How many years in a row have we had the craziest NBA offseason ever? Regardless, this past one takes the cake, with a truckload of star power changing addresses. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George went to the Clippers; DeAndre Jordan, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant landed with the Nets (though the the latter is still a year away from playing); Jimmy Butler to the Heat; Kemba Walker joined the Celtics; D’Angelo Russell is on the Warriors; Al Horford to the Sixers; Kristaps Porzingis debuting with the Mavs (following last year’s trade); and Anthony Davis and Boogie Cousins now suiting up for the Lakers. And those are just some of the big names, as a host of talented second-tier guys were also on the move.
So what does it all mean? Well, for the first time in ages, the Warriors are not the presumptive favorite heading into the season. The Western Conference is now wide open, with the Warriors having lost KD to free agency and Klay Thompson expected to be out until after the All-Star break as he recovers from a torn ACL.
They also bid adieu to Boogie Cousins, who promptly signed with the Lakers to be reunited with Davis, only to blow out his ACL and then get hit with allegations of domestic violence. Regardless of how his legal troubles shake out, he’s probably not playing this coming season.
It seems foolish to bet against the Dubs, but they lost one of the game’s all-time great scorers and will be without one of its great long-range shooters — that’s gonna be tough to overcome. So who’s plugging the holes? D’Angelo Russell joined the team following a breakout season in Brooklyn, where he made his first All-Star team; Alfonzo McKinnie will slide into the starting five after a year on the Golden State bench, during which he averaged 4.7 ppg and 3.4 rpg; Kevin Looney also moves into the starting five after four seasons riding the pine — unless Willie Cauley-Stein can lay a claim to the job. Russell is a nice addition, and Looney is better than you think, but it doesn’t feel like enough. The Warriors won 57 games last year; 50 feels more reasonable for this campaign.
After 6 straight years of missing the playoffs, the Lakers are finally poised to get back to the business of being the NBA’s second-most storied franchise (their previous longest drought was 2 seasons, which happened just once, in the mid-seventies). But to get into this position, they had to pay a king’s ransom, shipping out Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, De’Andre Hunter, and three first-round picks to get Davis. Put simply, this had better work.
The starting five is now LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Danny Green, Rajon Rondo, and Dwight Howard — that’s one all-time great, one superstar, one gamer, and two very talented headcases who are well past their prime. First off the bench will be Kyle Kuzma, who’s played well in his first two seasons, but is currently nursing a stress fracture in his foot.
This team has a lot of questions: How many games will LeBron play? Can Davis take his game to another level? Can Danny Green keep draining 40% of his 3’s? Can Rondo and Howard stay in their respective lanes? Will Kuzma get healthy? And can he adjust to life back on the bench? What will become of Boogie? It’s easy to imagine this team winning anywhere from 40 to 60 games. Saturday’s game against Golden State will be the first step toward answering all of these questions.
Catch the Los Angeles Lakers at the Golden State Warriors in preseason action Saturday, October 5, at 8pm ET on TNT
Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com