Los Angeles was the center of the NBA universe as the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers made arguably the two biggest moves of the 2019 NBA offseason.
First, the Lakers traded for Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans and later in free agency, the Clippers signed Kawhi Leonard and traded for Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder in a move that sent shockwaves through the basketball world.
As the 2019-20 NBA season nears, both teams are among the favorites to win the 2020 NBA Finals, but many seem to have the Clippers ahead of the Lakers in the pecking order. While many see the Clippers as the top team in the Western Conference, many questions have popped up about whether the Lakers can compete at the highest of levels.
Ethan Strauss of The Athletic recently conducted an NBA Executive Survey and one believes there is a gap between the two teams, explaining the questions many have in regards with the Lakers:
Everyone agrees that it exists, but to varying degrees. In league circles, Lakers skepticism has burbled about for some time, before and after Anthony Davis awkwardly made his way to Los Angeles. Questions of fit and chemistry persist, and many are noting just how many games LeBron James has played up to this point. Like the Warriors, the Lakers are also lacking in perimeter defense, in a league where it seems to matter more than ever. Much as you would expect some “It’s LeBron” faith, that faith appears to be wavering after the last disastrous season. Even flanked with Davis, no one I spoke with believes LeBron and the Lakers are better than the upstart Clips.
These are some legit questions in regards to the Lakers, especially when it comes to fit as well as perimeter defense. The executive did raise some questions in regards to the Clippers as well:
Not that the Clippers are without their questions. As executives on these teams talk themselves into having a shot, they’re talking themselves into the Clips’ vulnerabilities. Shoulder injuries are unpredictable and George will be out for a lengthy stretch. Given that Kawhi Leonard already only plays so many games, the Clippers might struggle to keep pace in the standings. As one executive put it re: the Los Angeles gap, “There is a big gap in likelihood of winning the title. Not sure about reg season wins.”
When thinking about predictions, most think about teams at full strength, but there is certainly a question with that and the Clippers. No one knows exactly how long George will be out with his shoulder issue and Leonard played in just 60 games for the Toronto Raptors last season.
There is no way to be sure about anything regarding either team until they step out on the floor. Thankfully for fans everywhere, they won’t have to wait long as the Lakers and Clippers will square off on Opening Night and try to get the early leg up.