After one of the most eventful offseasons the league has ever seen, it is almost time for the Los Angeles Lakers to begin the long road of the 2019-20 NBA season now.
With the Anthony Davis trade to form one of the best duos in the league, a new head coach, and a number of other moves, the Lakers will be one of the most-watched teams.
Of course, with so many additions and changes comes a lot of questions. Nearly every player on the roster has some sort of question hanging over them and the team as a whole has an interesting build with chemistry and fit concerns.
With 2019 NBA training camp set to begin and preseason right around the corner on Oct. 5, we take a look at five questions that Lakers fans will be looking for answers on.
1. How will the LeBron James-Anthony Davis duo work?
The success of the Lakers will hinge on their two All-Star players: Davis and LeBron James. The two have wanted to pair up for some time and now they have the chance to show the league they are the most dominant duo in the NBA. However, how exactly will it work on the court?
James reportedly wants Davis to be the focal point of the team’s offense, which makes sense considering the latter’s skill set and the fact that he is in his prime while the former is in Year 17. However, James has always been the centerpiece of the offense, so how he would operate as the second option is unknown. His skills as a playmaker make it feasible, but it is still something that has not been seen.
Where each will operate on offense will also be worth watching as each thrives more in the post, even though they are both more than capable on the perimeter. And none of this brings up the defense where James has been lacking in recent seasons, but Davis has promised to push him.
Needless to say, head coach Frank Vogel has a lot of work on his hands heading into Year 1. Speaking of which…
2. What changes will Frank Vogel’s coaching staff make?
When the Lakers parted ways with former head coach Luke Walton, there were questions about how much of their disappointing season had to do with him and how much blame was on the players and things out of his control.
The fiasco surrounding Vogel’s hiring did not help matters around him, but the fact remains he is an accomplished head coach at this level and has surrounded himself with an impressive coaching staff. Assistant coaches Jason Kidd and Lionel Hollins have extensive head coaching experience while Phil Handy has been one of the most respected.
But what will be different with Vogel at the helm?
Vogel has been known for his ability to build defenses (which is something that is much-needed), but his offense was outdated in his last stint. He has spoken about how he has evolved with the new style of the league and also has a coaching staff well versed in that. Rotations and substitution patterns will also be closely watched as that was a constant subject of scrutiny under Walton.
Kidd has practically been viewed by many as the team’s head coach in waiting should Vogel fail, so the pressure on the 46-year-old will be immense heading into Year 1.
3. When will Kyle Kuzma be 100 percent healthy?
Kuzma’s development is arguably the biggest x-factor coming into the new season. He has always exhibited an All-Star quality and outstanding work ethic, which is why the Lakers kept him around over the rest of the young core.
Unfortunately, Kuzma suffered a stress reaction in his left foot while taking part in Team USA’s training camp, forcing him to withdraw from the 2019 FIBA World Cup. As Kuzma is scheduled for an MRI after the team’s trip to China, this is a huge concern for a team that needs as much time as possible to develop chemistry with so many new pieces.
As this is an unfortunate setback, the rotations (and Kuzma’s role specifically) is very much unknown, so this throws a wrench into some things for Vogel now.
Kuzma’s desire and work ethic is unquestioned and there is no doubt he will do any and everything possible to be at 100 percent and deliver on the promise this third season holds for him. Hopefully, the 24-year-old will be on the court showing his improvements sooner rather than later.
4. Who will take the last two spots in the starting lineup?
By all accounts, it seems to be a foregone conclusion that three of the five spots in the starting lineup are spoken for: Davis, James, and Danny Green will be lining up together, but the last two spots are currently up in the air.
JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard will be battling at center. For McGee, he looked every bit of a starting center for much of last season as he understands his role as a rim finisher/protector. If healthy, Howard brings much of those same attributes but is more of a question mark considering his recent injury history. This head-to-head will likely determine one spot while the other is even more in the air.
Rajon Rondo is viewed as the favorite to be the team’s starting point guard considering his relationship and experience playing with Davis, along with his leadership and playmaking. However, he has some serious competition.
There have also been reports about James operating as the team’s primary ballhandler and playmaker, which conceivably opens the door for the likes of Avery Bradley or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to fill that final slot in the starting lineup and defend the opposing team’s point guard.
The Lakers have a ton of options and how Vogel navigates these lineups and rotations will go a long way to them achieving the championship success they are hoping for.
5. Will the China trip help build needed chemistry?
One reason why some are questioning if the Lakers can truly be championship contenders is because of their fit and chemistry concerns. The Lakers have a ton of new players who have not played together and it can take a lot of time for everyone to come together — even if they are healthy.
That is why the team’s preseason trip to China against the Brooklyn Nets could be so crucial at this early point.
James reportedly has already held a minicamp in Las Vegas ahead of training camp and this trip to China will be huge in building the necessary chemistry the Lakers must develop in order to reach their potential. They will play two games against the Nets (one in Shanghai and one in Shenzhen), but those might be the least important aspects of the trip.
Spending time with each other and really learning the ins and outs of their teammates as a whole will be of the utmost importance. It might not seem like a big deal, but many teams have been destroyed from the inside and this trip could go a long way to connecting this Lakers team.