Los Angeles stole all of the basketball headlines this summer, as the Lakers and Clippers made out with some of the best available players. The Lakers added Anthony Davis to pair up with LeBron James, while the Clippers signed Kawhi Leonard and traded for Paul George. The Lakers and Clippers are rarely good at the same time, so it will be fun to see these two teams compete with each other for a playoff spot.
Historically, the Lakers have always been the best team in Los Angeles, while the Clippers were the joke second team. However, the Clippers have dominated the last decade while the Lakers have floundered. To me, it all goes back to 2011 when the NBA vetoed the Lakers trade for Chris Paul, only for the Clippers to swoop in and trade for Paul themselves. The Clippers paired Paul with Blake Griffin and made the playoffs six seasons in a row, while the Lakers haven’t made the playoffs since 2013-14.
Since Kobe Bryant retired, the Lakers had been rebuilding and accumulating young talent. After they signed LeBron last year, the Lakers attempted to compete for a playoff spot, only to come up short up. The Lakers went 37-45 and missed the playoffs, ending LeBron’s playoff streak. However, this offseason the Lakers traded a lot of their young talent for Anthony Davis, giving LeBron an elite talent to pair with him.
The Clippers no longer have Paul and Griffin, yet they still managed to grab the 8th seed in the competitive Western Conference last season. The Clippers won 48 games and only added Kawhi and PG to their roster, both players who received MVP votes last year.
When philosophers sit around and discuss the biggest questions in life, they always get hung up on these damn Los Angeles basketball teams. Which team will have the better 2019-20 season?
The Lakers have two of the best players in the entire NBA. LeBron and Davis combine for 21 All-Star appearances, 15 First Team All-NBA selections, and 6 All-Defensive First team selections. There are few teammates in the NBA today that rival what the Lakers have going on. There are few teams in NBA history that rival the level of talent that the Lakers have at the top of their team.
We have never seen LeBron play with a big man this talented. Chris Bosh was amazing, don’t get me wrong, but Anthony Davis is a far superior overall basketball player. In fact, Anthony Davis is the best teammate that LeBron has ever had, and LeBron has an impressive list of former teammates. Davis is 26 years old in his first year with LeBron, compared to Dwayne Wade being 30 years old his first year with LeBron. While Kevin Love and Chris Bosh were also 26 when they teamed up with LeBron, and Kyrie Irving was 22, Davis is at the peak of his career. Wade, Bosh, and Love already had their best seasons behind them and Kyrie was still establishing himself as a superstar, whereas Davis is already established as a superstar and is young enough where his best season might still be yet to come.
After the LeBron/Davis combo, the Lakers are rounded out by youngster Kyle Kuzma and veterans Danny Green, Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and JaVale McGee. Last year, Kuzma in his age-23 season averaged 18.7 points and 1.8 threes a game while playing power forward. Kuzma is the third-best player on the Lakers, who are lucky that they were able to hold on to him when they traded for Davis.
The Lakers signed Danny Green this summer for two-years and $30 million. The shooting guard averaged 2.5 threes last season for the championship-winning Toronto Raptors and will be tasked with perimeter shooting for the Lakers in 2019-20. With Rondo having poor perimeter shooting, Green will be an important offensive guard for the Lakers. After Green and Kuzma, only Caldwell-Pope and Alex Caruso are capable three-point shooters on the Lakers.
Veterans Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee will backup Davis and Kuzma down low. Howard only played 9 games last season and hasn’t been the same since his first season for the Houston Rockets. Expect Howard to play roughly 20 minutes off the bench for the Lakers this season, as his starting days are behind him. McGee started 62 games for the Lakers last season and averaged 12 points, 2 blocks, and 7.5 rebounds per game playing 22.3 minutes a night. McGee hadn’t played 20 minutes a night since his Denver days in 2013, which probably says more about how bad the Lakers were last year. McGee will probably not get over 20 minutes a night with Davis, Kuzma, and Howard in the mix.
The Lakers’ biggest weakness is their lack of talent at the guard position. After trading young guards Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart in the Davis trade, the Lakers are going to roll out a combination of Rondo, Quinn Cook, Caldwell-Pope, Caruso, and Danny Green in their rotation. While they may be serviceable enough to get LeBron into the playoffs, all of the legit Finals contending teams will have guards that will walk all over them. When there are 8 teams left in the Conference Semifinals, the Lakers should easily have the worst guards of the bunch.
The NBA hasn’t seen a combo like LeBron and Davis join forces in a very long time. At this point, the NBA may be desensitized to the idea of superstars linking up, so the significance of this pairing may be lost to the masses. But, this is a huge deal, to the point where the Lakers should have no problem rivaling the Clippers this season. While Kawhi and Paul George are nothing to sneeze at, the pairing of LeBron with Davis should make the Lakers the best team in Los Angeles in the 2019-2020 season.
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