him ready to tackle the playoffs when time is due, and making Davis the main star will only help make the climb that much easier.
The battle for L.A.
The Lakers and Clippers are bound to clash in the most even of rivalries through their existence, finally both at the potential height of grandeur. This 2019-20 season will offer the dynamic duo of James and Davis going toe to toe against newly-crowned champion Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, duos that will test their mettle at least four times this postseason with the potential of matching up again in the playoffs.
All four of their regular season meetings will be broadcasted on national TV and all will be subject to headlines and massive speculation. The Lakers saw the spotlight of acquiring The Brow quickly leave them once Leonard agreed to sign with the Clippers, bringing George with him from OKC — but the purple and gold would be foolish to play into the fictional battle of the “best in LA” and take their eyes away from the main prize.
The Lakers will have plenty of tests in a re-distributed Western Conference, and the Clippers are not the only ones capable of nabbing wins from them. The Portland Trail Blazers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets, and even the injury-riddled Warriors could pose a problem for them through the regular season, making it imperative to not get caught up in a battle for a city they already own as the biggest and longest-stamped brand.
Outside shooting and point guard play
The Lakers were the second-worst 3-point shooting in the league last season, connecting in only 33.3% of their shots from beyond the arc. Given James’ tool set and the Lakers’ desperation to acquire shooters at the trade deadline, the organization didn’t waste time in acquiring capable ones in free agency, bringing in the likes of Danny Green, Avery Bradley, Quinn Cook, and Troy Daniels. They also re-signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who had a subpar shooting season in 2018-19 after connecting on a career-best 38.3% in 2017-18.
However the Lakers could take a massive step forward if they can finish among the NBA’s top 10 in 3-point shooting instead of being at the cellar, as they stand to reap the most out of LeBron’s playmaking by knocking down more shots.
Yet the question remains about how the team will operate once James hits the bench. Rajon Rondo is a good point man, but lacks the shooting to be at his most effective. Cook is a capable shooter, but he was mostly played off the ball in Steve Kerr’s rotations, leaving questions about him as a floor general.
Alex Caruso is an exciting player, but will he have enough run to make an impact?
These are all questions that could surface through the course of the season and could come to haunt the Lakers as it progresses.
Frank Vogel’s coaching
The new head coach is coming into the job with a lot to prove and very little to gain in the wake of the massive expectations. However if he’s able to handle the spotlight and the bright lights of the Staples Center, Vogel could live to coach the remainder of his contract. But should he rush to make major changes or panic during skids, it won’t take long before Angelenos are calling for his head and imploring ownership to let his assistant Jason Kidd coach the team instead.
Vogel has a tough job ahead after the front office nearly revamped the entire roster, and the team will go through its share of growing pains due to it. How Vogel handles LeBron James and his thirst for winning, as well as developing his rotations, should be telling of whether he is indeed apt to coach this team or only at the helm in borrowed time, with a major threat in Kidd sitting in his very own bench among the coaching staff.