In what’s shaping up to be a monumental season for the Brooklyn Nets, teams will be looking to take them down and keep them from claiming their first NBA championship. With that in mind, we wanted to take a look at the teams that figure to pose the biggest threat to Kevin Durant, James Harden, and friends.
Along with the Milwaukee Bucks, the biggest threat to the Nets are the Los Angeles Lakers. The 2020 champions reloaded over the summer and are back with a LOT to prove. To get a better feel of their squad, I reached out to one of the best podcasters in the game. I got a chance to talk with business owner and co-host of the terrific Triple Threat Pod, Juanita Anderson. Here’s our conversation:
Brian Fleurantin: When we last saw the Lakers, they were in a close series with the Phoenix Suns that they wound up losing in six. They wound up retooling over the summer, and brought in guys like Russell Westbrook, Malik Monk, Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza, etc. What did you think of the moves the team made in the offseason?
Juanita Anderson: When it comes to the Lakers’ moves during the offseason, I was on board for everything until they signed DeAndre Jordan and didn’t address the glaring hole at the small forward position. I understand that they signed Kent Bazemore and Trevor Ariza, but they definitely need one more guy given that the other perimeter players include Malik Monk, Wayne Ellington and Talen Horton-Tucker. That’s not reassuring. However, that is the lone stain on an otherwise highly talented team. The addition of Russell Westbrook is going to hurt more feelings than people realize or want to admit.
BF: Speaking of Russ, where do you see him having the most positive effect on the squad?
JA: Russ is a one man playoff berth and was a routine conference finals attendee as a 2nd option as long as health permit. His health has played a factor in his perception as a player the last few years, but he’s still one of the single most prolific playmakers the game has ever seen and an all out force on the floor. He elevates ALL of his teammates. Every single one. He works. Sets the tone, takes accountability, and leads by example. The Lakers’ young guards are in for an absolute treat with him around and active because of how much care he gives his guys. Much is always made about his shot selection, but don’t expect that to be a problem that lingers too much. I am very excited to see him, Bron and AD play meaningful basketball together. That amount of work, rebounding, rim pressure, playmaking, and scoring has never not worked. People are doing the mental version of Simone Biles’ floor routine to convince themselves that it won’t. It would do you wise to disabuse yourselves of that notion before the season starts and just enjoy the show. It’ll go a lot smoother.
BF: At Media Day, Anthony Davis mentioned that he’ll be playing Center this year. I saw Frank Vogel mention he’s a bit concerned about the lack of size the team has and how it can affect their rebounding. I remember you mentioned to me the Lakers are big, but not on the wings. How do you see Vogel managing his rotations?
JA: Rebounding with the Lakers small rolling with AD at the 5 is really only an issue when Russ and Bron aren’t on the floor at all. Suffice to say, that likely won’t be often. But if it ever is, look to see Kent Bazemore and Trevor Ariza to be part of those lineups. Everyone else just needs to pick it up and be more conscientious about rebounding. This isn’t a problem that will be solved overnight for these individual players. I expect Vogel to experiment a bit with the 2 and 3 spots this season as guys progress and regress, ebb and flow.
BF: For AD, injuries slowed him down last season after coming off the heavy lifting he did in the bubble. When he’s played, he’s been fantastic and makes the Lakers practically impossible to deal with for teams like the Nets, Bucks, Nuggets, etc. What’s the biggest thing to watch for with Davis this season?
JA: The biggest thing to watch with Davis this season should be his interior play. He reminds me of a vine the way he likes to weave around defenders, but I’d like to see him put his shoulder into the chests of guys and go through them. Beyond that, he should be great in the pick and roll. Even if he and Bron don’t run it, he and Russ absolutely will. All I can say is: Watch ya head. Beyond that, expect a LOT of DPOY chatter.
BF: With Trevor Ariza out for a while, which rotation player do you see picking up the slack and carving out a bigger role for themselves in the rotation?
JA: THT and Malik Monk are the guys who’ll get the biggest boon in minutes with Ariza out. Baze is going to get a good amount of time as well.
BF: Depending on who you talk to, LeBron is either the first, second, or third best player in the league coming into this year. He still controls the game in a way few, if any, players in hoops history have ever had. How do you see this season playing out for him and is there anything left for him to prove as a player?
JA: LeBron has nothing to prove, so he’s just out there playing. He’s chasing ghosts at this point. He’s on a championship quest and that’s all. That being said, I expect to see him look a little like Miami Bron on offense. The 6 and the headband are a tell. Increased slashing, a lot of finishes at the rim, ample midrange work.
BF: Outside of the big names on the Lakers, who’s a player that fans across the league should keep a close eye on?
JA: Malik Monk, Kendrick Nunn and THT are all poised for a breakout opportunity. THT with an expanded role, Monk and Nunn in contract years. Having the wherewithal to ring chase young is an underrated move financially. Contributing on a winning team will always keep you paid. Those are the three guys I’d watch closest outside of the big name guys.
BF: Is there anything that I missed that you’d like to mention?
JA: The older guys are an intriguing group. Dwight, Melo and Rondo help fill out the grown and sexy Lakers and I wholly expect to see them be the fullest versions of themselves. Melo as a bench scorer at the 4, Dwight at back up 5 and Rondo as a 3rd PG and vet presence in the locker room. It’s shaping up to be a promising season.
BF: What’s your way too early prediction for the team this season?
JA: Way too soon prediction? They MIGHT lose 22 games all year. Playoffs included. I hope them other boys hit the weight room and bring their track shoes.