23-11 • 3rd in WESTERN CONFERENCE
|G||26||$2,750,000||6' 4"||186 lbs||TEXAS A&M|
|F||28||$1,361,046||6' 7"||215 lbs||GREEN BAY|
|F-C||27||$27,093,019||6' 10"||253 lbs||KENTUCKY|
|C||25||$2,305,057||6' 11"||245 lbs||VANDERBILT|
|G||27||$15,500,000||6' 3"||172 lbs||N/A|
|F||35||$2,564,753||6' 6"||237 lbs||BOSTON COLLEGE|
|G||28||$8,089,282||6' 5"||204 lbs||GEORGIA|
|F||23||N/A||6' 10"||200 lbs||DAYTON|
|F||25||$1,974,600||6' 10"||221 lbs||UTAH|
|F-G||36||$37,436,858||6' 9"||250 lbs||N/A|
|C||36||$25,595,700||6' 11"||255 lbs||N/A|
|F||31||$1,750,000||6' 9"||245 lbs||KANSAS|
|F-C||27||$6,000,000||6' 7"||240 lbs||LOUISVILLE|
|G||20||$898,310||6' 4"||234 lbs||IOWA STATE|
|G||34||$2,564,753||6' 4"||220 lbs||MARQUETTE|
The Los Angeles Lakers come into the new season with a huge target on their back. Such is the price you pay for being defending champs.
The Lakers' front office has been in this situation many times in the past, and they know what it takes to go back-to-back. As such, they made several improvements to their squad, making them arguably an even more formidable side than in 2020 when they won it all.
For starters, L.A. lost a number of key guys during the offseason. Avery Bradley, Rajon Rondo, and Dwight Howard all left Hollywood as free agents. JaVale McGee and Danny Green, on the other hand, were traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Philadelphia 76ers, respectively.
The Purple & Gold, however, added a slew of fresh faces and able replacements. The departures of Howard and McGee left a huge void in the frontcourt, which they addressed by the acquisition of reigning Sixth Man of the Year winner Montrezl Harrell and former Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol, who both signed as free agents. L.A. also brought in veteran wing Wesley Matthews via free agency.
The Lakers traded for Dennis Schroder from the Oklahoma City Thunder, who slides into coach Frank Vogel's starting five alongside LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Gasol.
Harrell will lead the charge for the second unit, and he is joined by Kyle Kuzma, Matthews, Alex Caruso, Markieff Morris, and second-year stud Talen Horton-Tucker.
On paper, the Lakers have one of, if not the most talented squad in the entire league, as they remain favorites to go all the way and win an NBA record 18th championship in franchise history.
The Los Angeles Lakers have one of the best offenses in the NBA by a few metrics. First off, they rank as the best shooting team in the league, shooting around 48 percent from the field as a team (via Basketball-Reference). Additionally, they dish out the 10th-most assists along with being the third-best 2-point shooting team and grabbing the ninth-most offensive rebounds a game.
The Lakers' 3-point shooting could use a boost though, as they are among the bottom third of the NBA in accuracy, makes, and attempts.
Meanwhile, despite scoring at a high efficiency, the Lakers' offensive production is not the best in the NBA; they score the 11th-most points per game (around 113) and rely on a stingy defense for their winning ways. In advanced metrics, the Lakers have just the 11th-best offensive efficiency (offensive rating), too—that's behind some Western Conference hopefuls like the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, and Denver Nuggets.
So, while the Lakers are the fifth-best team in effective field goal percentage (eFG%), which accounts for the value of the 3-ball, and just 10th in True Shooting percentage, configuring free throws too, that efficiency mostly derives from their ability to make shots in the paint (via NBA.com).
That all comes back to LeBron James, the team's star and perennial MVP candidate. James is the leader on offense, orchestrating the most efficient shots and points of attack against opponents. King James led the NBA in assists per game this season, a first for the three-time champ, in a lineup usually consisting of fellow All-Star forward Anthony Davis, center JaVale McGee and guards like Danny Green and Avery Bradley or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Davis is a master of post moves in this generation, and if that doesn't fall, he or McGee are great with put-backs and second-chance scoring opportunities.
Defense is definitely the Lakers' strong suit this past season, one which will finally end the franchise's seven-year postseason drought.
With Frank Vogel installed as head coach, the Lakers allowed the second fewest points per game to opponents this season, giving up the sixth-best opponent field-goal percentage. During the 2019-20 campaign, the Lakers only allowed the second fewest total rebounds and sixth-fewest assists per game, stymying opponents' offensive flow.
Advanced metrics back up Vogel and L.A.'s impact on defense. The Lakers had the third-best defensive rating this season (105.8).
James and Davis combine for over two and a half steals per game for the Lakers, making them a dangerous duo even on defense. Fan favorite coming off the bench Alex Caruso even averages more than a steal a game for L.A. along with two-time champion shooting guard Danny Green.
The frontcourt is led by Davis, McGee, and a revitalized Dwight Howard, who returned first on a non-guaranteed contract for his second stint with the Lakers. Davis, a three-time block champion, averaged 2.3 swats per game this season; Howard and McGee added a combined 2.6 a game as well.
Plenty of the Lakers' success on D comes down to a stable frontline by the basket. Between James, Davis, McGee, and Howard, opponents driving in the paint quickly figure out they are going to have a very difficult job finding an open lane to the rim. If they make that far, they will likely get stuffed or contested by Davis or McGee. Therefore, opposing teams have to hope they shoot well from the perimeter on days they are matching up with the Lakers.
The Lakers made a change at their head coach post last offseason, picking up former Orlando Magic coach Frank Vogel. Vogel, a New Jersey native who later attended the University of Kentucky on the junior varsity team, spent years with the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers as a video coordinator and assistant coach before getting his first head-coaching gig with the Indiana Pacers in 2011.
That proved to be an immensely consequential period for Vogel as his Pacers often clashed with James' Miami Heat squad, facing off in back-to-back years in the Eastern Conference Finals, with LeBron victorious in both matchups. Vogel was known for leading one of the best defensive units led by All-Stars Paul George and Roy Hibbert and George Hill. James clearly took notice.
After six years in Indiana, Vogel spent two seasons with the Magic, missing the playoffs both times. Vogel was out of a job for a year before the Lakers brought him involved in May 2019. He has a lifetime 356-309 (.535) win-loss record between the three franchises and led the Lakers to the best record in the Western Conference in his first season with the purple and gold.
Vogel's bench includes, controversially, Jason Kidd, the Hall of Fame point guard who has a checkered coaching history. Kidd spent a season coaching his former Nets when a power move went south and instead linked up with the Milwaukee Bucks. Kidd spent three and a half seasons with the Bucks, making the playoffs twice (both first-round exits) before being pushed out halfway through the 2017-18 season. While star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo markedly improved, the rest of the team around the Greek Freak did little to get better under Kidd's stewardship.
Vogel also employs Lionel Hollins, a long-time NBA coach who spent time as a head coach with the Memphis Grizzlies and Brooklyn Nets.
The Lakers did not waste any time in the 2020 offseason, quickly bringing in a number of big names via free agency. Montrezl Harrell, Dennis Schroder, and Wesley Matthews were some of the new names that will be coming in for L.A. next season. However, their most recent transaction came in the form of former Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol.
Gasol plied his trade with the Toronto Raptors last season, averaging 7.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists, while also connecting on 1.3 triples per game on a 38.5-percent clip. At 35, the Spaniard is no spring chicken, and he is no longer the dominant All-Star big man he once was. Nevertheless, for $5.3 million for two years, it's hard to deny that signing Gasol is an absolute bargain for the Lakers.
L.A.'s most recent trade transaction came in the form of JaVale McGee being sent over to the Cleveland Cavaliers. In exchange for McGee and a 2026 second-round pick, the Cavs sent Jordan Bell and Alfonzo McKinnie to L.A. A couple of days later, the Lakers decided to waive the services of Bell. The deal was primarily made by the Lakers to clear cap space to sign Marc Gasol.
Last season, McGee averaged 6.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks as the Lakers' starting center. He is set to earn $4.2 million for the 2020-21 season.
It's a tough call given the long and title-filled legacy of the Lakers, so there are not too many "wrong" answers. On seven occasions the Lakers won 60 or more regular-season games and captured the NBA championship, including most recently in 2008-09.
Let's go with the 1986-87 Lakers, who won 65 games in the regular season and only lost three times in the playoffs (twice in the Finals against the heralded Boston Celtics). Those Lakers won their fourth of five titles in the 1980's. The roster included Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, and James Worthy along with Defensive Player of the Year Michael Cooper and key contributors Byron Scott and AC Green.
Again, it's a tough call and another great choice would be the 2000-01 Lakers—led by Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant—who only lost one game (Game 1 of the 2001 Finals) in the postseason in pursuit of their second of three consecutive titles.
With the projected NBA salary cap estimated at $109,140,000, per Spotrac, the Lakers' total cap allocations in 2020-21 add up to $134,394,483—well over the cap.
The Lakers surpassed the luxury tax "threshold," set at just over $132.6 million; their luxury tax bill is $2,651,225.
The lion's share of the Lakers' salary cap is made up by James' annual average salary of around $39 million and Davis' $32.7 million. The only two other players making double-digit millions this season will be Dennis Schroder at $15,500,000 and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at $12,073,020.
The Lakers do not have a traditional glorified sixth man role due to a relatively deep bench this season, but the answer has to be third-year forward Kyle Kuzma, who has started in only fewer than 10 games during the season but averages the team's fourth-most minutes at around 25 a contest.
Kuzma, who was drafted at the end of the first round by the Brooklyn Nets and sent to L.A. in the D'Angelo Russell trade, is averaging a career-worst points, rebounds, and assists per game, but leads the bench unit with over a dozen points a game.
For most of the 2019-20 season, the Lakers fielded a starting five that featured LeBron James at the one spot, Avery Bradley at the two, Danny Green at the three, Anthony Davis at the four, and JaVale McGee as the starting center.
With Bradley, Green, and McGee all gone for the 2020-21 season, the Lakers will likely have a starting five of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marc Gasol, and Wesley Matthews. Dennis Schroder, Kyle Kuzma, and Montrezl Harrell can make a case to crack the starting lineup, but they’re likely lead one of the best bench units in the NBA.