2021-22 Kia Season Preview

10 key questions: Will experience push updated Lakers to top of West?

L.A. is leaning on a loaded roster of accomplished vets as it enters a pivotal season.

Several vets, including Rajon Rondo (left), are on board to try to win the Lakers’ 18th NBA title in franchise history.

For the next 10 days, we’ll be answering one key question surrounding the 2021-22 NBA season. Here’s question five:

Do you see this new group of veteran Lakers ruling the West?

My reference point on this, er, extremely experienced roster is the 1983 Philadelphia Phillies, who had 14 regulars – nine position players and five pitchers – age 30 or older. Among them: Pete Rose (42), Joe Morgan (39), Tony Perez (41), Mike Schmidt (33), Gary Maddox (33), Steve Carlton (38), Ron Reed (40) and Tug McGraw (38). That team went 90-72 and made it to the World Series before falling to Baltimore in five games.

The Lakers won’t play 162 games like those Phillies, though it might feel like it. With eight players who will be on the grizzled side of 33 by Nov. 12 (Russell Westbrook’s birthday), staying healthy and avoiding fatigue will be paramount as the league ramps back up to 82 games. Let us remember, though, LeBron James has been the best 34-year-old in NBA history, as well as best 35- and 36-year-old, so there’s no reason to doubt he’ll be the best 37-year-old once the calendar hits Dec. 30.

Besides, the Lakers’ average age – for all the attention that will get in 2021-22 – will be secondary to how they all mesh, starting with Westbrook as someone who will have to share the ball like never before. Anthony Davis apparently is amenable to long minutes at center – and he’s only 28! – and James, like it or not, is the team’s best choice at power forward.

Kendrick Nunn, Malik Monk and Talen Horton-Tucker will have to do a lot of the grindy stuff, with so many teammates who might not bounce back up if they have to hit the floor. That includes Davis, who has missed double-digit games in seven of his nine seasons.

So the Lakers have the resumes and the know-how to chase down the 18th NBA title in franchise history, but the vim, vigor and durability might be in doubt.

Other questions: 

Which team is poised for a breakout season?
Which second-year players will flourish?
• Can Hawks build on their playoff success?
• How can Zion improve his game next season?
• How will Kidd help Doncic in Dallas?
Are the Nets clearly the team to beat?
• Can the Suns return to The Finals?
• How can Lowry help the Heat?
• What will be the Bucks’ biggest challenge?

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Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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