Beyond the Toronto Raptors: Powerhouse Pacific Division

Toronto Raptors - Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /
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Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

Los Angeles Lakers

Key Arrivals: Anthony Davis, Danny Green, Dwight Howard, Avery Bradley, Quinn Cook, DeMarcus Cousins

Key Departures: Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Tyson Chandler, Reggie Bullock

After a decade, the Lakers are finally a serious contender again. All it took was an Anthony Davis-sized trade that involved a gazillion picks and players. But when the storm settled, the Lakers now have a reinvented roster that looks built for a championship run.

Like the Warriors, people are overplaying talks of LeBron James being on the decline. Even with James being hurt and looking disinterested with his desultory Lakers team, he still posted 27-8-8 with a 58.8-percent true shooting last season. Now with Davis beside him and a ragtag group of gnarly veterans, the King is on a reclamation tour.

Offensive outlook

The Lakers weren’t a good offensive team last season (24th) and part of that was because James only played 55 games. But besides James and Rajon Rondo, they didn’t have many playmakers (unless you count a one-legged Lonzo Ball).

Adding Davis not only gives them a defensive chimera but also adds another playmaker and all-around scorer. Green, Bradley, and Cook are three deadeye three-point shooters who are exactly what the doctor ordered for a team that finished second-last in three-point efficiency.

Kyle Kuzma will be the team’s X-Factor. Hobbled by an injury entering the year, Kuzma will be entering his third season where he can go from being just a “solid prospect” to their third-best player, especially on offense.

Defensive outlook

When they say this Lakers team is “built for the playoffs”, they’re alluding to the team’s smashmouth defensive mentality. They already had good defense last season and they retooled to focus on former All-Defensive veterans like Howard, Bradley, and Green (We will see how Howard continues to age as a defensive center).

James, who has preserved himself by taking defensive possessions off, won’t even have to exert himself as much with all the perimeter defenders they acquired. And we haven’t mentioned Davis yet, who was formerly viewed as a defensive player of the year candidate.

Projected outlook: 53-29

The Lakers are built to become a prototypical James-led team. They’ll start the season slowly and hover just a few games above .500 and then when all the naysayers start yapping, usually around the All-Star Break, they’ll go on a run and nab a top-four seed.

50 should be the magic number for this team (or any Western team looking to make the playoffs), and they’ll go just above it even with James and Davis resting double-digit games.