What to Know
- The Lakers and Clippers tip off their seasons Tuesday night at Staples Center
- Both teams enter the season with NBA title aspirations in what should be a wide-open league
- Along with having the reigning NBA Finals MVP in Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers also have a notably deep team
Was there a point this summer when LeBron James thought Kawhi Leonard would be joining the Los Angeles Lakers?
"Yea, because I'm a positive guy," James said at Tuesday morning's shootaround, ahead of highly anticipated opening night matchup between the Lakers and the Clippers at Staples Center.
James said he wasn't surprised Leonard ultimately chose the Clippers, though the Lakers' star opted not to go too far down that tunnel.
The launch of a new season is always an exciting time, but never before have both the Lakers and Clippers enjoyed the opulence of being at the upper crust of NBA championship chatter and the center of NBA attention at the same time.
Anthony Davis' arrival to the Lakers via trade made the Lakers favorites, with sports betting site Bovada listing the Lakers as +300 favorites to win the title ahead of tip-off. Wit Paul George joining Leonard, the Clippers are second-favorites at +333, followed by the Milwaukee Bucks at +575.
Judging off preseason, which is admittedly not the best way to make any concrete determinations, the Davis and James combo won't take much time to gel. The Lakers have two elite players that should easily tilt the floor on offense to get open shots.
The biggest strength for the Lakers, along with having arguably two of the top five players players in the league, is length.
"We have a lot of length, that's going to help us defensively and offensively," James said Tuesday.
The Lakers are an especially long team, and defensively, that length helps avoid opposing teams getting offensive rebounds and also helps plug the paint. Offensively, the Lakers should dominate on the glass and get second-chance opportunities.
With James and Davis running the high pick-and-roll, that length should also help lead to a lot of alley-oops for JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard.
In short, the Lakers look like they're ready to be shot out of a cannon after James comes into a season fully rested and healthy for the first time since Ron Artest hit a three-pointer and thanks his psychiatrist after beating the Boston Celtics in 2010.
Additions like Danny Green, Quinn Cook, Avery Bradley and Howard also helped the Lakers gain much needed shooting and defensive depth.
The Clippers, meanwhile, start the season with the best odds to win the Western Conference, according to Bovada. Along with having the reigning NBA Finals MVP in Leonard, the Clippers also have a notably deep team.
Paul George's addition via a trade executed in tandem with the Leonard signing has helped LA's second-most popular NBA team jump up from being a playoff player a season ago into the elite status in the Western Conference.
However, George will be out until November.
Thankfully for Clippers coach Doc Rivers, his team is deep. Lou Williams is a perennial Sixth Man of the Year to the extent that the award should be named after him if he ever decides to stop playing and give it up.
Landry Shamet and Montrezl Harrell are two young players that opponents know well but wouldn't be recognized if they took a seat in the stands on most nights. Maurice Harkless was a key addition over the summer, and the small forward will likely pick up much of the slack while George is out.
While the Lakers are without Kyle Kuzma on opening night, George's absence is far more meaningful to Tuesday's game and to judge these teams for the season.
Even with Leonard launching a new era of Clippers' basketball in front of a home crowd, Tuesday night at Staples Center is only the starter's gun marking the beginning of the race. Where the Lakers and Clippers rank come Christmas, April and June will be far more important than which team wins on opening night.
Still, it's opening night, and the entire NBA has its eyes glued to the two teams in Los Angeles like never before.
The Lakers and Clippers seasons tip-off at 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time.