For the first time in five seasons, the Warriors find themselves in new territory entering the 2019-20 season. With Kevin Durant gone to the Brooklyn Nets, Klay Thompson rehabbing his surgically repaired left ACL and eight new players on the roster, the Warriors are not the preseason NBA title favorites.
As the Warriors reconcile a new reality, the rest of the Western Conference has retooled with superstar talent. Over the next seven days, NBC Sports Bay Area will examine teams that are expected to challenge Golden State’s Western Conference throne.
Thursday’s edition: The Los Angeles Lakers.
Two weeks before free agency, the Lakers traded for superstar Pelicans big man Anthony Davis, shipping out Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and three first-round draft picks to New Orleans, giving the Lakers their next great big man.
During free agency, Los Angeles added eight new players, including Danny Green, Avery Bradley and former Warriors DeMarcus Cousins and Quinn Cook.
However, a month after signing Cousins — who dealt with two serious injuries last season — the big man tore his ACL during a pickup game. Then, 11 days later, Los Angeles signed center Dwight Howard, who unceremoniously played for the team during the 2012-13 season.
With a historic offseason, the Lakers seem to have their most balanced team in years on paper. The tandem of James and Davis should help with the bulk of the offensive output. The signings of Bradley and Green give Los Angeles top-level defenders, a welcome sign for a team that finished in the middle of the league in defensive rating last season.
Last season, the Lakers were 29th in the league in 3-point percentage, putting more pressure on James’ exploits. Now, with Green, Cook, Troy Daniels, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jared Dudley, the team has perimeter threats who can open up lanes for Davis and James.
Despite star power in the frontcourt, the Lakers don’t have a top-flight point guard to guide the team. Last season, with Rajon Rondo — the team’s most experienced floor general — the team was statistically worse than when he sat on the bench.
Aside from Rondo, no other guard on the roster has averaged double digits in scoring or more than 25 minutes per game in a season. Cook, who played with the Warriors last season, struggled to get minutes on the floor in his final season with Golden State despite the Warriors having one of the worst benches in the league.
The Lakers also took a chance on Howard, who was limited to just nine games last season with the Wizards, dealing with a backside issue that required spinal surgery. Howard’s injury history, coupled with his sour relationship with the city of Los Angeles after his 2013 exit, has him looking to make good on his fourth redemption stop in as many teams.
How the Warriors stack up
Aside from injuries and roster change, the Lakers are arguably the biggest hurdle Golden State faces in its quest for a sixth straight Finals appearance.
The Warriors will be without Klay Thompson for the onset of the season and will try to integrate eight new faces on the roster.
Since 2015, Golden State has been LeBron James’ toughest rival — one he hasn’t beaten in a seven-game series since 2016. Now, with a superstar cast, James will have his best shot yet to overcome his Northern California rival.