LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles Lakers open the 2023-24 season in a marquee matchup against the Denver Nuggets Tuesday night.
It marks the second year in a row the Lakers will open their season in an away game against the reigning championships – having opened last season at Golden State on the night of the Warriors' championship ring ceremony.
It was quite the offseason for teams in the Western Conference. Damian Lillard was finally traded, the Suns added Bradley Beal in a blockbuster trade, Russell Westbrook took a massive pay cut to stay with the Clippers, and the Lakers added a mix of veterans and younger players to their roster, including Taurean Prince, Gabe Vincent, and Jaxson Hayes.
As usual, all eyes will be on LeBron James as he enters his 21st season in the league. James, who will celebrate his 39th birthday in late December, said he’s dedicating this season to his 19-year-old son Bronny. The University of Southern California freshman suffered cardiac arrest during a morning practice on campus this summer.
What to expect
After making several big changes to a struggling team at the last trade deadline and subsequently streaking into the NBA’s final four, the Lakers decided they didn’t need their annual roster overhaul. GM Rob Pelinka largely tried to maintain continuity around James and Anthony Davis this time around. As a result, they appear to have their most cohesive roster since their championship season in 2020. Los Angeles re-signed Davis, Austin Reaves, D’Angelo Russell, Rui Hachimura and Jarred Vanderbilt, keeping together most of the role players who clicked superbly around the two superstars from March onward. The new roster mix is deep, balanced and versatile. Reaves returns as the starting shooting guard with a new contract and more confidence from his impressive international play. Hachimura and Vanderbilt are likely to compete for the fifth starting spot at small forward. But as always since their arrival in Hollywood, the health of James and Davis will determine whether the Lakers are a contender for the franchise’s 18th title.
Dennis Schröder, Malik Beasley, Lonnie Walker, Troy Brown Jr., and Wenyen Gabriel.
Gabe Vincent, Jaxson Hayes, Taurean Prince, Cam Reddish, Christian Wood, and Jalen Hood-Schifino.
Player to watch
D’Angelo Russell. The much-traveled point guard excelled after rejoining the Lakers, but was relegated to a minor role in the conference finals against Denver after ineffective play. He still re-signed with LA, and Ham confidently declared Russell his starting point guard before training camp began, even with the Lakers’ addition of Vincent. The 27-year-old Russell knows he has his best opportunity yet to reach his full NBA potential, and he spent the offseason working on his defensive shortcomings.