One of the main issues for the Los Angeles Lakers last season was the team’s lack of depth. Injuries became a persistent problem once again for the Purple and Gold. Not being a deep squad proved costly down the stretch, with Los Angeles unable to stand their ground against even mediocre competition.
Unfortunately for Los Angeles, trading Russell Westbrook to improve the roster didn’t happen and may not come to fruition before the NBA trade deadline in February. As a result, Rob Pelinka and company could not put arguably the worst trade in franchise history behind them, making for an awkward situation in L.A.
However, the team made some moves that improved the squad for the 2022-23 campaign and addressed a few key areas of concern after coming off a disaster of season.
I’ll be completely honest. Initially, I thought the Lakers dropped the ball in the offseason and would be even worse this season. None of the moves impressed me, nor did I feel like the team would improve even in the slightest, but now I’ve changed my tune after what I saw in the preseason.
Much-Needed Backcourt Depth
During the summer, the Lakers didn’t make any huge splashes in free agency or with trades. Yes, the team acquired Patrick Beverley, which will give Los Angeles some grit and a much-needed defensive spark in the backcourt, but the trade didn’t put the league on notice.
Despite the lack of a wow factor with the Beverley trade, the veteran guard can help move the needle for the Lakers by helping change the culture defensively. He will also help stretch the floor with his shooting and provide leadership outside of what the team gets from LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Adding Beverley was a smart move that should improve the team on both ends of the floor. A few controversial quotes and possibly some friction in the locker room might also be a needed addition for a team that needs a swift kick in the butt.
The team’s best signing in the offseason was adding Lonnie Walker VI into the mix. The former San Antonio Spurs guard wasn’t a hot commodity on the free-agent market and, as a result, signed a prove-it deal with Los Angeles at $6.5 million for one year.
Although Walker is a liability on defense (along with quite a few players on this new-look roster), the 23-year-old provides the team with another scorer that is looking to show the rest of the league that he’s the real deal in the same way Malik Monk did last season.
Along with adding Walker, the team chose not to trade Kendrick Nunn, which may prove to be the best offseason move. Even though it may have been tough to move Nunn after he missed his entire first season with the team, it’s a blessing in disguise that they were able to keep him on the roster.
Nunn was undoubtedly one of the most impressive players for the Lakers during the preseason. He showed why the team signed him a year ago and how Darvin Ham can use him this season.
He can score, stretch the floor, and seems willing to accept any role the team gives him moving forward. It may have taken a year, but the addition of Nunn is about to pay off.
No More Depending on A.D. and LeBron for Scoring
The second unit last season was awful. There’s no way to put it nicely.
The team couldn’t do much of anything when James and Davis were off the floor. Westbrook showed flashes at times to help with the team’s superstars resting or on the mend, but it was painfully obvious he hurt the team more than he helped.
This year will be different. As I said earlier, the Lakers didn’t make splashy moves or land another star in the offseason. As a result, no one was all that impressed with the signing of Walker, Thomas Bryant, Damian Jones, Troy Brown Jr, Dennis Schroder or Juan Toscano-Anderson.
It’s unclear what the rotation will be or which players will be in the starting lineup. Ham has yet to commit to anyone outside his two superstars, but he has some viable options to start the game and bring off the bench.
After seeing what I saw in the preseason, I firmly believe Nunn and Walker will be a two-headed monster when it comes to needing dependable scoring from players not named James and Davis.
It was as if these two were competing against each other for the distinction of best newcomer in L.A. (even though Nunn has been here for a year). Outside of seeing Davis return to form at times, the best part of the preseason was when the ball was in the hands of these two guards.
Unfortunately, Walker did suffer an ankle sprain, which resulted in only three games played. Nevertheless, he averaged 12.0 points per game, and although his shooting left something to be desired at 38.9 percent, Walker played well and showed he could provide some scoring.
Nunn played in five games during the preseason and averaged 12.6 points per game, only behind James (15.5) and Davis (19.3). He shot an impressive 48 percent from the floor and 40.7 percent from beyond the arc, which was a team-high percentage ahead of Davis (40).
Although we have yet to see these two play a game that counts, the Nunn and Walker show will be fun and something the Lakers desperately need to get back on track and compete in the West.