Are the Lakers Positioned to Repeat As Champions?
Lebron James is about to start heating up a bunch of “GOAT” conversations really soon. After winning his fourth championship last season, he and the Los Angeles Lakers appear poised to repeat this year.
The Lakers were dominant for much of last season. Lebron and Anthony Davis were in the MVP conversation for the entire year. The team’s defense was outstanding. Los Angeles finished in the top ten in points allowed per game (fourth-fewest), field goal percentage allowed (eighth-lowest), three-point percentage allowed (seventh-lowest), steals per game (fifth-most), and blocks per game (most). The Lakers finished as the number one seed in the west and never looked back.
Los Angeles continued their dominance throughout the postseason. They ran through the Western Conference, winning each series in five games. The team then defeated the Miami Heat in six games to claim the NBA championship. During the playoffs, the Lakers defense was just as impressive. They ranked in the top-six in points allowed per game (third-fewest), field goal percentage allowed (sixth-lowest), steals per game (third-most), and blocks per game (third-most). LA’s offense was equally impressive as well. The Lakers averaged the fourth-most points per game, while shooting the highest percentage from the field during the playoffs.
The two biggest reasons for the team’s postseason success were obviously Lebron James and Anthony Davis. James finished in the top-eight in playoff points per game (eight-most), rebounds per game (sixth-most), and assists per game (third-most). Davis also performed exceptionally well, finishing in the top-twelve in points per game (seventh-most), and rebounds per game (twelfth-most). Good news for Lakers fans, both players will be back next season.
Despite winning the championship, Los Angeles still had a few flaws last season. The team struggled shooting a bit, especially from three-point range and the free throw line. The Lakers ranked just 21st in three-point percentage last season. They also shot the third-lowest percentage from the free throw line.
Now these flaws ultimately didn’t have a massive effect on the Lakers’ season. Los Angeles could’ve brought back the exact same team, and had a good chance at repeating as champions. General manager Rob Pelinka decided not to take the chance however. Instead, the Lakers have become one of the most improved teams of the offseason.
Los Angeles has acquired Dennis Schroder, Montrezl Harrell, Marc Gasol, and Wesley Matthews this offseason. The team also re-signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The Lakers did lose Rajon Rondo, Danny Green, Dwight Howard, and JaVale McGee, but most feel like the team still significantly upgraded.
The two biggest acquisitions were Schroder and Harrell. Schroder, who was the runner-up for sixth man of the year, is coming off a season in which he averaged 18.9 points per game on 38.5% shooting from three-point range. The point guard also added in four assists and 3.6 rebounds per game. Harrell, who was the sixth man of the year, averaged 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.
Now Harrell did struggle in the postseason, averaging just 10.5 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. The hope is that the bubble environment was the main reason for his decline, as Harrell averaged 18.3 points per game in the previous postseason.
The Lakers other two acquisitions give them some much needed depth. Gasol (7.5 points per game) and Matthews (7.4 points per game) aren’t necessarily in their primes anymore. They however, provide enough skill to be key pieces in big moments.
This Los Angeles team is more than equipped to repeat as NBA champions. The only hinderance on that will be the short layoff. A few load management games for Lebron and company should do the trick however. Expect the Lakers to be right back were they were at the end of this upcoming season.