The Warriors head to Los Angeles to play the Lakers for the first time this season. The trip down to Los Angeles has always been a tricky task for the Warriors. However, in the last several years the franchises have swapped spots. The Lakers have gone from perennial title contender to a rebuilding franchise stuck in the cellar and the Warriors have gone from the league’s punching bag to one of the greatest teams of all time.
Strange how things change so suddenly.
As the two franchises get set to square off, I looked into a few matchups on and off court prior to tonight’s game:
Steve Kerr vs. Luke Walton: Who has more pressure to win this year?
This may seem like a silly question as one team is a title contender and the other is a young team that is rebuilding. But, when you break it down, there can be an argument made. On one side, Steve Kerr is leading the defending Champions who are odds on favorites to repeat as NBA Champions. On the other side, Luke Walton is trying to gain traction in the West as the team is trying to figure out their identity.
The Lakers are currently in a four year playoff drought which may not seem like a lot but when you consider that in the team’s 69 year existence (excluding this year), they have missed the playoffs just nine times. Nine times! The Warriors missed the playoffs nine times in just the 2000’s alone. On top of that, the Lakers don’t have their first round pick for the 2018 draft as that pick sits with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Thus, the Lakers really have no incentive to lose this year. Los Angeles has grown impatient and they expect winning, so there will be pressure to compete every night in the West.
While I don’t expect the Lakers to make the playoffs, the pressure will continue to mount. However, it’s hard to deny a team that is going to be once again labeled championship or bust.
Advantage: Steve Kerr
Who is a more crucial part of the Lakers future: Lonzo Ball or Kyle Kuzma?
Kyle Kuzma was a complete unknown prior to the NBA draft and has since been embraced by the Lakers community. Lonzo Ball was held to be a top draft prospect and was dubbed to be the player that would help turn around the franchise. He has been heavily criticized early this season. Expectations for Lonzo Ball were sky high, unrealistically high. Expectations for Kuzma were next to nothing.
That difference between being a high draft pick with high expectations and a low draft pick with little expectation can weigh on the psyche of a player. It’s hard to determine how much this factors on the player, but from a fan perspective, the pressure is clearly on the higher draft pick whereas the lower draft pick tends to get away with being a bust. Take for example the 2012 NBA draft where the Warriors selected Harrison Barnes with seventh pick and Draymond Green with the 35th pick.
Barnes clearly had higher expectations given his draft position but had Green fell below expectations, he likely wouldn’t have suffered the near backlash that Barnes would. Now imagine flipping the draft spots of Green and Barnes where Barnes goes 35th and Green goes 7th. Ask yourself if your perception of each player changes?
While Ball has underachieved to start this season and Kuzma has far exceeded expectations, the success of the Lakers future still depends on how much Ball can elevate his game. He will be the accelerator to the well oiled machine Luke Walton is building. It’s still a point guards league and Ball’s court vision will elevate everyone else’s game on the court.
Give him time, he has the tools, he will figure it out.
Advantage: Lonzo Ball
Which fan base has bigger bandwagon fans: Lakers fans or Warriors fans?
While the Warriors bandwagon has grown ten fold in the last four years, there is no denying the homer-ism of Lakers fans. Lakers fans are sort of like chameleons as they can take many forms and blend into different environments. In fact, many Warriors bandwagon fans have converted from the Lakers bandwagon. You see, the Warriors are merely a proxy for these Lakers fans until the Lakers are done with their rebuilding phase and rise to relevance again.
If you spot a disguised Lakers fan posing as a Warriors fan, please report them to the police.
Advantage: Lakers fans
Who will win this matchup: Warriors or Lakers?
The Warriors should win this matchup easily especially if they can get Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant back in time. Coming off a disappointing home loss to the Sacramento Kings, the Warriors will look to make a statement early. Only one thing will hold them back: Partying and turnovers, but mainly partying.
No more parties in L.A.