The NBA season is approaching fast, and there are lots of new faces on new teams. Whether they were recently drafted, traded, or signed, the NBA has seen lots of changes. There were a handful of teams that added more players than most, going into this season with new teams and even newer expectations.
This article will be a deep analysis of those teams, getting into the questions they have to answer this season. With that being said, it’s time to answer those burning questions about the league’s newly-formed teams.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers’ 2021 postseason was nothing but a disappointment. Lakers stars Lebron James and Anthony Davis both missed time due to injury, and they lost in the first round the western conference champion, Phoenix Suns. However this offseason, they went through a roster overhaul, trying to bring the most talent possible to the team. In the offseason, the Lakers acquired Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Nunn, Rajon Rondo, Wayne Ellington, Malik Monk, Kent Bazemore, Carmelo Anthony, and Trevor Ariza.
The Lakers chose to bring all this talent, selling the championship contention pitch to both the young and the old players they signed. They spent all the money they had to go after a title this season, and there is a good chance it pays off. They have one of the deepest rosters in the league, as well as one of the most experienced ones. This can help them during the long regular season, as well as their locker room come playoff time.
However there are a few things to watch about this team, that will be telling of how this team may perform come playoff time. The first question to ask, is how Talen Horton Tucker will fair defensively? Horton Tucker is the 4th highest-paid player for the Lakers this season and will be tasked with guarding some of the opposing team’s best players. Due to his physicality, he will mostly be guarding players with skillsets like Luka Doncic, CJ McCollum, and other taller point guards OR shooting guards with high offensive ceilings.
Talen Horton-Tucker has some of the best physical standings in the league. He stands around 6”3 and weighs around 235 pounds. He also has a 7”1 wingspan, which ranks in the 100th percentile league-wide.
Horton-Tucker is a physical specimen and an amazing defender. However, his defensive ability is one of the only reasons he received such a large expansion from the Lakers, and he will need to live up to his money if he wants to win a title.
Another vital part of the Lakers’ success this season is Russell Westbrooks ability to play within the Lakers’ current system.
While there are many new players this season, the core of Davis and James is returning, meaning that the team will most likely run a similar system to that of last season. Westbrook’s ability or inability to coexist with Davis and James this season will be a crucial part of their attempt at success.
Westbrook will need to play unselfish basketball, and often play off the ball on offense something he is not very experienced with. His ability to do so will make or break the Lakers’ title chances this season. Just a few simple adjustments to his game could bring the Lakers their 18th title, but it will be important to see if he can just right off the bat, or even at all.
The Chicago Bulls had one of their best offseason after a disappointing 11th place finish last season. They were able to pick up 2x all-star center Nikola Vucevic at the trade deadline, but he was unable to lead them to the playoffs. They had no top draft pick, as they traded theirs for Vucevic. This offseason they were able to add Alize Johnson, Derrick Jones Jr., DeMar DeRozan, Tony Bradley, Lonzo Ball, and Alex Caruso to the roster, and now look like real contenders in the Eastern Conference.
The Bulls now have a very talented roster with a handful of players with high-in-game ceilings. For example, players like Coby White and Lonzo Ball do not put up crazy numbers on the usual but have the potential to have huge games at any time.
One of the big questions about this roster though, is how well does all the talent mesh together? Many players on this team are full of skill, but it will be important to watch which players play together well, and which don’t. A good example is a lineup I would presume they would close games with, which consists of Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, Zach Lavine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic. However this lineup has an issue, and that is floor spacing, They were below 40% from the three-point range combined last season, and might face similar issues.
Not to mention, last season, the majority of the players who played with DeRozan were better 3 point shooters with him off the floor than on the floor. DeRozan is very reliant on mid-range jump shooting. While he is very good at it, he oftentimes is unable to create for his teammates because of his on-floor positioning. However, his move to Power Forward has made this impact significantly weaker and may nullify it together. And when it comes to power forwards, Zion Williamson (Lonzo Ball’s PF teammate last season) shot 24% better from the field when playing with Ball.
The other matter for this team that may be fearful is Zach Lavine. While he has had loads of personal success with the Bulls, the team has never failed to do much. He has often been criticized for having empty stats. However, he was scoring over 25 points per game still with Nikola Vucevic and kept his turnovers to under 3 a game, compared to his season average of 3.5 turnovers a game. Additionally, Lavine’s defensive issues will be able to slide due to the defensive talent in Ball, DeRozan, and Caruso, the new free-agent signings. They also have defensive weapon Patrick Williams off the bench, who can ensure that even if Lavine puts out poor defensive performances, the pain can be softened by his team’s ability to help him out.
The Nets, much like the Lakers, had a very disappointing playoff run, as they fell at the hands of the future champion Bucks. While they were missing both Kyrie Irving and James Harden for the majority of the series, the front office still chose to try and improve the roster as much as possible. And they did just that, adding Jevon Carter, Cameron Thomas, James Johnson, Day’ron Sharpe, Patty Mills, Kessler Edwards, LaMarcus Aldridge, Jahlil Okafor, Sekou Douboya, Paul Millsap, and Elijah Millsap.
These many acquisitions all have the goal of helping the Nets win a title, but the large locker room shake-up could cause some trouble. It will take some time for the team to mend together and begin to play as a team, and they have less and less time as the season approaches.
With their star trio, Kevin Durant, Irving, and Harden, the Nets are the team to beat in the east. However, the issue for the big three will not be the play on the court. With any team of such high-profile stars, chemistry will always be an issue. While they may have it figured out on the court, it will be difficult for them to get them off-court chemistry to lead them to success. This may be the last thing the Nets need but is imperative to their success to having the off-court chemistry that the best teams always have. While the team is talented, they have spent little time together. However, if the team’s leaders can make the locker room a good environment and the team can play well because of it, they will be even more likely to win the title than they already are.
The Nets are also one of the oldest teams in the NBA, meaning that a big issue for them this year will be staying healthy. Everyone in the Nets’ big 3 last season was injured for a prolonged period, causing the Nets to underperform all season long. The Nets will battle injuries without a doubt, but how they manage them matters a lot. Will they go on losing streaks? Or will the absence of some stars create opportunities for younger players to break through? It is unlikely that there will be a clear answer, but health will be the Nets’ biggest test this season, and their response will decide how this season goes for them.
I expect the Nets experienced coaching staff to guide them to success this season, but this pair of issues will be crucial for them to deal with. If they are handled poorly, we could see one of the best rosters of all time fail to accomplish anything, which would be a letdown, to Nets fans and all NBA fans, anticipating the Nets to dominate this season.