By Gerrel Sayles, Contributor
With the addition of arguably the best player in the league, LeBron James, it is safe to say that the Los Angeles Lakers will improve dramatically this upcoming season.
Led by head coach Luke Walton, the young core showed they could play last season, scoring decent stats. As second-year players like guard Lonzo Ball and forward Kyle Kuzma made All-Rookie teams last season and with Brandon Ingram having a Most Improved Player-type season, there is a lot of talent already there, talent which will only help James lead the Lakers to success.
The most important thing they needed was a leader who could guide the young Lakers and close out close games.
This young Laker team suffered many injuries last year that affected their overall success, they still improved and won nine more games than the previous season. The Lakers were missing versatile veterans and a superstar talent that they were able to secure this past offseason.
The most important thing they needed was a leader who could guide the young Lakers and close out close games. That was addressed when James signed a four-year, $154 million contract this offseason. The second most important thing they needed was having a good mix of tough veterans who play defense, which is why the Lakers’ front office signed guard/forward Lance Stephenson, guard Rajon Rondo and center JaVale McGee.
That being said, it isn’t outside the realm of possibility that the aforementioned James will average about 27 points per game (ppg), 8 rebounds (rebs), and 8 assists (ast), resulting in him winning the Most Valuable Player award as he leads the Lakers to the playoffs. McGee will most likely start throughout the season, playing around 20 minutes per game. Walton will focus more on small-ball lineups with James, Kuzma, center Moe Wagner and even forward Michael Beasley at the center spot.
Additionally, Kuzma will be given the sixth-man role, similar to former Laker forward Lamar Odom. Kuzma will get ample minutes down the stretch, ending most games in the Lakers’ version of the ‘Death Lineup.’ Also, Rondo will be a key addition, either coming off the bench or starting. His mix of veteran savvy and clutch play in crunchtime can help single-handedly win games for the Lakers.
Something interesting to think about is how the other players on the Lakers will improve. I predict that Ingram will be an All-Star snub, averaging 20 ppg, 6.5 rebs and 4 ast this season while Ball improves a bit on his shooting and averages about 13 ppg, 8.5 ast and 7.7 rebs.
With all these new faces in Lakerland, many questions arise. How will Walton be able to manage all of these unpredictable personalities? How will the Lakers talent share the minutes in Walton’s rotation? Will the rookies actually play this season? How will small-ball work? Can the Lakers make the playoffs in a stacked Western Conference?
All these questions will soon be answered when the 2018-2019 NBA season tips off on October 16.