The Los Angeles Lakers are set to begin the 2015-16 NBA season as they are coming off their worst season in franchise history. Besides the struggles these last couple of years, this new and revamped Lakers roster is looking to continue to progress in the rebuilding process while trying to contend in the brutal Western Conference.
The 2015-16 roster includes a mix of veterans and a very young core, which includes Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell. The team also added a few veterans in the offseason that include Brandon Bass, Roy Hibbert and Lou Williams. The Lakers are also getting two very familiar faces back. First off, there’s the return of 2010 NBA Champion Metta World Peace, who is returning to the NBA after two seasons of playing overseas. And lastly, of course, there is Kobe Bryant, who is entering his 20th and potentially last season of his career following three consecutive season-ending injuries.
Headlining the young core of the Minnesota Timberwolves is 2015 NBA Rookie of the Year, Andrew Wiggins. He was one of the few bright spots the Timberwolves had last year after being traded to the team for three-time All-Star Kevin Love prior to the season. Wiggins averaged 16.9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game as he took his game to another level as the season progressed. The 20-year-old phenom is on his way to becoming a two-way star in the near future.
Alongside Wiggins, there is 21-year veteran Kevin Garnett, who has a different role this time around in Minnesota. Once known as one of the most dangerous two-way forwards in the league, the 2004 Most Valuable Player still plays with his heart on his sleeve, but is now taking more of a mentor role to none other than Karl-Anthony Towns.
Towns, who is one of the most gifted prospects the NBA has seen in recent years, has said that he’s ready to take on the role that the Timberwolves need of him to begin his career. With Garnett in his ear and Wiggins on his side, the Kentucky product is looking to revitalize this young team into a playoff caliber roster.
Coming off a season where he only played in 22 games due to a severe left ankle injury, Ricky Rubio is set to make his return to the starting lineup to anchor the backcourt. Although he hasn’t been the player Minnesota expected him to be when they took him fifth overall in the 2009 NBA Draft, Rubio is still a solid point guard in the league who has averaged over 10 points and eight assists in his four-year NBA career. On a team that’s full of young high-flyers with Zach LaVine, Wiggins, and Towns, it’s comforting to have a facilitator like Rubio who can control the offense and get everyone open looks.
The other half of the backcourt includes the 2015 NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion, Zach LaVine. LaVine, who was recently named the starting shooting guard for Minnesota early in the preseason, is entering his second season in the NBA. The 20-year-old has been commended all training camp by interim head coach Sam Mitchell for his work ethic, which ultimately gave him the nod over 12-year veteran Kevin Martin. Although LaVine has impressed us with his acrobatic dunks thus far, he’s looking to prove that he’s more than just a high-flyer, and can contribute to this young Timberwolves’ core.
Keys to Victory:
Take Care of the Ball: Although the Lakers did mix numerous players and lineups during the preseason to get the regular season rotation set, the team struggled mightily taking care of the basketball. Now with the season underway, they’re going to want to avoid bad habits early and limit turnovers. The Lakers do have a young roster and growing pains will most likely endure, but against a young Timberwolves team, they’re going to want to limit easy scoring opportunities and make them beat them in the half-court game.
Play Within Emotions:The Lakers, specifically the young core, have to play within their emotions. The Staples Center home crowd will be loud and many players will feed off of it, but to start off the season on a high-note with a win, the team has to play under control and stick to their game plan.
Team Defense: On a team that’s mixed with a lot of young talent and newly acquired veterans, the Lakers are only going to be as good as their defense allows them to be. This team hasn’t been together long, so it’s important they play well as a unit defensively. The best way they can do this is by closing the gaps on drives, being timely on rotations and owning the glass. If they win the battle on the boards and limit second-chance opportunities, they’ll be in great shape to start off 1-0.
Minnesota Timberwolves (0-0) at Los Angeles Lakers (0-0)
7:00 PM PST, October 28, 2015
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: ESPN, TWC SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Timberwolves Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Ricky Rubio
SG: Zach LaVine
SF: Andrew Wiggins
PF: Kevin Garnett
C: Karl-Anthony Towns
Key Reserves: PG: Andre Miller SG: Kevin Martin SF: Tayshaun Prince
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Jordan Clarkson
SF: Kobe Bryant
PF: Julius Randle
C: Roy Hibbert
Key Reserves: PG: Marcelos Huertas SG: Lou Williams SF: Nick Young