The Los Angeles Lakers shook up the NBA with their trade for Anthony Davis. How will the San Antonio Spurs fare against the dominant pairing of Davis and LeBron James?
After what has seemed to feel like the longest drought of NBA basketball ever, we are finally almost to the season. This summer we witnessed history in the making. From the Raptors bringing home the countries first professional sports title since the Blue Jays & Canadiens did it back in 1993, to the complete shift in dynamic for what teams thought they’d need to win an NBA Title.
Of course, how could we forget the 2019 off-season, which completely embodied what the new NBA stands for. Player movement and player empowerment completely shifted the dynamic of the league.
The once-thought way to win a championship in the NBA was with a “Big 3”. A collective of three elite, or star level talents filled with average role players, was looked at as the only way to win a title. Now, the NBA is ruled by dynamic duos.
No team will benefit more from this, than the 2019-2020 Los Angeles Lakers. After making one of the biggest transactions in NBA history, and a multitude of free-agent signings, the Los Angeles Lakers are primed for a deep playoff run.
The Lakers and Spurs have had a rivalry for the ages starting around the beginning of the millennium. With both franchises winning multiple championships since 1999. From the Spurs “closing down the forum” after a 1999 sweep in the Western Conference Semi-Finals to the heartbreaking defeat in 2004 at the hands of the Derek Fisher‘s “0.4 Shot”.
Now, closing in on the new decade, San Antonio and Los Angeles will cross paths four times during the regular season, and a high probability of seeing each other in late April.
Next: The 2019-2020 Los Angeles Lakers
The 2019-2020 Los Angeles Lakers
“AD is not on the way, AD is right here beside me!” Lakers legend James Worthy expressed with a tone full of joy. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Anthony Davis and a collection of solid role players are now in Laker Land with LeBron James.
The 2019-2020 Lakers are a team built correctly for the modern-day NBA. It starts with what many believe to be the best duo in the NBA. With an arsenal full of three-point marksmen, and some stout defenders, this team can very well put up 120 points a night while defending at a high level.
This didn’t happen overnight. Last year the Lakers put up one of the biggest duds in their storied franchise history. After bringing in the best player in the game, and who some would call the GOAT, the Lakers were seen by many, like a lock to make the playoffs. After what was a season full of injuries, drama and lackadaisical front office decisions, big changes had to come in LA.
Which brings us to this point. In my eyes, the Lakers are Larry O’Brien trophy or bust. This Lakers team is going to have everyone’s attention every single time they touch the hardwood. They can play at a high pace, they can shoot the lights out of the ball, they have some solid defenders and true veteran role players.
The role player aspect is very important for a team that wants to make noise in May and June. Guys like Jared Dudley and Rajon Rondo, who both are on record saying that they are looking forward to taking “more of a mentor role.”
In Dudley’s case, it’s mentoring Kyle Kuzma, Lakers rising forward who has shown flashes of being one of the better scorers in the league. He’s an elite third scoring option, a dynamic modern-day forward, and has mentioned he worked on his jump-shooting form after performing below his standards last season from three. Having another seasoned vet like Dudley helping him along will be great for his growth. For Rondo, it is for the guards on the squad. For him to embrace that head-on is a huge step forward and a sign for positive things to come for all members of this team.
Personnel wise, the Purple & Gold are a top-tier team. I feel they fit well with some of the plays and sets Coach Frank Vogel has shown to go to in his Orlando & Indiana days. Anthony Davis and LeBron James will make good use out of Frank Vogel’s patented 1 Thru Cross, AI Out, AI Rip, and a plethora of other Horns & Elbow sets.
Some other talents for the Lakers are very intriguing for me. Danny Green is a savvy veteran who rejuvenated his three-point shot last year in Toronto while playing some stiff defense. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope shot 43 percent from three after working with a shooting coach, Lethal Shooter, during the late stages of last year.
If KCP buys into that Catch & Shoot role, he can make sure defenders stay at home when defending him. Which means more isolation situations for LeBron & AD, and a surefire bucket from three when asked to do so off drive and kick situations.
Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee provide Anthony Davis with the ability to play the four, while also giving this squad dependable rebounding and rim protection, especially while playing low-volume minutes.
Lastly, the most intriguing player for me is Avery Bradley. He shot 36 percent on catch-and-shoot three-point attempts last season and at one point, before a variety of injuries occurred, he was one of the best defensive guards in the league. With Bradley, it all comes down to his ability to stay healthy.
If you’re wondering, yes, I love Alex Caruso too. Not only because he’s an elite basketball meme, but he’s also a sparkplug off the bench and shares the same name as my dad.
Next: How to defeat the Lakers & season prediction
How to defeat the Lakers & season prediction
Defeating the new-look Los Angeles Lakers will be a tough feat to accomplish but one I feel the Spurs are very capable of completing. I won’t come out and say the Spurs will sweep the Lakers, but I can see multiple wins against the Purple and Gold.
The Spurs offense, or as I like to call them, the track team, will push the pace much more than last year. Players like Dejounte Murray, who DeMar DeRozan said is “fast as hell”, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker and even big man Jakob Poeltl, excel in transition offense.
Pushing the pace will give a veteran ballclub like the Lakers some fits. When you play a LeBron James team, a player like him tends to make teams play to his pace. Pushing the tempo forces LeBron to work down-and-back at a higher rate, and any advantage you can get against the 34-year-old anomaly is one you’d take.
Last season, the Spurs collectively shot an average of 48.8% from the field, 37.4% from three while facing the Lakers in their four contests. This percentage was not only nearly 1.5% higher than their average shooting percentage but this also led them to a 3-1 record against Los Angeles.
The Spurs, while shooting the least amount of three-point shots per game last season, shot the best percentage in the NBA from that range. The Lakers, who were a middle-of-the-pack team in terms of three-point attempts per game, ranked second to last in percentage, barely eclipsing 33 percent.
The significance of this is it is a given that the Lakers will shoot a high number of threes. Adding, like many nights in the NBA, they’ll miss a bunch. Regardless if they found better fits on the team, there will not be many nights where you see this Lakers team shoot in the 40 percent range from beyond the arc. More volume doesn’t always equal more efficient play.
The Spurs must capitalize using their team basketball techniques, the variety of different ways to score in the half-court like the pick & roll lift, and weakside exchange tactics that seem to spring the good guys open.
Having a future Hall of Fame coach doesn’t hurt San Antonio’s chances either. Against a LeBron James lead team, Gregg Popovich is 31-19. With a 5-1 record over the past two seasons, I feel Coach Pop finds a gameplan that forces LeBron and co. into a lot of uncomfortable situations.
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Last, I feel this Spurs team is much-improved defensively. In terms of transition defense, this Spurs team is just a tier below where the 2016-2017 Spurs team was. That is a massive upgrade from last season.
With aggressive defenders like Dejounte Murray, DeMarre Carroll and Lonnie Walker, this Spurs team has length and tenacity on that end of the floor that is much needed.
Transition offense, especially picking up the pace offensively or getting a quick bucket from a long outlet pass, is something a LeBron lead team leans on throughout a game. Even last year LeBron lead team ranked fourth in terms of pace in the NBA. With a higher pace of play, come more turnovers.
Los Angeles averaged about 14 turnovers a game last season against the Spurs and 15.6 turnovers a game for the season. The Spurs must use their length, athleticism, and communication on defense to capitalize on a team that is bound to give them extra possessions.
My season prediction, the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs will split the season series 2-2.
I’m predicting a series split because the Spurs match up quite well with the Lakers. Especially if the Lakers use a traditional 4/5 set instead of deploying AD at the 5 for most of their games. Using a two-big set will put the Spurs in more of a comfort zone, as the LaMarcus Aldridge–Jakob Poeltl front-court duo had a record of 17-7 last season.
These games will be some of the best basketball you’ll watch this NBA season, and I feel that you could see this Lakers-Spurs rivalry reignite, especially if a 4th seed-5th seed matchup comes our way in late April.