The Lakers got off to a pleasant start to the offseason when they were awarded the #2 pick in the NBA Draft, meaning that they were able to keep their pick for this season. The organization has to be hoping that they can rise to their usual greatness quickly following the retirement of Kobe Bryant. Still, there are lots of questions surrounding what the Lakers are planning to do with their young roster, but that is what makes an NBA summer fun.
Here are the per game stats for the 2015-2016 Los Angeles Lakers:
W-L FG% 3P% FT FTA ORB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS 17-65 .414 .317 19.3 24.7 10.7 18.0 7.2 4.1 13.7 20.3 97.3
And these are the per game stats for their opponents:
W-L FG% 3P% FT FTA ORB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS 65-17 .473 .347 17.3 23.7 10.9 24.7 7.5 5.6 12.6 19.2 106.9
The glaring issue from the last season stat-wise was their field goal percentages. Giving up 47% from the floor while you are shooting 41% is not a good sign. From there, they also had a horrible point differential. Much like the 76ers, this is a side effect of tanking, but how much does that really account for? Other than those things, their only other major issue comes from passing the ball. Their assist numbers are way down from that of their opponents, and it is showing up in the box score. They will need to fix that for the next season or they can expect another rough ride.
The biggest question regarding the Lakers in the coming months is if they are committed to building a team around D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and this year’s #2 overall pick. If they are not committed to that idea, it is likely that the Lakers will look to trade one or more of those assets for a proven star in the league. If, however, they do look to build around those three players, this year’s draft will be key for their future. A hit and the Lakers will be set for years, but a miss and they could be right back where they started with this rebuild process.
With the #2 pick, the Lakers will most likely select whoever is available between Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram. As I mentioned in my 76ers post, these are the two best prospects, and the Lakers will be happy with either one. With Simmons, they would be given a secondary ball-handler for Russell (and Clarkson, if retained). Ingram, on the other hand, would be a high volume scorer on the wing. Both would be important parts of a Lakers future, but are not going to have “LeBron-like” impact on the team. As much as Laker fans might not want to admit it, this rebuild will take a while. The players need to gather chemistry together and develop not only as individual players, but as a unit.
Free agency will also be a busy time for the Lakers. Like the Sixers, they have lots of cap space with opportunities to sign big names. The giant market of Los Angeles is also a nice bait to throw at free agents. Before I get to the free agents they might target, however, it is important to look at the restricted free agents they have control of. The main focus of their RFAs, of course, is Jordan Clarkson. Clarkson is a young point guard, 23, who has developed much of his game to the point where he would be a serviceable starter or prominent bench player on most teams across The Association. The problem with him is that other teams have noticed his fine play. With that being said, it is fairly likely that the guard could receive a hefty contract that the Lakers might not be willing to match, especially with Russell already onboard.
Even with their bright young core, the Lakers are still the Lakers. Fans are not going to enjoy a drawn out rebuild process like the ones in Philadelphia or Milwaukee. With plenty of cap space to work with, the Lakers will probably get on the phone with all the top players. These include Kevin Durant, Al Horford, Hassan Whiteside, and Mike Conley. Even if none of these players sign on, the Lakers will be immersed in rumors throughout all of free agency. You can expect them to sign at least one somewhat big name once July rolls around.
Previous Offseason Forecast: Philadelphia 76ers (10-72).
Next Offseason Forecast: Brooklyn Nets (21-61).
And that’s all I have for now, so this is me…signing off. -Lukas.