New NBA Season


Photo courtesy Photo Courtesy to the Los Angeles Daily News

Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James, right, is defended by Los Angeles Clippers' Kawhi Leonard during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The Los Angeles basketball rivalry has reached a new era. After years of the Clippers dominating the more historically successful Lakers, both teams are now on an even playing field roster wise. While there are other competitive teams, talent wise the Lakers and the Clippers are the best in the NBA. With a healthy roster, one of these two teams are favorites to win the championship this next season.

Health is a prime concern for both organizations. The Lakers newly acquired superstar, Anthony Davis, has been injured numerous times throughout his career. However, with less of a workload on the Lakers due to better talent, the team hopes he can remain healthy. Lebron James, on the other hand, has been as durable a player as possible up until last season. He missed a third of the season with a groin injury that led to the decline of the Lakers season. He is 34 years old and has played significant minutes throughout his career, but he is still the best athlete the NBA has ever seen. The Clippers two stars also have a significant injury history. Kawhi Leonard dealt with a mysterious quadricep injury in the 2017-2018 season that held him out most of the season. The past year with the Raptors, Leonard was on a minute and game restriction for the regular season in order to save him for the playoffs. By the end of the playoffs, he was severely banged up, which puts into question his long-term durability. Paul George missed significant time last season with a shoulder injury and has dealt with other ailments earlier in his career. Ideally, all these players are fresh come playoff time and lead their respective teams to deep playoff runs. 

In terms of roster fit and system, Coach Vogel of the Lakers and Coach Rivers of the Clippers run motion based offense with some minor tweaks. The goal of both offenses is to    create easy scoring opportunities instead of relying on isolation basketball. Coach Vogel on the Magic used off the ball action to get players without the ball open and easy shots. The Lakers’ coaches have been unable to get movements, and many times last season the offense ended in a Lebron James isolation. With more weakside action, the Lakers can get their newly acquired shooters, open to hit shots off of passes from Lebron and Anthony Davis. Vogel worked with a big man with a similar skill set as Anthony Davis on his former team in Nikola Vuecivic. Both can play from the post, but they have modern day skills for big men, such as ball handling and shooting. Vuecivic experienced a career year under Vogel, and with an even better center now, Vogel should be able to utilize Anthony Davis’s skill set well. Lastly, Vogel used a high pick and roll to get players going towards the basket. Only issue was his point guard was pretty average relative to other guards around the league. Now he has Lebron James, an all time great passer, and a big in Anthony Davis who can roll to the basket or step out and hit the three-pointer. Hopefully, Vogel can give the Lakers more movement on offense and unlock the Lebron and Anthony Davis pick and roll. 

 Last season, the Clippers lacked a true star player but made up for this by using the versatility of their team. They had players at every position who could operate from the perimeter. Coach Doc Rivers used this advantage to create favorable matchups offensively. The Clippers run an action called “Chicago” where a player comes off a handoff then a screen afterwards. The play allows players to make reads on how the defender reacts and score off these opportunities. The Clippers roster has multiple players that can create their own shot and actions, such as “Chicago,” will only make the game easier for them. An element Rivers will need to incorporate is the post up for newly acquired wings Kawhi Leonard and  Paul George. Both are strong and lanky wings that use their height to their advantage and the post up is a go-to spot for George and Leonard. Rivers needs to make sure to include Louis Williams in the offense too. He is a microwave player, meaning he can heat up quick, but he can be negated if the ball is not in his hands. By allowing Williams to take a scoring burden, Leonard and George, can focus on the defensive end, something they are both extremely good at. Louis Williams showed last season he can carry a team’s scoring load at the end of games, and Rivers must allow him to be himself amidst the new stars. 

For the earlier decades of the NBA, the Lakers were the only team in Los Angeles. They dominated the NBA for a long time up until the start of the past decade. When the Clippers moved from San Diego to LA, they were the laughingstock of the league. Coincidentally their rise coincided with the Lakers downfall. The Lakers and the Clippers have not been competitive together until this season. The LA basketball rivalry has reached a new era.