“With the second pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers select D’Angelo Russell.” -June 25th, 2015.
“With the second pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers select Brandon Ingram.” -June 23rd, 2016.
The Lakers weren’t great in Kobe Bryant‘s final year in the league, but it takes an ending to start a new beginning. The era of Bryant may be over, but the players in the quotes above are what Laker fans are hoping to be the future. With two #2 overall picks both 20-years-old and younger, the future is bright if they can live up to their potential. However, this may still take a while. As I mentioned, their two future stars are still extremely young and will need a lot more NBA experience before they can start thinking about rings. And there is no better time to start than the present.
2015-2016 Record: 17-65
I think it is fair to say that no one is expecting any drastic improvement for the Lakers from last season. Yes, they added some pieces, but they have no one near All-Star level at this point. Nobody on this roster is ready to take over when they need to, and that will certainly hurt them in close games. Anyways, let’s look at what they have for a starting-5. Overall, D’Angelo Russell put up solid numbers in his rookie season, averaging 13.2/3.4/3.3 and even shot the 3 at a reasonable percentage for a rookie (35.1%). Yet, he finished the season with a net rating of -13.o and 0.0 win share, which is not a great sign. Jordan Clarkson will play the shooting guard for the Lakers this year and he is another young talent on their roster. In his two years in the league, Clarkson has proven he is a legitimate rotation player with plenty of years ahead of him. The small forward slot is taken up by veteran Luol Deng, who could easily lose his starting spot to Brandon Ingram at some point in the season. Julius Randle is another young player on this roster that will hopefully become more than just a rebounder this year. Finishing off the lineup is Timofey Mosgov, who will hopefully only be needed as a rebounder and shot blocker, as his presence on the offensive end isn’t great.
The bench for the Lakers actually doesn’t look too bad, despite the lack of depth. Lou Williams is a proven contributor in significant minutes and can supply some firepower off the bench. Brandon Ingram was the #2 pick in the draft, as mentioned above, and should receive plenty of minutes this year. I expect him to be starting ahead of Deng by December, if not earlier. Larry Nance Jr. had a reasonably good rookie year, considering the low expectations for him, and he should be a nice piece behind Randle. Then comes the wildcard Yi. Yi was once a top-10 selection by the Milwaukee Bucks, but has spent several recent seasons dominating overseas, so it will be interesting to see how he makes the transition back to the NBA.
The biggest strength of the Lakers last season is something that I expect to remain the same this year. Los Angeles ranked in the top 10 in both free throws made and free throws attempted while finishing 11th in team free throw percentage, which certainly bodes well for the future if their young talent can aggressively get to the line. And although the team still struggled for much of last season, they were 11th in the NBA in total attendance, so their fanbase is consistently making home games tough (unless this is completely attributed to the farewell tour of Kobe, which is could be).
This team needs to score more points this season. They were dead last in the NBA in scoring last year and they just cannot win if they keep doing that. I know that sounds simple, but putting up points is more than just making shots. They need to run a more efficient offense with better passing, better shot selection, and better offensive rebounding.
The Lakers aren’t going to see any drastic improvements from last year to this one, but adding Deng, Mosgov, and Ingram while letting their other young players grab another year of experience, they should get a tad better. I don’t see them getting over 25 or so wins, but I also don’t think they lose any more than last year. Somewhere around a 22-60 season seems likely for Los Angeles this year.