The Los Angeles Lakers' 2023–24 schedule begins with a trip to Denver to take on the Nuggets, the club who eliminated them from the Western Conference Finals in five games the previous May. Pregame coverage on Spectrum SportsNet begins at 3:30 p.m., and tipoff is at 4:30 p.m.
Only Jarred Vanderbilt injured in Lakers preseason will miss the opener. In preseason, Vanderbilt, the Lakers' big defensive wing acquired at the trade deadline last season, was the frontcourt starter with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. He has been sidelined since Oct. 7 with left heel pain.
Nikola Jokic, who was better than ever offensively and defensively, was the Lakers' biggest WCF issue. Hayes and Wood add size to L.A.'s team, but Jokic has few good opponents. Even Davis, the best defender, struggled to protect Jokic.
One method to tackle Jokic is to have him work harder on the opposite end. The Lakers' 5-out spacing from the preseason may help them move the large Serbian out on the perimeter and away from the rim, where he was a deterrent and great defensive rebounder.
With Davis at the five, but more often out on the perimeter than in the WCF, when he was more likely to be in the paint setting a screen or diving to the rim, Jokic will be forced outside, unable to hang out in the lane if both Lakers start outside the 3-point line executing dribble hand offs and screens.
A record 125 foreign players from 40 nations and territories participate in the NBA. No club has returned to the Finals since Golden State fell to Toronto in 2019 because to that talent dispersed across the league.
Teams who repeat as winners usually improve on their initial title. Warriors added Kevin Durant to their 2015 championship squad (who lost to LeBron's Cavs in 2016). Ron Artest joined the 2009 champion Lakers.
Denver returns one of the NBA's greatest starting fives, second only to Golden State's last year in net rating, with Jokic pulling all the strings to combat nature's forces for championship defense.