With the new NBA season edging closer and preseason now well underway, we're getting a little hint as to how teams will be lining up coming the opening round of the year. While it might not have seen the team go on a winning run, this preseason has been a promising one for the Los Angeles Lakers, who are preparing for a year with potentially one of their most talented rosters in recent seasons.
As the shadow of Kobe Bryant finally moves away from the Staples Center, in its place is now a team packed with exciting youngsters. While it's been a long four seasons without the playoffs, there is some real belief in Los Angeles that the long wait for a postseason could finally come to an end this year.
Much of the focus during the offseason has been the addition of the extremely highly touted Lonzo Ball. The UCLA star was picked second overall in the draft, and the rookie has already shown just why he has been tipped by many to be a huge star in the NBA - not to mention his own clear self-belief. While an ankle injury has disrupted his preseason, the talented point guard looks as though he'll have a big role to play for the Lakers this year. In his first two preseason appearances, Ball averaged 6.5 points, 6.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals a game - encouraging numbers for a rookie in his position.
The real star of the Lakers preseason has been Kyle Kuzma, a first-round pick by the Brooklyn Nets, who was then traded to Los Angeles. Averaging 21 points a game from his first three outings during the preseason, the power forward is shooting 65.8 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from the three-point line. Traded to the Lakers along with Brook Lopez, Kuzma wasn't expected to be an automatic starter in his rookie season, but that may change after his sensational preseason performances.
While there is little doubt the Golden State Warriors are the overwhelming favourites to top the Pacific Division, the Lakers' latest bet365 NBA odds of +4000 could well be worth a punt. What is more realistic, though, is for Luke Walton's men to sneak into the playoffs. As well as their obvious improvements, other teams that reached the postseason last year are significantly weaker as we head into the new campaign.
While the Utah Jazz have lost Dante Exum for the season, the Portland Trail Blazers are having to deal with the absence of Allen Crabbe from a roster that reached the playoffs last season. And it isn't just the Jazz and Blazers who reached last year's postseason that don't look as strong this year as they did in 2016/17. If the Lakers can get off to a strong start, find the sort of consistency that has eluded them for so long, this could well end up being a memorable season for the franchise.