Friday, October 22 2021

The Los Angeles Lakers overhauled the roster from last season and are going all-in for the franchise’s 18th championship.

The grandest acquisition was Russell Westbrook arriving via trade from the Washington Wizards, but with only one player coming versus three players departing, L.A. needed to sign two more players in free agency.

Kendrick Nunn’s two-year deal for the MLE was the biggest splash for a non-Laker the previous season; Talen Horton-Tucker received a three-year extension worth north of $30 million.

Every other player L.A. inked came on a minimum deal. From Carmelo Anthony to Kent Bazemore to Malik Monk and everyone in between, a chunk of the Lakers’ financial book next season is dedicated to minimum contracts.

Going into next season, the Lakers look poised to go on a longer run than the 2020-21 season, which was a campaign mired in injuries. In NBA.com’s latest offseason power rankings for each conference, L.A. came in at No. 2. Here’s the key question posited:

Key question: How do Westbrook and James work together?

If the Lakers aren’t back to being the best team in the West (and maybe they are), they’re at least back to being one of the league’s most fascinating experiments. Looking back at Westbrook’s single season playing alongside James Harden in Houston … his touches and time of possession were down, but his usage rate was still high, and his true shooting percentage (53.6%) was his highest mark of the last four years, in part because he got to the basket more, with 47% of his field goal attempts (a career-high mark) coming in the restricted area. If the Lakers can get him to the basket that much, they’ll be in great shape.

Westbrook understands a key component to his role is to make life easier for LeBron James. Both need to ball most of the time to make their presence felt on the court, but Westbrook’s shooting troubles from long range is the lingering question mark for this new trio to thrive.

The Phoenix Suns came in at No. 1, which was expected given their run to the 2020 NBA Finals last season. Phoenix and L.A. will square off opening week on a prime-time game Friday, Oct. 22.

Source: Yahoo Sports

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