With preseason underway, it’s not long until the season begins. One of the most exciting teams to watch this year is undoubtedly the Los Angeles Lakers.
One fact that follows James wherever he goes, is that his team will only go as far as he takes them. So, that leads us to the question of what are we expecting from the King this season? Another great season for the Los Angeles Lakers, that’s what. James will go into this season motivated, not only to win his fifth championship but to prove his doubters wrong.
We all saw his reaction to not getting any votes as the best player in the league. Now recently, he received no votes from the NBA 221-22 GM survey on who will win MVP.
This type of stuff motivates James to accomplish great things and play even greater basketball. No one expected him to bounce back after underachieving in his first season with the Lakers and finish second in the MVP race.
He arguably should have won the MVP that season over Giannis Antetokoumpo. A motivated and healthy James could make another push in the MVP race. It should be remembered that he was in the MVP discussion during a stretch last season.
His 2020-21 season with the Lakers was heavily impacted by his ankle injury. Despite the said injury, he averaged 25 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 7.8 assists. James was also in the MVP race before he was injured.
The Lakers will kick off their season in an intriguing match-up with the Golden State Warriors on October 19th. With a completely new roster around LeBron James and Anthony Davis, bar Talen Horton-Tucker, the potential of this new team is high.
The Lakers roster has changed significantly, and their offense should look quite different. Not only because there are only three players from last season on the current roster, but they have also replaced key parts of their offense. The Lakers lost Marc Gasol, who was key due to how he spaced the court along with him allowing James and others to play more off the ball with his great passing ability.
As it is well known, spacing is crucial to James performing at his best. It helps him do what he does best, and that gets to the rim where he can finish or find an open shooter when defenses try to stop him.
There is a big possibility that Anthony Davis plays the five this year during the regular season, which will help space the floor significantly. James and Gasol worked well together in lineups, however, if Davis is at the five, James will have a much better center to utilize in the pick and roll.
Shift in Responsibility
The other big change in the offense is at the point guard position. The Lakers have gone from Dennis Schroder at point, to Russell Westbrook. Westbrook will have the ball in his hands a lot more than Schroder because he is one of the best playmakers the league has ever seen. A playmaker is something the Lakers really lacked last year.
Schroder only looked like he could step up that aspect of his game whilst James and Davis were injured. Now the Lakers have someone who led the league in assists three times.
He averaged 11.7 assists last year whilst playing with an elite scorer in Bradley Beal. Some may think Westbrook having the ball in his hands more will harm James, I’d argue it will only make him better.
James is in a stage in his career where he shouldn’t have the responsibility of keeping up his scoring and running the entire offense. He is great off the ball as he makes great cuts towards the basket. He is also great in the post and a good three-point shooter. He shot 36.5% from three on six attempts per game last season. With Westbrook running the offense, it should save James a lot of energy.
I expect to see a more aggressive player, in terms of getting to the rim on and off the ball. Lakers fans should also expect a more energized James coming back off the bench as he can rest more due to the Lakers’ depth in playmakers and also scorers.
Point Guard Problems?
Less responsibility will help James play better. Yes, Westbrook is not a great three-point shooter; he is 30.5% from three across his entire career.
That doesn’t mean the Lakers’ entire spacing will be off, they have shooters on the roster. Westbrook is also great at getting to the rim and has a good midrange game, so he will utilize the space he’s given.
There could also be a bit of hope for Lakers fans seeing him work on his shot and show a different form. Although, it would be very optimistic to expect him to become an average three-point shooter.
Westbrook’s lack of a three-point shot has been dragged out of proportion by a lot of NBA fans. This does not mean he will be a hindrance on the Lakers’ offense.
James should have another great season, averaging around 25 points again, with around eight assists. Now that Westbrook is the primary ball-handler, besides from in the clutch, James is likely to have another efficient season.
The difference between this season and last season is James will hopefully be putting up these numbers whilst playing more than just 45 games.
With a stronger team, less of the load will be on James and he can rest more. Of course, as said earlier and as always the team will only go as far as he takes them.
This new Lakers roster should be able to allow James to play his best basketball at this stage of his career. The only thing that could hold this team back is likely to be injuries.
Of course, they will need to improve their team chemistry first as they are a new team, but that will come with time.
Lakers fans should be excited and expect great things from James, once again. The 2021-22 Regular season is looking like it will be another great year in the great career of LeBron James.
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