Welcome to this season’s final installment of Lakers Lair Three-Man Weave, a subjective Lakers-related column where our resident Laker fans answer a series of questions regarding the Purple & Gold. This week’s edition features inquiries about the season that was for Los Angeles. All four of our Laker fans will be participating in this finale.
1. What’s the most important thing you’ll take away from this Lakers season?
Cortes: Simple: There is hope for the Lakers’ future. The Lakers didn’t play well for the most part, mostly because they’re a young team. However, in all the bad that was for Los Angeles there were as many good things that happened. Russell is starting to look like a future All-Star, Ingram is finding his footing and Julius is improving his all-around game. While the season wasn’t magical, it helped fans see the light that is at the end of the tunnel.
Allen: Similar to what Ralph stated, it’s the future. The Lakers are in a great position and I’m looking forward to seeing how this pans out. They have great young talent and a lot of valuable pieces if they’re looking to go in the direction of trading for someone valuable. The young core of the Lakers had a couple of bright spots throughout this season showing what they’re capable of when they’re playing at their full potential.
Boyer: That D’Angelo Russell should spend more time off the ball. Russell is a dangerous playmaker, but he’s a scorer at heart.
Soaries: Just that we have a lot more work to do and decisions to make about the future. Patience is still needed.
2. True or False: D’Angelo Russell played at a B-grade level this year.
Cortes: True. While D’Angelo Russell had some bad games here and there, the guard’s sophomore season was actually very productive. Contrary to the numbers, Russell showed the team that he is the guard of the future for Los Angeles. Ever since he got consistent minutes, he has produced, including notching a career-high of 40 against the defending champs. There’s nowhere to go but up for Russell, who looks to take a big leap in his third season in the league.
Allen: True. I think we all know Russell’s potential but his inconsistency is a huge problem. He can have a breakout performance one night and then a subpar game the next. He looks to be going to through the motions at times instead of staying aggressive. If the Lakers are going to be successful, Russell is going to have to be aggressive with scoring and getting others involved and that effort must come consistently.
Boyer: True… I guess. Russell’s performance in the latter part of the season may have been enough to salvage his grade, but he was dangerously close to getting a C on my Laker Report Card. Russell this season reminded me of that college student that does just enough to skate by before they realize they may not pass so they shack themselves up in the library and frequent office hours in order to rectify things.
Soaries: I’m leaning more towards a C-grade like BJ. Russell’s signs of brilliance were matched by his streaks of being closer to a non-factor. An impact player could at least earn a B-grade on their performance even if they didn’t have an outstanding season, but I don’t think Russell has become that kind of player yet.
3. What was the biggest disappointment about the Lakers this season?
Cortes: Defense. While they are a young team, the effort on defense as a unit was horrendous. Missing assignments, ball-watching, no communication, basically every mistake in the book when it comes to defense probably happened to the Lakers. However, they are a young team and only time together on the court will improve the team defense and effort.
Allen: For me, it has to be Jordan Clarkson. I thought this was going to be his year as a leader for the Lakers and I just didn’t see that from him. I was expecting a lot from him this season, especially carrying the scoring load and maybe my expectations were too high. Similar to Russell, Clarkson was very inconsistent this season. I didn’t expect him to be coming off the bench and maybe that had something to do with his regression but I wasn’t satisfied with the performance I witnessed on the court.
Boyer: The distribution of minutes amongst their younger players irked me. D’Angelo Russell should’ve been playing 31+ MPG all season long, and both Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram should’ve been allotted the same amount of time. Wasted minutes were given to Timofey Mozgov (statistically one of the worst centers in the league this season) and Luol Deng, who had a solid two weeks of production before tapering off again. The Lakers should’ve been playing Ivica Zubac from the jump, and Brandon Ingram should’ve been anointed the starter.
Soaries: Other than having another losing season? Can’t think of anything specific.
4. Grade Luke Walton’s first year as the Lakers’ head man.
Cortes: B+. Luke Walton has been great this season. His philosophies and beliefs turned this organization around 180 degrees. The team had no sense of identity before Walton, often looking lost and confused about themselves. When Luke arrived, that all changed. However, he did have some rookie flaws. There were some moments during the season where he didn’t fully take advantage of the development of guys like D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle. If he utilized them more, he would’ve easily gotten an A-grade.
Allen: Luke Walton gets an A- for his first year with the Lakers. He brought that upbeat and down to earth personality that the players really enjoyed. They bought into everything that he was preaching and you could tell they really enjoyed playing for him. They started off the year strong and things waned down especially with all the injuries they had to deal with but for the simple fact of how the season started and how much those guys enjoy playing for him, he gets an A- from me.
Boyer: Coach Luke gets a B+. Anyone after Byron Scott is going to seem like an upgrade, but Walton has given a Los Angeles team that had been veering down the wrong coaching paths over the last several seasons a promising sense of direction. He gets a deduction in points for some minor rotational issues, but overall Walton had a fine rookie campaign as a head coach and should be at the Lakers’ helm for the foreseeable future.
Soaries: Luke Walton gets an A for simply making it through. Also, more importantly, he’s emphasized it not being acceptable to be a losing franchise. He’s impacting the culture and he looks to be embracing the role.
5. The most memorable moment the Lakers gave us this season is…?
Cortes: Blowing out the juggernaut Warriors. The Lakers were playing with tremendous energy at that point of the season and it looked like they were primed for a playoff push. They moved the ball, everyone contributed, and they looked like an actual team after all these unforgettable seasons.
Allen: It has to be the 6-4 start. Man when I saw how these guys came out the gate beating teams like the Houston Rockets and the Golden State Warriors to start the season. The came out the gate ‘gunning’ and everything felt like it was going upwards. I was talking the possibility of the Lakers making the eighth seed and I was very confident in that. It was a great moment while it lasted.
Boyer: Larry Nance Jr.’s dunk on Brook Lopez. I remember my neighbor texted me asking could he borrow my iPhone charger, and when I ran across the street to his house he asked why I had such a dumbfounded look on my face. I explained to him that LNJ had just eviscerated Lopez with a jam so nasty that even the Nets’ bench let out a few stank faces. Expect to see that slam in the top-three in EVERY Dunk of the Year compilation.
Soaries: I think it would be that early win against the Warriors, partly because of the Luke Walton dynamic. The Lakers were close to the best version of themselves that game. They had 26 assists, Julius Randle went for 20 and 14, and that’s when they had Lou Williams going for 20 off the bench. It was one of those really hopeful examples of their potential.