The Los Angeles Lakers are raring to start their defense of the championship they won down in the Orlando bubble just last October. Since then, they have made several headlines, thanks to the maneuvers of their front office and the plain fact that they are the Lakers, who are always going to be the talk of the NBA world.
The Lakers are expected to once again be serious contenders for the Larry O’Brien trophy, but here are three other bold predictions we have for the Purple and Gold.
Talen Horton-Tucker will find his way into the starting unit
I’ve watched Horton-Tucker play in college, and one of the lasting memories I have of his Iowa State Cyclones days was when someone from the broadcast panel raved about THT’s potential of becoming a star in the NBA one day as if that’s a guaranteet. Horton-Tucker wasn’t even the go-to guy then for the Cyclones (it was Marial Shayok), but he was the most impactul, which had a lot to do with his impressive defense and the way he was able to be that way without being a high-usage guy while playing alongside two bucket-getters in Shayok and Lindell Wigginton.
Horton-Tucker is someone you would love to see spend minutes together with LeBron James. He can run, stretch the floor, and most of all, defend. Wesley Matthews can do all those as well, but Lakers nation seem to be all aboard the THT hype train, and it’s just a matter of time before the Lakers give what the people want.
LeBron James will have the worst scoring average since his rookie year
We get it. He’s LeBron James. But at some point in this cyborg’s career, he’s going to inevtiably start that familiar decline we’ve seen from previous superstars. Make no mistake about it. James will definitely be an impact player and will remain as the engine that runs the Lakers regardless of how well Anthony Davis plays this season, but he’s about to turn 36 in a matter of days, as of this writing.
Saying LeBron’s body will start to break down has become a yearly tradition over the past several seasons, especially since he’s also made trips to the Finals seem like an annual event — like the New York Knicks missing the playoffs. While that prognosis has repeatedly failed, the older LeBron becomes, the further it gets from the realm of crazy-talk.
But the view that LeBron’s scoring is going to take a hit this coming season isn’t exclusively tied to the fact that he’s aging. Last season, LeBron averaged 25.3 points per game, tied for the worst of his career since his rookie season, when he put up 20.9 points a night. LeBron certainly loved focusing on his ability to distribute the ball more than putting it on the basket, and that negatively affected his scoring, while at the same time having a positive effect on his assists numbers, as evidenced by his career-high 10.2 dimes per game.
Having a unicorn in Davis around allowed LeBron to lighten up his scoring duties. And with an even better supporting cast this time around, the need for LeBron to be aggressive on offense gets even more unnecessary.
The Lakers will have three All-Star representatives
Let’s begin with something I am ready to bet the farm on: barring injuries, LeBron James and Anthony Davis are going to be named All Stars in 2021.
There will not be an All-Star game next season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the NBA is still going to name All-Star players, so if anything, it’s disappointing that we’ll be robbed of the chance of watching the best NBA players go head to head in a glorified exhibition match.
So, wait. Which Laker is going to be the third All Star?
That’s got to be Dennis Schroder, arguably the biggest acquisition of the Lakers over the offseason. Schroder is coming off a sensational stint with the Oklahoma City Thunder. In two years with the Thunder, he averaged 14.1 points and 4.6 assists per game. His arrival in Los Angeles has Lakers nation excited because he gives the team another huge threat on offense and one who could fit well playing alongside James and Davis.
Even if he becomes the designated sixth man on his new team, he should be able to find ways to produce just as he did with the Thunder. Schroder nearly won the Sixth Man of the Year honors last season, placing second on the voting behind then-LA Clipper Montrezl Harrel.