The Lakers are going to try to avoid an 0-5 start, which has only happened once since the team moved to Los Angeles in 1960.
As we can all clearly see, it’s not all rainbows and flowers in Lakerland. The L.A. Lakers have yet to get a win in this young season and it is all unraveling pretty quickly. LeBron James is not getting younger. Anthony Davis keeps getting hurt. Russell Westbrook didn’t play last game as rumors continue to swirl about him getting traded every day. And the fans keep calling for the heads of Jeanie Buss and Rob Pelinka, who constructed this seemingly ill-equipped roster. It is bad all around right now.
But the show will go on; it barely started, for crying out loud. And the Lakers take their show (I don’t even know if it’s a drama or a sitcom at this point) to Minneapolis where the Timberwolves await their presence. The Wolves beat the Lakers three out of four times last season. In that second game of that series, Anthony Davis got hurt and was out for the next 17 games (and we know he’d be out for another extended period later that season; Davis never did suit up in another game against the Wolves).
Minnesota is going through their own adjustments themselves. In one of the more stunning trades in recent memory, the Wolves acquired longtime Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert in the offseason to help shore their internal defense. It hasn’t completely worked out so far (Wolves are allowing 110.2 points per 100 possessions, which is good for 14th in the league, according to NBA.com) but it’s early in the season. However, Gobert leads the league in rebounding with 14.0 per game.
The Wolves have quite the offensive attack, though. They’re coming into Friday night’s game 7th in points per game and 10th in offensive rating. And, the roster has 6 players averaging in double figures.
It all begins with Karl-Anthony Towns. We know what he can do offensively and he’s gone so far as to call himself the greatest big man shooter of all-time. You can debate that amongst yourselves but the point is that he can shoot from anywhere on the court. He also happens to be a very good rebounder and a decent passer. Towns has played for so many coaches and systems that he’s been asked to change his role and game many times. The instability and the roster strength of the Wolves have gotten Towns only two playoff berths in his career so far. But Towns and his team are looking for big things this year.
Anthony Edwards could be the next big thing in Minnesota. Sure, you can question his diet (as KAT did a few days ago), but he seems ready to make that leap this season. He’s got all career-bests in points (22.8), rebounds (7.4), and assists (4.6) thus far and he’s scored 30 or more points three times in five games already. If he does take it to the next level, it could make the Wolves very dangerous and a real title contender in the near future.
The other three players that score in double figures for the Wolves are D’Angelo Russell, Jaden McDaniels, and Jaylen Nowell. We all know about Russell, who was the #2 pick overall in 2015 (KAT was picked first) when he was drafted by the Lakers. He’s been a steady presence at point guard for the Wolves and Gobert’s presence only helps Russell in terms of pick-and-rolls and defensive coverage. McDaniels (also drafted by the Lakers but immediately dealt thereafter) is in his third year with the Wolves and is now the starting small forward. He really seems to get after it on both ends of the floor. The Lakers might have to watch out for his movement.
Jaylen Nowell is the most unfamiliar name here but he sure is letting the league know how improved he is. Nowell comes off the bench and only plays under 22 minutes per but he is averaging 16.2 points per game. He was drafted in the second round by the Wolves in 2019. Now in his fourth season, he’s gained more minutes and he’s gotten off to an explosive start. Nowell put in 23 points in their win over the Spurs last Wednesday. So he’s definitely one to watch, too, as the Lakers defense have another challenge in their hands.
We can’t forget the other players that round out the Wolves bench in Naz Reid, Jordan McLaughlin, Austin Rivers, Bryn Forbes, and veteran Taurean Prince. The Lakers will have their hands full with Minnesota.
It seems pretty simple what the Lakers have to do. Their defense may have taken a step back against Denver but we’ve seen how capable the Lakers are on that side of the ball. The problem, of course, is that they can’t make shots and generate points. They might have to muck it up against the Wolves to actually score but Minnesota likes to play fast, and we’ve seen how poorly the Lakers got back in transition against Denver. Ironically, the Lakers get their points best when they’re running. What a conundrum.
Let’s also not forget that the Lakers start with a small ball line-up. That sacrifice of size has really put them in a disadvantage in rebounding (they have yet to win that battle this season). And guess what the Wolves have? Size.
LeBron James promised to be more aggressive offensively after their last game. Davis tweaked his back against Denver and he’s currently questionable on Friday night. Russell Westbrook (who did not play on Wednesday) might be brought off the bench (it depends on Davis’s status) as coach Darvin Ham continues to search for a good fit for the former MVP. Lonnie Walker IV has provided some help offensively (and defensively, too, if we’re being honest) but he alone isn’t the answer. Maybe Patrick Beverley will find some inspiration as he is playing against the team that dealt him over the summer. As for the rest of the embattled Lakers, well, they need something from them. Anything positive.
But whatever the case, the Lakers will have to find a way to get their first W of the season. It might be a good chance because the Wolves are still trying to acclimate Gobert into their squad.
Unfortunately, the Lakers seem like they’ve been trying to acclimate to the game of basketball this whole season thus far.