The Los Angeles Lakers endured extensive roster changes in the offseason. Most notably, they traded a bevy of young stars to acquire Anthony Davis from the Pelicans. As a result, the Lakers have posted a 34-9 record through the first 43 games of the season — good for best in the Western Conference and second-best in the entire NBA.
Assuming Anthony stays with the Lakers following his pending free agency, most sports analysts agree Los Angeles is poised to dominate for years to come. The reality, however, is that the Lakers’ clock is ticking. Let’s look at why the Lakers must prioritize winning a championship.
The Lakers’ massive offseason changes
Before delving into the pressure on the Lakers this season, let’s look at the changes the franchise made. Last year, in LeBron James‘ first season with LA, the team was still firmly entrenched in youth mode. All of this changed with Davis’s trade. The Lakers had to give up Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart.
The only young draft pick the Lakers kept was Kyle Kuzma. (But the rumor mill is swirling with talk that he may get moved by the trade deadline.) In the offseason, the Lakers also picked up guard Quinn Cook, sharp-shooting defensive specialist Danny Green, veteran Jared Dudley, and guard Troy Daniels.
Then, the team signed center DeMarcus Cousins, who suffered an ACL injury back in August. Although the Lakers haven’t closed the door on Cousins’ return this season, chances are he won’t play much in a big role. To make up for his absence, in August, the Lakers picked up veteran center Dwight Howard.
The Lakers’ season so far
Before the season began, nobody was sure how this ragtag roster would gel. The results have been a huge success so far, even by the Lakers’ historic standards. Not only do they have the best record in the West, but James shows that he remains the best player in the game.
In fact, King James has improved his play this season, particularly when it comes to his passing. Through 41 games, James currently averages a stunning 11 assists per game. This number isn’t just the best in the NBA; it’s the best in James’ entire career.
Meanwhile, Davis has been everything the Lakers hoped for, dominating on both offense and defense. All of the misfit role-players fill in admirably around the superstar duo. Coach Frank Vogel deserves a lot of the credit for the Lakers’ smothering defensive schemes, as well as his ability to get all of his players to buy into the system.
Why the Lakers need to win a championship this season
The Lakers do face a lot of pressure to win this season. First and foremost, Davis will technically be a free agent next summer. The assumption is that he’ll choose to re-sign with the Lakers. Yet an early playoff exit or similar disappointment could cause Davis to rethink the decision.
Even if Davis does return, this doesn’t solve the Lakers’ other problem: their age. In the course of a single offseason, the Lakers went from being one of the youngest NBA teams to one of the oldest. The team is currently the second oldest team behind only the Houston Rockets. (If Kuzma gets traded for a veteran, the Lakers could become the oldest team.)
For this reason, it’s crucial that the Lakers approach this postseason with a win-now mentality. After all, even the greatest player in the world can’t hold back the hands of time.