The Los Angeles Lakers finally seem to be moving in the right direction in their rebuilding process. It seemed as if the Lakers would take a step forward last year as a result of their off-season signings and acquired talent in the NBA draft to further improve their young core with loads of potential. The problem was the previous coaching staff (more specifically, the head coach) and overall culture of the Lakers was not very ideal to try and develop a young core of players and put them in the best situation to succeed, to say the least. Now the Lakers have a new head coach in Luke Walton who along with the rest of his coaching staff has practically changed the entire culture and vibe surrounding the team immediately. That alone will be vital for this young Lakers team going forward. They have a long way to go before they reach their potential as individuals and as a team but there is no doubt that this year the Lakers will be playing a more exciting and modern brand of basketball under Luke Walton and fans should be excited about that. But how exactly will this team do this season? First, let’s take a look at the roster and how the Lakers ultimately settled on their 15 man roster for the season, starting with the new additions to the team
2016 Draft Picks: Brandon Ingram(#2 overall), Ivica Zubac(#32 overall)
Free Agent Signings: Timofey Mozgod… I mean Mozgov(4 years, $64 million), Luol Deng(4 years, $72 million)
Traded For: Jose Calderon
Along with these additions, the Lakers also re-signed Jordan Clarkson, Tarik Black, Marcelo Huertas, and Metta World Peace. The Lakers also added Thomas Robinson to the roster who had to earn a spot on the team and he most certainly did earn himself a roster spot as well as Metta World Peace. Where things get more interesting is the list of players the Lakers lost during the offseason.
Players Lost: Kobe Bryant (for the record, that was very difficult to type and still doesn’t seem real at times…), Roy Hibbert, Ryan Kelly, Robert Sacre, Anthony Brown
Man, I’m going to miss Kobe, especially after he shocked the world and dropped 60 in his final NBA game. However, as the old saying goes, the show must go on.
Coming as a major surprise to Lakers nation everywhere, this show will go on without the Lakers 2015 second round pick Anthony Brown. It seemed inevitable that the final roster spot would go to one of the three out of Metta World Peace, Thomas Robinson, or Yi Jianlian who the Lakers signed to a 1-year incentives based contract. Then there were the rumors that the Lakers were interested in making Metta World Peace an assistant coach if he didn’t make the roster and with that apparently being an option at one point, it really seemed as if that last roster spot would either go to Thomas Robinson or Yi Jianlian. Instead, Yi asked to be released by the Lakers and they decided to keep both Robinson and Metta and waive Anthony Brown. Even though Anthony Brown being waived came to a big surprise to Lakers fans, the move does make sense. While Brown has shown flashes of being a potential 3-and-D player for the Lakers, the opportunities for Brown were going to be very limited this season and beyond at the small forward position.
The Lakers made Luol Deng the highest paid player on the team so of course he’s going to start. Then there’s Brandon Ingram who the Lakers are obviously high on and has all the potential in the world. He will certainly have his fair share of playing time in order to develop. Combine that with the fact that Nick Young went from not only being off the Lakers but maybe out of the league, to somehow playing similar if not better than he did under Mike D’Antoni for a year and also becoming one of if not the best defender on the team during the preseason. Yes, you read that correctly and I am just as shocked as you are. With all that being said, it’s definitely hard to see how Anthony Brown would have gotten a lot of opportunities even with a new coach and a new system that would benefit him.
So with the final roster being set, how exactly will the Lakers be this season? With the Lakers being such a young team with a brand new coaching staff there are plenty of uncertainties surrounding the team, but there are a couple of things that are certain when it comes to this year’s Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers will be fun and exciting to watch this season. D’Angelo Russell has shown flashes of superstar potential last year and has looked much improved during the Summer League and preseason not to mention that he has ice in his veins. Jordan Clarkson has already looked much better on defense after admitting that he sucked on that end last year. He also has shown that he can be a threat from the three-point line and is only getting better offensively. Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr look to be the power forwards of the future and with Randle’s ability to go coast to coast and either make plays for himself or his teammates in transition combined with Larry Nance Jr’s athleticism and improved shooting we should expect to see plenty of fun highlights from those two this season. Watching the growth and development of Brandon Ingram will also be fun to watch. Ingram is another player on the team that can eventually become a superstar in this league potentially.
The Lakers will also struggle many times throughout the season, and that is perfectly fine. Luke Walton has said multiple times that the ultimate goal for this season is to grow and develop the young guys, making sure his team is playing the right way and playing for each other, and trying to establish a winning culture. Throughout the process of it, all of the Lakers will have their highs and lows but they will be fun to watch as well.
Lastly, the Lakers will be better than last year. How much improved they will be has yet to be determined but for the first time in a very long time for the Lakers, there are no expectations which is a goof thing. The most important factor this season is the development of the young core which can’t be stressed enough. This is a new era of Lakers basketball and there are tons to be excited about for this season and beyond. The Lakers won’t be a playoff team this season but the fact of the matter is the Lakers are finally moving in the right direction in their rebuilding process. A successful 2016-17 season won’t be measured by wins and losses and Luke Walton knows this. Anywhere from 27-35 wins seems realistic and fair for these Lakers. However, the excitement surrounding this franchise is as high as it has been in awhile and it will be fun watching these young players mature and hopefully reach their potential sooner rather than later!