Lakers face Warriors with their fresh new roster

We'll see what the Lakers have with the players they acquired from the trade deadline.

I would like to pretend that it’s a new season and that everyone is at 0-0. But the reality is that while the Lakers practically have a brand new team after dealing away five players right before the trade deadline (6 if we’re going to include the Rui Hachimura/Kendrick Nunn swap from two weeks before), the Lakers are 25-31 and they need to get it together very quickly if they want to make a run for a play-in/playoff spot.

Standing in the way is another team that is having their own struggles: the defending champions themselves, the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors are 28-27 and 7th in the West.

But the Warriors have struggled with injuries this season. Stephen Curry has missed 17 games. Andrew Wiggins has missed 20. Klay Thompson missed 12 (and remember that he missed two entire seasons after the 2018-19 season). But even when they were healthy, the Warriors can’t seem to put it together.

Handing the responsibility of the second unit to the even younger Warriors have not worked out well. They missed guys like Otto Porter Jr., Nemanja Bjelica, Damion Lee, and Gary Payton II (more on him later!). The Warriors did acquire Donte DiVincenzo (who’s done well for the most part) and JaMychal Green but overall, the team has been very middle-of-the-road.

Klay has pretty much regained his form. He’s averaged 26.8 points and shooting .433 since Christmas Day (including a 54-point performance against the Hawks last month). Jordan Poole continues to be that “third Splash brother”, averaging 20.8 points while splitting time between starting and coming off the bench this season. Draymond Green is still an excellent defender but he can’t do it all on that end. Kevon Looney has been steady at the boards (8.5 rebounds). For all intents and purposes, Jonathan Kuminga has been pretty decent while Ty Jerome and Anthony Lamb has provided some productive minutes.

But like I said, they still need more help defensively, which was why they have dealt James Wiseman in a complicated four-team trade that brought them back Gary Payton II. But a failed physical by Payton might reverse the trade; he is said to be out 3 months due to his core muscle injury (stemming from his abdominal surgery). The deadline for the Warriors’ decision is Sunday but they’re probably still gonna keep Payton; they don’t want that awkwardness after dealing away Wiseman, who has struggled to get it going ever since he got drafted.

So the Warriors are reeling in and out of the basketball court. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Meanwhile, the Lakers get to see what they have with their new players. The team should have much improved shooting and spacing (though we joke that in the Lakers, shooters go to die). D’Angelo Russell should be able to provide some extra shooting and playmaking in less erratic fashion. Jarred Vanderbilt is a stout defender and rebounder. Malik Beasley has been a sniper his entire career. Mo Bamba is a big guy that can stretch the floor. Not sure Davon Reed can get on the floor but he’s also a solid 3-and-D should he play.

But we’re still not going to see the full squad in play. LeBron James will be out for his second consecutive game due to a sore ankle. But this is a more solid team than we’ve ever seen this season. I expect it might take time to gel but it would be thrilling to see instant chemistry between all the new guys and the players that ended up staying.

The Lakers played the Warriors in the season opener and it didn’t go so well for Los Angeles. But these two teams look much different currently compared to October 18th. The superstars (LeBron and Curry) won’t be playing. Golden State looks mid, as the kids say, and we certainly didn’t think that was going to be the case. And the Lakers got rid of half their core to construct a new team that’s more optimal for LeBron and Davis.

For the Lakers’ sake, they better hope that the result is not more of the same.

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