5 big questions for 2021
What will the world be like in 2021? Some experts believe we’ll see a lot of change, and they’ve come up with five big questions to ponder.
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They’ve returned. The Los Angeles Lakers of 2021-22 — the NBA’s Waystar Royco, if you will — will play a genuine basketball game on Tuesday.
Following an endless offseason, LeBron James and his expensive running mates, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook — flanked by unprecedented star power — will kick off their season of must-see TV against Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center, barely over a year after the bubble title, and, fittingly, days after the Succession premiere.
But before the games begin, here are five key issues for the 2021-22 Lakers, who are poised to have one of the most intriguing and exciting seasons in NBA history.
5) Is it more important to have offensive space or defensive fortitude?
The Lakers’ regular-season victory total (O/U 52.5) and minute-to-minute production will be heavily influenced by how they stagger lineups. It is definitely significant.
The Lakers will have to shine in crunch time and huge playoff situations with LeBron, Russ, and AD on the floor together. Perhaps a combination of raw skill and deadly fast-breaking will suffice. Possibly not.
The Lakers will have two lineup options at the start and finish of games, and which one Vogel chooses will indicate his confidence level: Do they prioritize offensive spacing or defensive reinforcement?
If the Lakers start Dwight Howard or DeAndre Jordan with AD, their perimeter defense will be weakened. If they start AD at the 5 and add an additional shooter/scorer to the court, it means they’re confident in their defense and want to score baskets. Keep a watch on Vogel’s transitions between these personas.
4) What is the expected duration of the injuries?
In four weeks, Talen Horton-Tucker will be “reevaluated.” Trevor Ariza will miss at least two months of action. Wayne Ellington will miss Opening Night, and Grade 1 hamstring injuries usually last three weeks or more (early in the season, it seems prudent to be extra-cautious with hammies). Fortunately, Malik Monk and Kendrick Nunn seem to be unharmed.
These injuries aren’t likely to impact the Lakers’ championship hopes, but they may influence which players get opportunities early in the season and, as a result, how the rotation shakes out. Is that HBK’s song you’re listening to?
If we’re being honest, one issue stands out above all others: Will the celebrities remain healthy?
3) Who will be the most consistent shooters?
The Lakers said that they intended to enhance their shooting abilities. Rob Pelinka did indeed sign a number of shooters coming off career-best seasons, including Ellington, Monk, and Kent Bazemore.
The problem is that not all of them will achieve the same degree of precision.
Wesley Matthews, for example, became suddenly ice-cold in sunny Los Angeles last season. Ellington was a brick factory for the New York Knicks the year before his peak 2021-22 season with the Detroit Pistons.
For his first two seasons with the Charlotte Hornets, Monk was everything but microwaveable. The 2020-21 season for Bazemore may be an anomaly, and he’s already been harshly critical of himself in the preseason. In comparison to his %, Ariza’s advanced shooting stats present a bleak picture. Just a thought.
The Lakers will be a much better three-point shooting team as a whole. Who can regularly drain jumpers throughout the season, on the other hand, will have a big impact on the rotation.
2) Who will Russ be slacking off with?
This ponderance has become tiresome, yet it cannot be emphasized. In fact, it’s the Lakers’ most important schematic issue this season.
Russell Westbrook’s greatest irony — among many — is that, as energizing as he is with the ball in his hands, he is as unengaged without it.
Russell Westbrook’s off-ball activity/screen setup is something to keep an eye on for the Lakers this season, according to Zach Lowe. Russ only set 19 screens for the Wizards in 2020-21, according to Lowe. pic.twitter.com/U1rvL8SAP3 https://t.co/kFIONLYDix
@ michaelcorvo_ — Michael Corvo (@ michaelcorvo_) 6th of October, 2021
Apart from his shooting problems — which aren’t due to shyness — there’s no reason why Russ can’t be a great off-ball player. I remember a particular explosive Miami Heat guard and LeBron’s teammate who couldn’t shoot threes but was one of the most dangerous cutters of all time who couldn’t shoot threes but was one of the most dangerous cutters of all time.
During the preseason, we saw Westbrook laying screens and sprinting into the lane. More of it, please.
not to be too dramatic, but this goes a long way toward a banner https://t.co/gXjmTCdQsL
@ michaelcorvo_ — Michael Corvo (@ michaelcorvo_) 15th of October, 2021
In his defense, Westbrook has never played alongside a passer as excellent as LeBron James (who has? ), who promotes slashing and head-swiveling like no one since Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, or Magic Johnson.
Russ will have to be a valuable player when LeBron or someone else gets the ball if the Lakers are going to win tight playoff games.
1) Will egos be checked at the entrance for real?
Whether Pelinka, Vogel, LeBron, Russ, AD, Melo, or anybody else is behind the microphone, there have been two underlying themes since free agency: 1) We’ll work things out, and 2) the mentality is completely focused on winning the title. Over the last several weeks, you’ve undoubtedly heard more than one Laker use the term “sacrifice.”
Except for the superstars, THT, and Nunn, everyone else is on a one-year contract. The Lakers have by far the league’s oldest roster, as well as the NBA’s oldest Opening Night team (#NBA75). LeBron James is in his 19th season.
All of the rhetoric about putting one’s ego aside for the greater good is commendable and sincere. It’s also simple to state before anything is taken into account. There will be times when seasoned veterans are omitted from the rotation, sent to the bench in crucial situations, or substituted off when they don’t want to be.
The 2021-22 Los Angeles Lakers will be scrutinized and scrutinized like no other club since the 2010-11 Miami Heat. And, as with that bunch, things won’t be easy straight away, as the Lakers have often said. They’re counting on experience and knowledge to help them withstand the coming Santa Ana winds.
“Wherever you hide, the party finds you,” as Cousin Greg puts it.
The deep questions to ask people is a list of 5 big questions for 2021. These are all questions that will help you think about the future and how it might be different than what we know now.
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