The 2015-16 Los Angeles Lakers return to action with a roster that has been completely revamped, a clear acceptance of their current youth movement, and the type of veteran talent that could blend well enough rekindle some of the fire beneath the league’s most passionate fan base. Fans are eager to see just what second overall pick D’Angelo Russell is made of now that he, a returning Julius Randle and second-year standout Jordan Clarkson have each had several months between Summer League and training camp to develop chemistry while continuing to develop as players, individually.
Frontcourt: Gordon Hayward isn’t just Utah’s best frontcourt player, but the 25-year-old swingman has actually settled into his role as the team’s overall leader quite nicely. He’s proven to be a dependable scoring threat and capable playmaker at 6’8, and alongside Utah’s on-the-rise center Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors, the Jazz could have one of the league’s better and more versatile, young front lines.
Backcourt: Finding a way to get consistent play from his backcourt could be the biggest challenge for Coach Quinn Snyder once again this year. With last year’s lottery pick Dante Exum recovering from an offseason ACL tear, third-year point guard Trey Burke could have his best opportunity to prove he can produce consistently on both ends of the court enough to warrant the trust of the franchise moving forward.
Alec Burks returns to action after missing most of last season due to a shoulder injury, but the Jazz also have plenty to look forward to in terms of the further development of second-year SG Rodney Hood as well. Hood was particularly effective for the Jazz throughout an impressive 12-6 stretch Utah ended last season with as he contributed double-digit scoring totals in 11 of the contests.
Keys to Victory:
Team Defense: Simply having a shot-blocking specialist like Roy Hibbert or even the recently signed Robert Upshaw in the middle might help in terms over overall rim protection, but if the Lakers want to show true signs of improvement as a defensive unit, it will start with the perimeter players being able to stay in front of their assignments on a consistent basis. This will certainly be a tough task with so many scoring threats along the perimeter around the league, but it would be nice to see this team get off to a positive start in this department.
Remaining Patient: As is the case with any team with so many talented — yet inexperienced — players, patience will still be key, especially over some of the early stretches of the schedule. This goes for both ends of the court, as the Lakers are almost certain to need a bit of latitude to adjust on offense and defense with so many new faces and such a plethora of young players.
Play For One Another: More than anything, the last couple seasons of futility have proven that if you don’t play as a cohesive unit. Physical health is always key in professional sports, but a healthy level of chemistry and a unified team goal can actually contribute significantly toward overall success.
Utah Jazz (0-0) at Los Angeles Lakers (0-0)
6:00 PM PST, October 4, 2015
Stan Sheriff Center, Honolulu, Hawaii
TV: Time Warner Cable SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Utah Jazz Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Trey Burke
SG: Alec Burks
SF: Gordon Hayward
PF: Derrick Favors
C: Rudy Gobert
Key Reserves: SG: Rodney Hood, C: Trey Lyles, PF: Trevor Booker
Los Angeles Lakers Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Jordan Clarkson
SF: Kobe Bryant
PF: Julius Randle
C: Roy Hibbert
Key Reserves: SG: Lou Williams, PF: Brandon Bass, PF/C: Tarik Black