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New FSM Preview: The 2022-23 Los Angeles Lakers Season Preview

Franchise Sports Media

 

The 2022-2023 NBA season is right around the corner and the Los Angeles Lakers are ready to make a run at title #18. Ahead of opening night, let’s get caught up and preview the Lakers’ upcoming season.

 

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The Los Angeles Lakers are coming off of a disappointing 2021-22 season. The Purple and Gold were plagued with mediocrity, inconsistency, lack of chemistry, and injuries. Despite that, the 17-time NBA champions stayed relatively quiet this offseason.

The Lakers began their offseason by signing guard Scotty Pippen Jr. and forward Cole Swider to two-way contracts. In addition, they acquired guard Patrick Beverley from Utah in exchange for guard Talen Horton-Tucker and forward Stanley Johnson. Utah also received a trade exception.

They also added forward Juan Toscano-Anderson, guards Lonnie Walker IV, Max Christie, and Javante McCoy, center Jay Huff, forward Matt Ryan, guards Dwayne Bacon, Dennis Schroder, and Troy Brown Jr., and center Damian Jones.

Jones is currently running as the team’s starting center, leaving superstar forward Anthony Davis to play his more natural position, which is at power on.

 

Anthony Davis, now in his fourth season with the Lakers, faces questions about his health as a plethora of injuries have plagued his career

 

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Here’s hoping that Davis can improve on his play from the past two seasons. Where PER (Player Efficiency Rating) will tell you that Davis is coming off two of the worst years of his career (Not counting his rookie season).

It’s a far cry from his 2020 campaign, where he finished in the top 10 in voting for the NBA MVP award.

Davis needs to pick it up, especially when his fellow co-superstar point forward LeBron James thrives with shooters surrounding him. However, Davis shot an abysmal 18.6% from the 3-point-line last season. That’s terrible.

He shot 33% from three back in 2020, just two years ago. It’s a real head-scratcher. However, he did make 2/4 from beyond the arc during the Lakers’ first preseason game against the Sacramento Kings. But then comes our second concern with Davis, his health.

AD has already missed preseason games against the Phoenix Suns and the Minnesota Timberwolves due to concerns with his back. Davis has never played an entire 82-game season. He’s only played 76 games over the past two seasons. That’s not ideal.

For the Lakers to be successful this season, they need their star players to stay healthy. Davis needs to play at least 62 games. The exact number of games he played in 2020. Davis has to stay healthy and show the world why he is worthy of the five-year supermax contract he signed after the Lakers’ 2020 championship year.

 

Russell Westbrook will be key for this season?

 

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The next concern is obvious. “Superstar” guard Russell Westbrook. He’s coming off the worst season of his career, considering his PER was at the league average of 15, which was also worse than his rookie season.

Health isn’t a concern for Westbrook. He only missed four games last year. Availability can be the best ability, but that isn’t the case with Westbrook. His OWS (Offensive Win Shares) last season was in the negative with -0.6, meaning he was hurting the team on offense by just being on the court.

The Lakers failed to move Westbrook and are now stuck with him heading into the new season. No team is looking to take on $47.1 million, nor are they trying to hinder their squad. Westbrook’s career is currently trending downward, and he may end up like former teammate Carmelo Anthony if he doesn’t settle into a defined role.

But don’t get it twisted. Westbrook can still be a threat. He finished top 10 just three years ago in the race for the NBA MVP award. He finished top 5 four years ago and was the NBA MVP five years ago.

But we don’t need that level of play from Westbrook. We need him to settle into a role where he doesn’t have to do too much. Take care of the ball, make the right pass, and take good shots. He doesn’t have to shoulder a load as he did in OKC. Trust in your teammates, Russ.

 

The King is crucial

 

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Fortunately for the Lakers, James re-signed with the team on a two-year, $97.1 million contract extension that includes a player option for the 2024-25 season back in August.

Heading into year 20, James is still producing numbers. Despite being 37 years old, James averaged an incredible 30.3 points per game (PPG) last season. He finished second in the league for the PPG average.

Like his teammate Davis, the largest concern with James is availability. James hasn’t played more than 70 games in an NBA season since 2018. He’s missed 105 games over the past four seasons, an average of 26 missed games a season. 

James needs to play around 67 games this year. The amount he had when they won the championship in 2020.

 

 

The Lakers’ role players

 

 

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Now that the stars are out of the way, let’s look at the team’s depth. First, Kendrick Nunn is projected to start for the Lakers this year. Nunn missed all of last season with a knee injury.

Nunn is a player that can provide a spark for this team. Similar to Alex Caruso, who was a former Laker during their championship run. 

Beverley and Schroder make a nice backcourt for a second rotation. Both could also sneak their way into the starting lineup barring any injuries or lousy play from Westbrook.

The backup frontcourt has question marks written all over them. Austin Reaves is an exciting young talent, but he needs to make strides in his development to have any meaningful minutes this season.

Toscano-Anderson has so far been a below-average NBA player in his career with horrendous free-throw shooting (59.5%). Thomas Bryant has been injured a lot in his career, but even when he gets the opportunity to be on the floor, he’s been okay.

The rest of the squad is nothing to write home about. Walker IV, however, is fascinating. He’s developed pretty nicely throughout his four-year career. Coming off his best season yet, I don’t see why we wouldn’t see him take another step forward this season.

 

Expectations of the Lakers

 

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Taking all of this into consideration, this team is only an injury or two away from returning to all of their glory in the 2016-2017 NBA season. Their new head coach Darvin Ham is promising, but he isn’t coming into a good situation.

He has to navigate through the mess that is Westbrook, Davis always being hurt in some way, shape, or form, and of course, the pressure that comes with being James’ head coach. Their preseason championship odds haven’t been this low since 2019.

One can only be optimistic about the Lakers’ upcoming season. But, unfortunately, it’s going to take a masterclass of performances from the Lakers’ “Big 3” to even have a chance of winning the title this year.

But to be more realistic, the depth isn’t there. The Westbrook problem won’t be solved overnight, Davis will miss games, and I expect the Lakers to make the play-in tournament barely. They’ll have a similar record to last season, but I expect them to still have over 30 wins this year. Another thing to watch for is the strength of schedule, where the Lakers rank 15th.

Nevertheless, It will be surprising if the Lakers can encroach on being over .500 this season.

 

The Lakers open up their 2022-23 season on October 18th at the Chase Center in San Francisco, California against the Golden State Warriors at 7:00 PM PT. The game can be seen live on TNT.

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 – Jake Ideguchi-Furukawa – Franchise Sports Media

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