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. For this final edition of the regular season, the gang gathers to discuss what they’ll remember most about this season, who Los Angeles’ best players this year were and the best win of the year. Our participants this week are:
1. What will you remember most about the Lakers’ 2017-18 season?
Cortes: I will remember this Lakers season as the season where we finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel. For the past half-decade, we have witnessed disappointment after disappointment. This season, however things have changed and have given us fans a reason to be hopeful again. We have a young core with All-Star potential. I will remember all the tough down to the wire games they had with elite teams such as the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets. It has been fun.
Allen: For me personally it has to be seeing Kobe Bryant’s jersey go in the rafters. I’ve never seen him play in person because every game I went to he was hurt. However, being in Staples Center for the first time and feeling that energy of Los Angeles was amazing. I’ve watched Bryant his entire career, looked up to him, and tried to emulate him on the floor. It was a special night for the Lakers legend and being able to witness that will be a memory that I will never forget.
Soaries: Hopefully as fans we’ll remember it as the year that got things officially turned in the right direction for the post-Kobe era. This is the first season since 2012-13 the Lakers have won over 30 games. I think the combination of Lonzo Ball’s provenly impactful presence as a rookie, Brandon Ingram’s aggressive leap, Kyle Kuzma’s fearlessness, and Julius Randle’s late dominance gives the potential for us to remember this season as the starting point for future success.
2. Rank (in order) the Lakers’ three best players this year
Cortes: This is a difficult one. The best player, I would say, has been Brandon Ingram with the ability to do it all on the floor whether it’s score, rebound, defend, and even run point when Ball was out with injuries. The second best player would be Julius Randle, who has as strong a case as anyone for the best player on the team. Randle has improved greatly in a ton of aspects and I hope the Lakers keep him to see how good he can actually be. The third spot is the most difficult to rank. It would be a tie between Ball and Kuzma.
Allen: My three best players are Randle, Ingram, and Kuzma. With his physical improvements during the offseason, a lot was expected of Randle. He improved his body and it showed on the court. He took his game to another level and really proved himself deserving of an extension this offseason. He still has room to grow with moving the ball but that will come with time. Ingram improved as well and had a lot of bright moments but constant injuries held him back throughout the year. Kuzma shocked the world with his play and was very exciting to watch.
Soaries: Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, and Kyle Kuzma. Randle’s last stretch of the season (22 points and nine rebounds per game on 56% shooting in March) was monstrous and might make it an honest toss-up between he and Ingram, who I just think earned and embraced the “go-to” role this season. If it were based on the first few months of the season I would have said Kuzma was their best player. He averaged just under 20 points and seven rebounds per game in November and December. To me, that’s what can possibly make the Lakers special in that they have different talents who can look like their best player in different moments.
3. Grade the rookie seasons of both Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma.
Cortes: For Ball, I would give him a solid A-, and I would give Kuzma the same grade. Ball has shown that even as a rookie he is one of the most, if not the most important player on the team. His ability to run the team, push the pace, defend, and at times, shoot the ball very well, is invaluable. Kuzma’s scoring ability has been a treat to watch as well. Being a later first-round pick, the expectations weren’t too high for him, but he obviously proved he is much better than a regular No. 27 overall pick and the fact that he can score with the best of the best should be very encouraging.
Allen: I agree with Ralph. They both had up and down seasons dealing with injuries and going in and out of shooting slumps. But when they were at their peak, we saw their true potential. Ball dealt with scrutiny early strictly off of the hype coming into the year and struggled but he bounced back and stayed true to who he was. Kuzma made a name for himself and became one of the best rookies this season.
Soaries: I’d give Lonzo a B+ and Kuzma an A-. Kuzma shattered expectations right away and established himself as a true scorer. I think Lonzo did a great job of handling the early struggles and left little doubt that he is an impact playmaker.
4. Who would you rather have back next season if you had to choose: Brook Lopez or Isaiah Thomas?
Cortes: Wow. Maybe Isaiah Thomas. I don’t know why, but it feels like the right answer.
Allen: I would say Lopez mainly because Thomas’ hip scares me. I love his game but everything that we saw from Thomas this year was disheartening. Whether it was his play on the court or all of the drama that occurred in Cleveland. With such a young team on the rise, that type of energy is not needed.
Soaries: I actually like how both fit with this team. I’m going with Lopez. As a five-man who can shoot and score the ball, what he brings is a little rarer than Thomas right now.
5. The Lakers’ best win of the season was…?
Cortes: It would either have to be the win against Philadelphia with Ingram’s game-winner or the victory against the Celtics for obvious reasons. The Philadelphia win was great because it really had a future rivalry atmosphere with the crowd booing Ball whenever he touched the rock to Joel Embiid doing his usual trash talking to the game being decided by a game-winning three-pointer. Yeah, I’d pick the win in Philly.
Allen: It’s definitely the win over Philadelphia. Sixers fan talk so much trash and it was a lot of build up going into that game. So for Ingram to end it on a game-winner, it made it that much sweeter.
Soaries: The wins against Philly and Boston were probably the best. I think the win at Houston in December was a standout, too. Kuzma dropped 38 and the Lakers scored 122 as a team. They won despite James Harden going for 51.