The LA Lakers are one of the favorites to win the 2021-22 NBA championship. LeBron James and Anthony Davis are entering the season with a clean bill of health, and the Lakers added a third superstar in Russell Westbrook.
After an early exit against the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the 2021 NBA playoffs, the LA Lakers overhauled their roster. In addition to Westbrook, the Lakers also added former All-Stars Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan and Rajon Rondo.
The Lakers' front office also retained Talen Horton-Tucker by giving him a three-year, $32-million extension. The team also added a mix of veteran role players in Trevor Ariza, Kent Bazemore and Wayne Ellington, with a couple of young guns like Malik Monk and Kendrick Nunn.
Despite making a plethora of changes, the LA Lakers are still championship contenders. There are several plots to follow as the Lakers hunt for title number 18. Here are the five most interesting storylines you need to know:
#5 Can the LA Lakers survive the early-season injury crisis?
Talen Horton-Tucker is one of the few players the LA Lakers retained during their roster overhaul. The Lakers signed him to a new contract, and it is expected that he'll have a bigger role to play in the upcoming season.
However, Horton-Tucker underwent surgery on Wednesday to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb. The LA Lakers have ruled him out for four weeks. In addition to Horton-Tucker, the Lakers will be without Trevor Ariza for two months due to ankle surgery.
Injuries, especially to superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, plagued the LA Lakers last season. So it is important for the Lakers to find a way to win as many games as possible in the first month of the season, as they battle a lack of depth due to injuries.
It should be noted that Wayne Ellington, Malik Monk and Kendrick Nunn are all nursing minor injuries heading into opening night. Ellington has a Grade 1 left hamstring strain; Monk has a strained groin, while Nunn is dealing with a sprained right ankle.
#4 How long before Russell Westbrook fits in?
As part of the LA Lakers' overhaul this offseason, Russell Westbrook was acquired via trade from the Washington Wizards. The Lakers sent Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the draft rights to Isaiah Jackson to Washington for the former MVP and two future second-round picks.
The trade divided the LA Lakers' fanbase, as there are questions about Westbrook's fit alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Westbrook is still an elite slasher, but his shooting, or lack thereof, could be a source of problem.
As was seen in the preseason, Westbrook is going to need some time to adjust to Frank Vogel's system. He already has 15 turnovers in two games while scoring just ten points and dishing out nine assists.
Vogel would have to address the Westbrook issue immediately, or the LA Lakers could endure a tough start to the season. But considering that he's a former MVP and entering his 14th season in the NBA, do not be surprised if Westbrook quickly fits in with the 17-time champions.