Welcome to Lakers Lair Three-Man Weave, a subjective Lakers-related column where our resident Laker fans answer a series of questions regarding the Purple & Gold. With the first week of the new NBA season in the rearview mirror and a few games under Los Angeles’ belt, our guys hop in the Lair to discuss early-season takeaways, level of concern regarding Brandon Ingram and who is more expendable between Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson. Our participants for this edition are:
1. What are your thoughts on this Lakers team after their first three games of the season?
Cortes: That the Lakers are a YOUNG team. How young? Their issues range from poor effort on the defensive end to being able to close out games. After a forgettable opening night against the Clippers, the Lakers finally played with some flair and energy in their next two games. However, the effort on the defensive end remained inconsistent and in both games, the Lakers had trouble closing things out. This is nothing, however, that Lakers fans didn’t see coming.
Allen: My thoughts are I’m not surprised from what I’ve seen. They’ve shown us everything that we knew already. They are talented and can be competitive but they lack the one thing you need to be successful and that’s defense. Similar to what Ralph stated, their defensive effort was subpar. Coming into this season, their main point of emphasis was getting better on the defensive end and through three games, I haven’t seen any improvements. It’s a small sample size so I don’t want to get too crazy but boy has it been bad. They HAVE to get better on the defensive side going forward.
King: That they still crave a superstar and a leader. With the promise that Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball have shown in each game as potential staples in the franchise, there is still a glaring hole in terms of who exactly is going to step in and take control of this team. As Ralph and DJ both mentioned with the team being so young, they tend to have momentary lapses on the defensive end, which we saw almost cost them the game against Phoenix in the final minute. When they do manage to get stops, I would like to see the transition game be polished up a little bit, especially when we have Julius at the five when he can take it up the court himself. Overall, I think this unit is one that competes night and night out and having Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the mix offers up some hope.
2. How would you describe Lonzo Ball’s play thus far, and do his limitations as a scorer scare you?
Cortes: I am very impressed with Lonzo Ball’s play thus far. He’s as advertised as a do-it-all point guard and at this point, that’s all Lakers fans can ask for. His limitations as a scorer do not worry me for the sole fact that he has shown potential to be a decent/serviceable scorer in this league. His game against the Suns where he scored 29 points gave me an idea of how he can be a decent scorer. Yes, it’s a small sample size but the moves he displayed and range showed a lot. A player doesn’t just score 29 points in his second game (yes, even if it was against the Suns) without reason. Will he be a premier scorer in this league? Probably not. Serviceable? He can easily be.
Allen: I love everything that I’ve seen from Lonzo. As advertised, he’s come in and filled the stat sheet like many thought he would. He’s going to grab rebounds, drop dimes, and score the ball when he sees fit. Many people killed him after the first game but I thought he played well. He shot poorly but he had a lot of great opportunities for assists which didn’t happen because the shots weren’t falling that night. No one expected Lonzo Ball to come in and be a 20-point scorer every night. He enamored everyone due to his playmaking and unselfishness. He’s played great and I’m expecting him to be top-five in the assist category at the end of this season.
King: Worthy of taking him No. 2 overall. After Patrick Beverley introduced him into the league, Ball has shown a lot of poise and has that bounce-back capability. I am impressed with his rebounding abilities in the first few games and it is great for when they want to get out and run. An underrated facet of his game so far has been his effort on the defensive end looking to jump in front of passes and try and pick the pockets of some veteran point guards. His limitations as a scorer do not scare me because as he gets more comfortable in passing to other teammates and they are knocking down shots, it will open up chances for him to stretch the floor. A few missed shots from beyond the arc so early in the season won’t hurt his confidence and his role as a pass-first point guard will continue to be his game and something he sticks to.
3. On a scale of 1-10, how concerned are you with the way Brandon Ingram has looked so far?
Cortes: I’d give it a four on a scale of 1-10. Although he hasn’t gotten off to a good start this season, we have to consider the fact that his development process isn’t the same as others. People expect him to be a premier scorer at this instant but don’t realize that his game isn’t just suited for that. Sure the bad FG% doesn’t look good but it has been three games into the season. He’ll have his ups and downs so there should be no conclusion about Ingram just yet. Maybe people have to tone down their expectations instead of expecting a 25 point a game scorer.
Allen: I’m going with a six. Magic Johnson and company have put a lot of pressure on Ingram with all this talk of him being the next superstar of the Los Angeles Lakers. With all the hoop-lah surrounding him and Ball, that has increased the critique of their play with people not really taking in to account how young these guys really are. With that being said, his shot has looked very shaky in this three-game span and that worries me even more with all the talk of him altering his shot during the offseason. I love that he’s being more aggressive because that’s something I wanted from him this year. However, the aggression isn’t turning into points. He’s easily being pushed out of his path on drives to the basket and his shooting has been lackluster. There’s still a lot more season to play which is why I’m not going higher than a six.
King: I will play it safe and say a five. With Walton wanting this year to be the next step in Ingram’s development, there are flashes of him still being young and making mistakes but then you see him rattle off these moves that lead you to believe he is right on track. Becoming “THE GUY” for the Los Angelas Lakers is a tall task but something that DJ mentioned in that Magic Johnson and everybody else believes he is capable of taking that role. He is getting A LOT of shots up but that to me just proves he is confident and willing to trust in his game. Eventually, more of them will drop and he will take his game to the next level. I say only a five because there always is that slight fear that he could lose that confidence and then resort to being a one-dimensional player relying too much on his length to get him baskets inside, but I won’t go too high because Walton and his teammates will urge him to shoot and be that aggressive player and look to take over games because he has that potential to do so.
4. Which player has more staying power with this version of the Lakers: Julius Randle or Jordan Clarkson?
Cortes: Clarkson. Lakers have a myriad of PF’s including Larry Nance and Kyle Kuzma so even if Randle doesn’t play the Lakers are still loaded at that position. At guard, however, the Lakers have no one to create their own shot and that’s where Clarkson’s value comes into play. So far in these three games, Clarkson has been able to create on his own and be an effective scorer off the bench for LA.
Allen: It’s definitely Jordan Clarkson. The rise of Larry Nance Jr and even Kyle Kuzma was the worst thing for Julius Randle. Not starting and seeing a lack of minutes has completely disengaged him from the team. He doesn’t seem into the game and we haven’t seen that powerful energy that we’re used to from him. With him totally transforming his body, many expected Randle to run out the gate like a bull. With his back against the wall, this is the perfect opportunity for him to show what he’s made of and use the lack of minutes as motivation.
King: It pains me to say but Jordan Clarkson for sure. With Clarkson being an immediate impact player off the bench and having that ability to take over games late, as he proved last year and then again the other night against the Pelicans, he is just too valuable to give away. Randle, while he still manages to prove his worth as an energy forward and a beast down-low, the emergence of Kuzma and Nance Jr. hurts him in that his production is easily replaceable between the two of them. I am all for Randle getting back into the starting line-up again and showing the whole world how hard he worked in the offseason, but for now, Clarkson is the guy who is a must-keep.
5. How would you assess Luke Walton’s coaching so far this season?
Cortes: Minor tweaks necessary. The half-court offense has seemed so stagnant (except the PHX game down the stretch where they relied on Lonzo PNR) and some of the rotations he puts out on the floor are… questionable to say the least. The defensive effort hasn’t been great as well but I don’t know how much of that you can put on Luke himself. All in all, he has been OK. Too early in the season to draw a big conclusion.
Allen: I have no complaints from what I’ve seen from Luke Walton after three games. My only critique is that I would like to see him get more from his guys on the defensive end. They haven’t seen any of the elite teams yet and if they play defense like they’ve been playing, it will be a 50-point loss easily. He has to push effort and energy from these guys because they look completely lackluster on that side of the ball and it’s disheartening to watch.
King: I like what Luke Walton has done in each of the three games so far. He may have gotten a lot of heat from keeping his young players in the game in crunch time as they were the reason they climbed back in the game against the Pelicans, but that right there is what you as a coach are supposed to do with young players: throw them in the fire early and see how they do. He has a mixture of veteran and young talent that he has to balance out in terms of minutes and I believe that whenever you’re dealing with that issue it is hard. Through the first three games though, I feel that he is doing a good job of letting the players compete and earn their minutes. He still needs to keep harping on defense, however. Nothing has happened that has come close to worrying me about how he is running this team.