The Los Angeles Lakers are set to open up their 2017-18 campaign Thursday night, as they host the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center.
The Lakers underwent a lot of personnel changes this offseason, drafting four rookies in Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and Thomas Bryant in addition to trading for Brook Lopez and adding Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Andrew Bogut through free agency.
It will be some time before Laker fans see their team at full strength though, as Caldwell-Pope will be suspended for the first two games of the season due to a DUI, and Hart is set to miss Opening Night with Achilles bursitis.
THe Clippers also made some big changes to their roster this offseason, as they traded All-Star point guard Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets for a ton of players including Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell, Sam Dekker and former Laker Lou Williams. Doc Rivers will have his hands full this season mixing and matching his deep roster.
Ball will have his hands full in his NBA debut, matching up against Beverley, one of the best defensive point guards in the league. Beverley was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team last season with Houston. With Ball missing most of the preseason with a sprained ankle, he may have some issues running the Lakers offense as he has not seen much action with the rest of the starting unit.
With Caldwell-Pope out, Brandon Ingram will move over to the shooting guard position with Luol Deng getting the start. Ingram is heading into his second season with the Lakers and will look to build off his much-improved second half of last year.
Ingram showed what he is capable of in the Las Vegas Summer League, scoring 26 points against these Clippers in his lone game. He struggled to find his shot for much of the preseason though, but he was still aggressive looking to score.
While Austin Rivers will get the start in the backcourt alongside Beverly, the Clippers bench unit of Williams and Milos Teodosic could be one of the better bench backcourts in the league. The 30-year-old Teodosic is a rookie in the NBA, but has a ton of experience playing in Europe and is supposed to be one of the most gifted passers in the league.
The Lakers bench backcourt isn’t too shabby either, with William’s former backcourt mate in Jordan Clarkson hoping to figure into the Sixth Man of the Year discussion. Tyler Ennis and Alex Caruso could both get some minutes backing up Ball at point guard.
The Clippers biggest strength is their frontcourt, which features two All-Stars in Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan and one of the league’s more underrated offseason acquisitions in Danilo Gallinari.
Griffin will be the main focal point of the Clippers offense, so Lakers starting power forward Larry Nance Jr. should have his hands full at that end of the floor.
The center matchup is the most intriguing matchup of the game as it features one of the best offensive centers in the league in Lopez against one of the best defensive centers in Jordan. Lopez has an ability to not only score in the paint but also from three-point range so look for him to spend plenty of time at the three-point line to keep Jordan out of the paint.
Where the Lakers biggest advantage may be is their big men coming off the bench, as Julius Randle won’t be in the starting lineup anymore and the rookie Kuzma was the team’s best player in the preseason. It will be interesting to see if Kuzma continues to prove he was the steal of this year’s draft by replicating his Summer League and preseason performances.
Veterans Corey Brewer and Bogut could also see some action off the bench, with both bringing leadership and toughness of the defensive end of the floor which could be crucial with some many young players on the floor.
Three Keys To Victory:
Push the pace: With Lonzo Ball at point guard, it has been made very evident that the Lakers want to get out in transition and run. The Clippers are more of a half-court team, so if the Lakers are able to control the pace of the game then that will bode well in their favor. That starts with getting stops on the defensive end of the floor and getting the ball in Ball’s hands as quick as possible.
Crash the boards: The Clippers are one of the biggest teams in the league, which means they can rebound on both ends of the floor. Keeping them, especially Jordan, off the offensive glass and limiting them to one shot per possession will play a big factor in the Lakers success and improvement on the defensive end of the floor.
Get Ingram going early: If the Lakers want to improve their win total this season, Ingram will need to take his game to the next level and become the team’s No. 1 option on offense. Getting him going with some early touches and easy buckets could go along way in his confidence for the rest of the season.
Los Angeles Lakers (0-0) Vs. Los Angeles Clippers (0-0)
7:30 P.M. PST, October 19, 2017
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/ 1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Clippers Starting Lineup:
PG: Patrick Beverley
SG: Austin Rivers
SF: Danilo Gallinari
PF: Blake Griffin
C: DeAndre Jordan
Key Reserves: Lou Williams, Milos Teodosic, Wesley Johnson, Monztrezl Harrell, Brice Johnson, Sam Dekker
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Lonzo Ball
SG: Brandon Ingram
SF: Luol Deng
PF: Larry Nance Jr.
C: Brook Lopez
Key Reserves: Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, Kyle Kuzma, Tyler Ennis, Andrew Bogut, Corey Brewer