Los Angeles Lakers 2023-24 season preview and predictions

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Los Angeles Lakers season preview

This preview originally appeared in our 2023-24 VSiN NBA Betting Guide, which was released on Thursday, October 5. To become a VSiN Pro subscriber and get all of our NBA coverage throughout the season, click here.

 

Lakers Betting Odds

NBA Finals: +1200
Conference: +750
Division: +330
Win Total: 48.5
Playoffs: Yes (-380)

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Team Analysis

General manager Rob Pelinka overhauled the roster once again this offseason in hopes of improving a team that made a run to the Western Conference Finals. There are few who would not deem Los Angeles an offseason winner, which means the Lakers find themselves as one of the four likeliest Western Conference champions by the betting market standards.

One glance at the moves Pelinka made this offseason, and it becomes clear that the objective for Los Angeles was to get better shooting.

The Lakers were the second-worst shooting team in the postseason (33.5%) of the teams that played multiple series. They were also a low-frequency shooting team, taking only 30.6% of their attempts from beyond the arc. That was painfully obvious in the series loss to Denver, where Los Angeles made 21 fewer 3-pointers and took 38 less than the eventual champions.

To address those issues the front office signed Gabe Vincent, Taurean Prince and Christian Wood. Vincent was brilliant for Miami in its run to the Finals last season, shooting 37.8% on 6.1 attempts per game. Prince is a career 37.2% shooter who shot 40.9% on catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts last season. Wood has shot 37.9% in his career, and he shot 41.8% on catch-and-shoot attempts with Dallas.

All three should fit perfectly alongside ball-dominant players like LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and they address the biggest weakness Los Angeles had heading into the offseason.

Wood is also the second addition in the frontcourt, joining Jaxson Hayes who was brought in by Pelinka as well. The Lakers had a real issue in finding minutes at center behind Davis as the season progressed. When Davis played the five, Los Angeles outscored opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions, but with anyone else at center, they had a -3.9 net rating. The depth there isn’t perfect, but Hayes can spell Davis while still providing a presence on the glass and Wood gives them a floor-spacing center option for more offensive-oriented lineups.

Los Angeles also retained their biggest assets this offseason by re-signing both Austin Reaves, who had a solid summer for Team USA at the FIBA World Cup, and Rui Hachimura. 

By all accounts, it was a successful offseason, but even the most successful summers come with questions, and this team still has those as we enter the 2023-2024 season. For example, what if the shooting isn’t what we expect it to be?

Vincent is a career 33.9% shooter, and he has shot 33.4% or worse in three of his four seasons in the NBA. Hachimura hit an incredible 48.7% of his 3-point attempts in the postseason, but he shot just 29.6% in the regular season for Los Angeles and is a career 34.7% shooter. D’Angelo Russell shot 41.4% in a Laker uniform, but he is only a 36.2% shooter for his career. 

Prince and Reaves should be reliable shooting options, although Reaves dramatically improved his shooting last season as well and could regress, but there is a reality in which each of these questionable shooters become what we’ve seen throughout their careers, and the Lakers are stuck with the same problem as last season.

We can also question whether or not this depth at center will really work for Los Angeles enough to give Davis more rest and allow the Lakers to play dual bigs like they did in their run to a title in the bubble.

New Orleans was absolutely demolished when Hayes played center for them in his time there. The best season Hayes had in his minutes at center was his rookie year in which the Pelicans had a -1.3 net rating with him at the five. In the last two seasons, New Orleans posted -8.1 and -9.0 net ratings when he played center. Wood is a great offensive player, but the Lakers won’t be able to play long stretches of minutes with him at the five without being exploited on defense.

The presence of James and Davis will always make Los Angeles one of the better teams in the NBA, but so much of the positivity around this version of the Lakers hinges on certain players being versions of themselves which larger sample sizes of data tell us they are not. It could lead to the Lakers being a good team but somewhat overvalued in the betting markets.

Win Total Analysis

Los Angeles has the fourth-highest strength of schedule, according to Positive Residual. The Lakers have a negative net rest advantage (-5) and are among the nine teams with the most back-to-backs on their schedule (15). They too have questions about the availability of their stars in the regular season.

James has missed 51 games combined in the last two seasons, and Davis has missed 68 games over that same span. Given Davis’ injury history and James’ increasing age, it is almost certain that this duo will miss some time in the regular season. Without those two on the floor, this is a team that could struggle to defend at a high level, especially inside.

We obviously cannot project when those absences will happen, but if we can assume some missed time for a team’s best players, and that team happens to play in the hardest division in the NBA, it would be hard to swallow a price on over 48.5 wins.

Los Angeles should be clear of the play-in tournament this season, and if healthy they will be a contender in the Western Conference, but given the construction of this team it’s not one that projects to have enough regular season success to push for 50 wins. Especially if some of the new faces revert to form.

Win Total Recommendation: UNDER 48.5