By Ryan Mayer
Believe it or not the NBA season is here. After an offseason chock full of free-agent drama, it’s time for teams to actually take to the court. With that in mind, we preview the league, giving an overview of what each team can expect this season.
Los Angeles Clippers – 53-29 last season (4th in West)
Another year, another go-round for the Clippers and Doc Rivers. They’re basically the same team they were last year with the additions of Brandon Bass, Marreese Speights and rookie Brice Johnson. The rest of the cast — Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford, JJ Redick, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Paul Pierce, Austin Rivers and Luc Mbah a Moute — are all back.
After an injury-riddled season, the Clippers are hoping first and foremost to stay healthy. Secondly, they’re looking to actually contend at playoff time.
Strength – Continuity/better injury luck – Injuries are largely unpredictable. Last year, the Clippers were hit by a perfect storm that eventually forced an early playoff exit. This year, they should be healthier and enjoy some continuity with the team largely intact. Marreese Speights should help the second unit as a complimentary scorer to Jamal Crawford.
Weakness – Backup center – This remains an issue, even with Speights, who isn’t exactly known for his defense. And outside of him, the only other option at the five spot is rookie Diamond Stone or going small with Brice Johnson/Brandon Bass.
Los Angeles Lakers – 17-65 last season (15th in West)
The Lakers will be much better than they were last year under Byron Scott. The Kobe farewell tour is done, and new coach Luke Walton is looking to develop the next generation of stars. D’Angelo Russell will be let off his extremely short leash. (He’s averaged 18.2 points per game in the preseason.) Add in Jordan Clarkson, rookie Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle, and the Lakers have a nice young core.
Signing Luol Deng, the consummate pro, should help alleviate the pressure on Brandon Ingram to be the guy right away. They also gave a massive deal to Timofey Mozgov who the Cavs benched in the playoffs last season because he was getting killed on pick-and-roll defense. Nick “Swaggy P” Young is still here, so there’s an entertainment factor outside of seeing the young guys develop too.
Strength – Luke Walton – Walton showed his coaching ability last year, leading the Warriors to a 44-3 record out of the gate while Steve Kerr recovered from back surgery. He’ll be installing his system, which will take some time to learn. But there’s no pressure to win right now.
Weakness – Defense – Last year’s team ranked dead last in defensive rating allowing 112.4 points per 100 possessions. That’s horrendous. Even the 10-win 76ers were a full two points better in that category. For all the talk of what Walton can do for this offense, he’ll need to improve this defense. The slow-footed Mozgov at center likely won’t help matters.
Read the entire Western Conference preview at CBSLA.com.