2023-24 Lakers Season Preview
Updated: Oct 17
Fifteen years ago, the 2008-09 LA Lakers started their season, set out to avenge their embarrassing game 6 blowout vs. the Boston Celtics in the 08' NBA Finals.
The 09' Lakers were awesome. They had the best coach of all time in Phil Jackson, and star power in Kobe and newly acquired Pau Gasol. They had a great supporting cast including Andrew Bynum, a young and promising big man, the versatility of Lamar Odom, the athleticism of Trevor Ariza, and leadership and steady hand of Derek Fisher. They even had a fun bench mob including the IQ of Luke Walton, shooting of Sasha Vujačić and Jordan Farmar, and the leaping ability of Shannon Brown. Most importantly, they had continuity and cohesion from the season prior.
From 2005-07, the Lakers roster was caught in a downward spiral, struggling to find Kobe some help. When the Lakers traded for Pau in February 08', that all changed, propelling the Lakers to the Finals. By 09', Kobe and the Lakers knew they had something special. The Bryant-Gasol connection was so elite, the Lakers went to 3 straight finals. Their run ultimately consisted of two titles, starting in 09', which culminated in a game 5 Finals victory over the Orlando Magic. In 2010, their revenge on the Celtics was complete in a grueling 7 game series.
Fast forward to present day, this year's Lakers are in an eerily similar situation. Last season, a Russell for Russell mid-season trade propelled the team to instant success. The addition of D'Angelo Russell's shooting, Rui Hachimura's all around scoring, size and physicality, and Austin Reaves' emergence propelled the Lakers all the way to the Western Conference Finals. With D-Lo back and better than ever, AR-15 looking like a future all-star, and Rui's career rebirth, this year's Lakers are primed for another run at the title.
Here are 3 reasons why the Lakers are my (very biased) pick for the 2023-2024 NBA Championship:
1. Depth and Versatility
This year's Lakers have a big problem, and it's one they haven't had for a long time. Darvin Ham and the Lakers coaching staff have their work cut out for them, trying to find minutes for so many players who deserve to be on the floor. Last year's crunch time lineup of D-Lo, AR, Rui, Bron and AD was effective, but ultimately limited vs. the unbelievable guard play of Jamal Murray and the brilliance of Nikola Jokic. The Lakers new additions, Christian Wood and Jaxon Hayes are great pieces to back the Lakers' best and most important player, Anthony Davis. Wood's instant scoring and Hayes' rim running and athleticism (especially as a lob threat and rim protector) are huge for when AD is not on the floor, or if they want to play a big line up with AD at the 4 (it's a hell of a lot better than Tristian Thompson on a 10 day contract). Other new additions deserve playing time as well; Gabe Vincent is a proven playoff player, Taurean Prince is a reliable wing defender and 3 point shooter. You could even make a case for the microwave scoring of Cam Reddish. Defensive savant, Jared Vanderbilt could be a starter in some games, and a DNP in others. Sophomore, Max Christie is a big wing who can shoot, defend, and seems to have won over the vets on the team too. The Lakers could very well go to a 12 man rotation, and like the 2020 Championship Lakers, could tailor fit their lineups to attack their playoff opponents from series to series.
2. Continuity and Roster Construction
Last year, D-Lo stated that he liked their chances for a title, but he warned, once they get a training camp under their belts, watch out. This Lakers core has endured a long playoff run together, and after a successful training camp this summer, it seems that D-Lo was right. So far this Preseason, the Lakers look cohesive as ever, and their team chemistry seems off the charts. D-Lo specifically looks to have made some strides on his own. He seems engaged and focused on the defensive end, using his length to get in passing lanes, and his IQ to communicate and navigate ball screens. His jumper looks smooth as silk, and his leadership seems to be shining through. AR-15 credited D-Lo specifically for his leap into the player he is today, referring to D-Lo's positivity and empowerment for AR to come into his own.
LeBron and Rui Hachimura have formed a special relationship over the summer as well, thanks to the influence of Player Development Coach, Phil Handy. Rui has been attached to LeBron at the hip, learning all he can from one of the greatest players of all time. As the only two players from the 2020 Championship run, LeBron and AD once again have a roster built around their strengths; lots of shooting, size, athleticism, and a new, fast paced, 5-out offense, to help space the floor for the two superstars.
3. Star Power
Because of all the talent in today's NBA, the league has transitioned back into the era of dynamic duos, surrounded by pieces that fit their strengths and support their weaknesses. The Nuggets still have Murray and Jokic, the Celtics have the J's, the Bucks have Giannis and now Dame, and the Suns have KD and Book. For my money, the LeBron-AD paring is still in the upper echelon of NBA duos, and actually, remind me a lot of Kobe and Pau.
When healthy, AD is the best defender in the league, and a match up nightmare on offense. At center, AD excels at taking bigger players off the dribble, using his agility and skill to his advantage. His jumper is a threat as well, so defenders can't sag off and pack the lane. The Lakers have made a concerted effort to make AD the focal point of the team on both ends, so look out for an MVP caliber season. LeBron was playing at an All-NBA level before his foot injury last year, and although he is now the oldest player in the league, there is no reason to believe that he is slowing down any time soon. There is no other player with more experience and basketball knowledge.
The 2023-24 Lakers have an opportunity to do something truly special. With LeBron, AD, and the necessary pieces around them to highlight their strengths, and support their weaknesses, the Lakers have great value at +1200 odds to win the title. If healthy, the Lakers are the most complete team in the league, on both ends of the floor.
Their season starts in Denver on Tuesday, October 24th, with a chance to alleviate the bad taste in their mouths from a few months ago. It'll be interesting to see just how much the Lakers have grown this summer; their newfound cohesion will be put to the test from the jump, battling Mike Malone and the defending champs. I can't wait to see what this team is truly made of. Hopefully, it'll be something like the 09' Lakers, avenging defeat with a gold banner that reads "World Champions."