30 Teams in 30 Days

2021-22 Los Angeles Lakers season preview: Roster changes, depth chart, key storylines and games to watch

The 2021-22 NBA season is set to tip off on Oct. 19 (ET). In preparation for the upcoming season, we're dedicating one day between now and the start of the season to each team in the league.

Next up? The Los Angeles Lakers.

2020-21 season record

42-30, 7th in Western Conference

Notable additions

Russell Westbrook, trade

Wayne Ellington, free agency

Kendrick Nunn, free agency

Kent Bazemore, free agency

Trevor Ariza, free agency

Malik Monk, free agency

Rajon Rondo, free agency

Carmelo Anthony, free agency

DeAndre Jordan, free agency

Dwight Howard, free agency

Notable departures

Kyle Kuzma, trade

Montrezl Harrell, trade

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, trade

Marc Gasol, trade

Alex Caruso, free agency

Dennis Schroder, free agency

Markieff Morris, free agency

Andre Drummond, free agency

Depth chart

Los Angeles Lakers depth chart (2021-22)
Starters Second Third
PG Russell Westbrook Kendrick Nunn Rajon Rondo
SG Wayne Ellington Talen Horton-Tucker Malik Monk
SF LeBron James Kent Bazemore
PF Anthony Davis Trevor Ariza Carmelo Anthony
C Dwight Howard DeAndre Jordan

3 key storylines

Russell Westbrook gives the Lakers a new look

The biggest move the Lakers made this offseason was, of course, acquiring Westbrook from the Washington Wizards.

On one hand, Westbrook gives the Lakers even more star power. He wasn't named an All-Star last season, but he posted a triple-double for the fourth time in five seasons with averages of 22.2 points, 11.7 assists and 11.5 rebounds per game.

Even at the age of 32, Westbrook remains one of the most athletic and dynamic players at his position.

On the other, Westbrook isn't the most natural fit next to LeBron and Davis due to his ball dominance and limitations as a shooter. Only one player in NBA history has a higher career usage rate than Westbrook. (That player? Michael Jordan). After shooting a career-best 34.3 percent from 3-point range in his MVP season (2016-17), Westbrook has converted only 29.2 percent of his 3-point attempts over the last four seasons.

Westbrook could help the Lakers in the regular season by taking some of the playmaking load off of LeBron, but Los Angeles might run into real some spacing issues in the playoffs.

It'll be fascinating to see whether or not Westbrook, LeBron and Davis can figure out how to make it work.

The return of Anthony Davis

Davis is coming off of a down season by his standards.

Not only was he limited to 36 games due to injury, but he averaged his fewest points (21.8), rebounds (7.9) and blocks (1.6) since early in his career. He also shot 49.1 percent from the field, which marked a new career-low, in addition to 26.0 percent from 3-point range.

To make it out of the Western Conference again, the Lakers will need Davis to be more like the player we saw in the 2020 NBA Playoffs when he led the team in scoring with 27.7 points per game and looked like the best defensive player in the world at times. While the Lakers had the No. 1 ranked defence in the NBA last season despite Davis and LeBron both missing significant time, they lost some of their best defensive players this offseason.

If the Lakers are going to be a defensive powerhouse again, Davis will likely have to put together a Defensive Player of the Year type of season.

How much does LeBron James have left in the tank?

It feels like we've been asking this question for a while now.

Somehow, someway, LeBron is still in the conversation for best player in the league entering his age 37 season. Last season ended in the first first-round loss of his career, but it's easy to forget that LeBron was one of the front-runners for MVP prior to suffering an ankle injury that derailed his season.

Entering the 2021-22 season, our NBA.com Staff ranked LeBron as the third-best player in the league, trailing only Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Given his age, the mileage on his body and some of the injuries he's dealt with over the last three seasons, perhaps LeBron will take it easier in the regular season to conserve himself for the playoffs, but the Lakers will still need him to be at his best to win title No. 18.

The good news for the Lakers: LeBron is still less than a year removed from averaging 29.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 8.5 assists per game in the 2020 NBA Finals, in which he earned his fourth championship and fourth Finals MVP award. He has an entirely new cast around him this season, but we've learned at this point to never doubt LeBron.

5 games to watch

Oct. 19 vs. Golden State Warriors

Opening night. A rematch of last season's thrilling Play-In Game. LeBron James vs. Stephen Curry. Russell Westbrook's Lakers debut.

There is no shortage of headlines entering this contest.

Oct. 22 vs. Phoenix Suns

The Suns handed LeBron the first first-round exit of his career in the 2021 NBA Playoffs. With the Lakers back at full strength, it's safe to assume that they'll be looking to send a message to the defending Western Conference champions.

Dec. 25 vs. Brooklyn Nets

A Christmas Day battle between two of the best teams in the league. There will be plenty of star talent, with the Lakers and Nets having a combined 13 All-Stars on their roster, headlined by LeBron, Davis, Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Kevin Durant.

Jan. 23 at Miami Heat

A rematch of the 2020 NBA Finals, not to mention a return to Miami for LeBron, who led the Heat to back-to-back titles during his time with the franchise.

Feb. 8 vs. Milwaukee Bucks

The Lakers take on the defending NBA champions. Plus, an opportunity to see LeBron and Davis face off against Antetokounmpo, which always makes for must-see TV.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

More from NBA.com

Myles Turner, Nikola Jokic, Lonzo Ball
Friday's best game, highlight, performance
NBA.com Staff
Anthony Davis dives for a loose ball during the Lakers loss to Phoenix
Frustrated Lakers drop another one
Kane Pitman
Jayson Tatum reacts during the Celtics big loss to Toronto
Udoka on Celtics loss: 'as ugly as it can get'
Kane Pitman
Doc Rivers and Kevin Durant
76ers collapse late in home opener vs. Nets
Yash Matange
Chris Paul created history by becoming the first player to top 20,000 points and 10,000 assists
CP3 becomes first NBA player with 20,000 points and 10,000 assists
Jordan Greer
magic-bird-052720-ftr-getty.jpg
How Aschburner voted for NBA's 75th Anniversary Team
Steve Aschburner
More News