The Lakers have long been a gem of Los Angeles, having a reign of dominance in the early ’00s that rivaled, arguably, only the ’90s Chicago Bulls. That said, after winning back-to-back championships almost 10 years ago, the Lakers have spent most of the 2010s mired in mediocrity, failing to make it to the playoffs for six straight years.
Even with all the losing, power forward Anthony Davis expressed his desire to play for the Lakers and LeBron James. As a result, the Lakers front office traded most of its young core to land Davis on June 17.
A lot has been said about the potential Davis-James combination, and against the Golden State Warriors, fans finally saw it in action in the first game at the Chase Center. In only 18 minutes, the pair was deadly -- Davis posted a double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds while James had 15 points and eight assists in the 123-101 win.
In particular, the Davis-James pick-and-roll was very effective. Davis punished smaller defenders that switched onto him and James either drove hard to the rim or took open shots when the defense slowly reacted. Because of their immense size, having James be the initiator of the pick-and-roll and Davis be the roll man will almost always lead to good things for the Lakers.
Not only that, if the help defender sunk down to contain the roll, either player could pass out to the open shooter in the corner -- which was, more often than not, Danny Green. Green was specifically brought in to bolster the Lakers’ poor 3-point shooting as he is a career 40% shooter from three.
It’s also interesting to see JaVale McGee started the game at center, since Davis has said he prefers playing with a traditional center. This is so Davis can play his natural position as a power forward. Although McGee is known not to have the highest basketball IQ, he played well, scoring 10 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in 17 minutes.
Howard was just shy of double-double with nine points and nine rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench. Laker fans should expect that sort of production from Howard moving forward, especially as injuries have taken their toll on him.
That being said, although the Lakers demolished the Warriors, it’s important to remember that this is just a single preseason game. The Warriors arguably played its C-team, as All-Star guards Stephen Curry, D’Angelo Russell and All-Star forward Draymond Green played fewer than 20 minutes. Not only that, but the Warriors were missing another All-Star guard in Klay Thompson as he rehabs from a torn ACL.
The loss was expected because the Warriors were playing with a depleted roster. Despite all of that, Lakers’ PR decided to tweet out that this win was a warning to the rest of the NBA, even though it was against the hobbled Warriors.
That being said, there’s not much to critique about the Lakers as they led the Warriors in most categories. The blocks and steals deficit is negligible as Green is known to be a fantastic defender, especially in transition. The trio of Davis, Howard and McGee roaming the paint will surely improve the teams’ overall defensive numbers including blocks.
An area of concern is free throws. Considering James’ penchant for being fouled, he needs to improve the 66% mark he posted last year. As a career 74% shooter from the line, it’s not outside the realm of possibility to see him improve this season.
The Lakers played their second preseason game against the Brooklyn Nets and though they lost, there’s a lot to like about how the Lakers are playing thus far, as the team looks interested and engaged on both sides of the ball.
If the Lakers are able to carry on the very early success onto the regular season, expect the Lakers to be one of the top teams in the Western Conference and the league as a whole.