The 2021-22 NBA season is around the corner, and the year's first preseason game is set for this weekend. The Los Angeles Lakers will host the Brooklyn Nets at the Staples Center on Sunday. Both teams are loaded with stars and among the betting favorites to win this year's NBA Finals. Both sides have plenty of talent, but projecting who gets significant playing time could be challenging in an exhibition.

Tip-off in Los Angeles is set for 3:30 p.m. ET. Before making any Lakers vs. Nets picks or 2021 NBA preseason predictions, be sure to see what SportsLine's Kyle Akins has to say

Akins is a data-driven expert with a decade of handicapping success. He built an extensive database of historically-driven team and player trends, along with extremely valuable league-wide situations. Using his MBA background, Kyle combines this statistical analysis with an understanding of value propositions. Akins went 36-20-1 (+1400) on against-the-spread NBA picks last season. 

Now he's locked in on Sunday's Nets vs. Lakers preseason matchup. Head to SportsLine to see his picks and breakdown

Featured Game | Los Angeles Lakers vs. Brooklyn Nets

Why the Nets can win

After trading a host of young players to acquire James Harden, Brooklyn was one of the most exciting teams in the NBA last season. The former Rockets superstar paired well with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant to form one of the most potent big threes the league has ever seen. The trio helped the Nets set a new NBA offensive rating (118.91) record despite being limited time on the hardwood together.

The Nets finished second in the Eastern Conference without ever genuinely being at full strength. They've had more time to mesh now, though, and they've added some much-needed veteran pieces to fill out their roster. The Lakers have added 10 new players since the conclusion of last season and could need more time to put things together.  

Why the Lakers can win

The Lakers didn't have much to prove last year as the defending champs. However, they finished the preseason 4-0. Los Angeles is more well-rested now after an early playoff exit, and its deep roster's experience is built to dominate low-stakes games.

LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and Trevor Ariza have been ruled out for Sunday. Kendrick Nunn, Rajon Rondo, Malik Monk, Talen Horton-Tucker, and others are more than capable of effectively filling in for the Lakers' core players, though. Injuries to stars ruined the Nets' season last year, so they're more likely to be cautious early on as well. 

How to make Nets vs. Lakers picks

So who wins Lakers vs. Nets in the 2021 NBA preseason opener? And what critical x-factor do you need to know about in this matchup? Visit SportsLine now to find out which side jump on, all from the expert who has crushed its NBA picks.