(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

As the Los Angeles Lakers look to start the 2015-2016 campaign, a lot of questions abound regarding the team.

How healthy will Kobe Bryant be? How many minutes per game will he play?

Can Roy Hibbert return to his All-Star form?

How good is Julius Randle?

Will both Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell develop into a formidable backcourt combination?

Has the defense improved?

Answers to these questions and more will come to light as the Lakers open up the season Oct. 28th vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Staples Center.

Here’s a look at the first ten games and my thoughts on each match up.

(Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images)

Opening Night – Oct. 28  vs Minnesota

Key Match Ups:

Randle vs Kevin Garnett

Clarkson vs Andrew Wiggins

The T-Wolves open the season with heavy hearts after losing their coach and front office leader in Flip Saunders, who recently passed away from his battle with cancer. I was looking forward to seeing what Coach Saunders would do with this young team but it will be up to assistant coach Sam Mitchell to guide them.

Number one pick Karl Anthony-Towns will be making his regular season debut going up against Roy Hibbert in a match up of traditional center vs the new era center. I expect Towns to play a lot on the perimeter, stretching the floor and pulling Hibbert from the paint at times.

Both Russell and Clarkson will have to contend with Ricky Rubio and Andrew Wiggins, but the young Lakers backcourt is long and athletic and should cause some ruckus for the T-Wolves backcourt.

Bryant will be battle Tayshaun Prince while Randle will get some education from Kevin Garnett, the savvy veteran who is entering his 21st season.

Opening night at Staples Center with a crowd eager to see the Lakers start the season off right, I expect it to be a close, competitive game. I think the Lakers get the win and start the season off on a good note.  Record: 1-0

Oct. 30 at Sacramento

Key Match Ups:

Hibbert vs. DeMarcus Cousins

Bryant vs. Rudy Gay

Sacramento Kings added Rajon Rondo to the team in the off season, giving them a true point to feed their scorers (Gay, Cousins). It is a George Karl offense so they likely will get up and down and run at the Lakers. But the Lakers will run right back. The key for L.A. is transition defense, which they struggled with at times in the preseason.

Bryant will have his hands full with an active Gay, and Hibbert has a load to handle in Cousins on the block. Russell will have to guard the crafty Rondo and it could be a tough match up all around. I think Sac gets us on this one early in the season. Record: 1-1

Nov. 1 vs Dallas

Key Match Ups:

Randle vs. Dirk Nowitzki

Bryant vs. Chandler Parsons

Dallas features a retooled line up consisting of Deron Williams (point guard) and Wes Matthews (shooting guard) in the backcourt. Matthews is coming off an Achilles tear and will be on a minutes restriction. It still remains to be seen what Williams has left in the tank but the young Lakers backcourt should be able to keep up with these veterans.

Randle has the impossible task of slowing Dirk Nowitzki on the block – advantage Dirk. Bryant will check Chandler Parsons on the wing, who may or may not play (injury). The Mavs have some pieces but I think the Lakers win this home game in a close contest.  Record: 2-1

Nov. 3 vs Denver

Key Match Ups:

Randle vs. Kenneth Faried

Russell vs. Emmanuel Mudiay

The Denver Nuggets, like the Lakers, feature a rookie point guard in their starting line up. Emmanuel Mudiay will be a beast in the league and many think that he has a chance for Rookie of the Year honors come season end. Overall, both rookie PG’s will have a learning curve and should be fun to watch.

Randle will have to deal with an animal in Kenneth Faried on the block, which should be an entertaining battle.

This is a very winnable game for the Lakers, who play 22 of their first 33 games on the road. This is one of those games the Lakers can’t afford to lose. I’m giving this one to LAL. Record: 3-1

Five game road trip –  Nov. 6 at Brooklyn

Key Match Ups:

Bryant vs. Joe Johnson

Hibbert vs. Brook Lopez

Brooklyn will have a new look this season, thanks to Deron Williams departure to his hometown of Dallas. Jarrett Jack will get the point guard duties, with the Croatian shooting guard Bojan Bogdanović next to him. Clarkson should make his life difficult on both ends of the floor.

Upfront, Randle will tangle with Thaddeus Young, while Hibbert has to contend with Brook Lopez. Lopez can score a bit but his rebounding is suspect. Lakers should control the glass and the paint in this one as they will need to get this road trip started right.   Record: 4-1

(Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images)

Nov. 8 at New York

Key Match Ups:

Bryant vs. Carmelo Anthony

Randle vs. Kristaps Porzinģis

One could argue that this game features four young talents with tremendous upside (Randle, Clarkson, Russell, Porzinģis). Porzinģis is the most raw of the group but has the potential to be one of the greats. His weight is an issue and until he bulks up, he’ll have to deal with the Randle’s of the world bumping and banging with him down low.

NY’s backcourt of Jose Calderon and Arron Afflalo is decent on paper but the Lakers young guns will be competitive.

Bryant has the task of slowing Carmelo Anthony and that will not be easy. Although the two are almost identical in stature, ‘Melo has the slight advantage in upper body size, which will lead to opportunities in the paint for points and rebounds vs Bryant. And with Anthony most effective in the iso, it will leave Bryant on an island.

We cannot forget though that this game is being played in the ‘Basketball Mecca’, or Madison Square Garden, where Bryant held the scoring title (61 points) for the building until Anthony surpassed that with 62 of his own in 2014. I look for Bryant to be aggressive as the Lakers try to steal one in NY.  Record: 5-1

Nov. 10 at Miami

Key Match Ups:

Clarkson vs. Dwyane Wade

Randle vs. Chris Bosh

Miami, had it not been for the Chris Bosh blood clot, would have made the post season last year. The development of center Hassan Whiteside and the chemistry building between Goran Dragic, Wade, and Luol Deng has put this team on the brink of competing for the East title this season.

Although Hibbert and Randle should be able to manage the front line of the Heat with size and strength, it will be the Lakers guards who are tested most in this game. I look for Bryant to try to will the Lakers to a win but this game is the first of a back-to-back and it is still unknown how Coach Bryon Scott will manage Bryant’s playing time for these situations. Despite Bryant’s efforts, Lakers fall in this one.  Record: 5-2

Nov. 11 at Orlando

Key Match Ups:

Clarkson vs. Victor Oladipo

Hibbert vs. Nikola Vučević

This is one of the games the Lakers cannot afford to lose. This will be the second night in a back-to-back and the Lakers must bring the energy. Otherwise they will lose the game.

Nikola Vučević is a player who can wreak havoc on opposing centers and this game has the potential to be a trap game for the young Lakers as they try to wrap up their first road trip.

Victor Oladipo is primed to have a good year and defensive stopper Tobias Harris will be all over the floor. I see the Lakers playing poorly and losing this tough road game.  Record: 5-3

Nov. 13 at Dallas

Key Match Ups:

Lakers vs. tired legs

I know at this point we will have only been a little over two weeks into the season but a week long road trip for this young Lakers team but they will be looking forward to some home cooking. So I expect them to come with more energy than they did in Orlando but still fall short. I believe Nowitzki has one of his signature games at home as the Mavs get the win.  Record: 5-4

Nov. 15th vs. Detroit

Key Match Ups:

Russell vs. Reggie Jackson

Hibbert vs. Andre Drummond

The new look Pistons will surprise some teams this season, and they are led by point guard Reggie Jackson, who Russell will have the task of slowing down. Jackson will be active and could pose a problem for Russell and the Lakers in this game.

Hibbert will have to control Andre Drummond and try to keep him off the offensive glass but with a mediocre core (Caldwell-Pope, Markus Morris, Ilyasova) I think the Lakers can take advantage and get this home victory.  Record: 6-4

In need of a positive start

I think the Lakers can start the season off with a 6-4 record. It could end up being worse. It could end up being better. We just don’t know. The team is working on improving on the defense end and that will be the tale of the tape. So far, in the preseason, they showed the ability to stop teams at times. At other times though, they looked confused and were taken advantage of.

Offensively, they should be able to score with anybody and fire power can keep them in games. But shootouts are not a recipe for success, not in this league and definitely not in the powerful Western Conference. But with the task of getting better everyday, they have a good chance to get out the gates on a good foot.

Tayrance Allen covers the Los Angeles Lakers/ NBA for MFST, you can follow him on Twitter (@Twigganomics) and FaceBook/Instagram (@TwiggNATION)

Tayrance Allen

Tayrance “Twigg” Allen is a writer, poet, and avid fisherman hailing from Long Beach, Ca. A broadcast“swiss army knife” that loves to do stand up, interviews, voice over, and who has an undying passion for his Lakers and Dodgers. You can usually find him at Staples Center, behind the Dodger dugout at Chavez Ravine, or on his quest to catch a fish in every state.
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