The Los Angeles Lakers playoff hopes have been nothing but a hope lately.
Ever since Dwight Howard’s departure and Kobe Bryant’s last dominant season, the Lakers have yet to sniff the playoffs. Lottery trip after lottery trip has been the recurrent theme for the once elite Lakers, as they have just lacked the talent to compete with top teams on a consistent basis.
This offseason, however, things may finally be going their way.
With Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka now running the Lakers, they have committed themselves to making the Lakers the elite team we all know they could be.
The Lakers have had themselves quite a solid offseason under Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka.
They were able to shed the contract of Timofey Mozgov’s salary (albeit at the expense of D’Angelo Russell), successfully clearing cap space for the 2018 Free Agency headlined by potentially LeBron James and Paul George. They were also able to acquire a solid scoring center, Brook Lopez. Lopez should be able to stretch the floor and give the Lakers at least 20 points a game.
The Lakers also drafted very well in the 2017 NBA Draft, where they were able to acquire the hometown kid, Lonzo Ball, and three other promising prospects.
Lonzo Ball impressed in Summer League, where he took home Summer League MVP honors. Josh Hart, the 30th pick overall also showed promised in the games that he played in. Thomas Bryant, the 42nd overall pick also showed lots of potential at the center position with his versatile game. No one can forget about Kyle Kuzma as well, who had himself a great Summer League. The four draft picks of the Lakers showed promise, and one can only hope they all become viable pieces for the Los Angeles Lakers.
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The Lakers have had a great offseason at this point, but they didn’t stop yet.
They went out and signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a great wing defender and can hit the three. He’s the perfect type of wing player for any team, especially the youthful Lakers. KCP fills the void at SG and should be able to help Lonzo greatly on both sides of the floor.
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The signing of KCP basically set the rotation of the new look Lakers.
PG – Lonzo Ball, Tyler Ennis, Alex Caruso
SG – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Jordan Clarkson, Josh Hart
SF – Brandon Ingram, Luol Deng, Corey Brewer
PF – Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr., Kyle Kuzma
C – Brook Lopez, Ivica Zubac, Thomas Bryant
The Lakers might add another player, but as it stands, this could probably be the depth chart for the improved Lakers. They could also put Clarkson at the backup PG position while Josh Hart slides to the backup 2 guard, but that’s something for Luke Walton to decide on.
So what is to make of the Los Angeles Lakers?
At this point, we can expect Brook Lopez to be a consistent scorer at around 20 points a game and hopefully at least 6-7 rebounds per. He would be the most consistent scorer in this group which should greatly help this young team.
As for KCP, around 15 to 16 points a game should be realistic especially with the playmaker like Lonzo Ball in the backcourt. KCP stands as the best wing defender, so expect him to be guarding the Steph Curry’s of the league on a nightly basis.
Julius Randle should also be due for a breakout season for the Lakers. In a contract year, Randle should be able to get easy baskets courtesy of Lonzo and his skill. One can only hope Randle’s jump shot starts falling, as that has been an issue since he has come to the league. Assuming he gets it down, a stat line of 17-10-4 for the Kentucky big is not out of the realm, considering the fact that he can score, grab boards, and make plays for others as well.
Then comes the faces of the Lakers, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball. Much is expected from these two, as they have been heralded as their cornerstone pieces.
Big things are expected of the two, especially Brandon Ingram. Magic Johnson declared him untouchable and played like so in his lone appearance in the recent Summer League. An average of around 16-18 points a game with around 7 rebounds a game and 3-4 assists should be very attainable for the 2nd year SF, given how he has drawn positive remarks from his own team.
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All eyes, however, will be on Lonzo Ball.
The hype follows the oldest Ball brother, wherever he goes. Fans flooded Summer League games to watch him play, even selling out a game. The regular season should be no different as the Lakers have reportedly already sold out their season tickets thanks to Lonzo. Basketball wise, Lonzo should have a great rookie season especially with the personnel around him. Assists won’t be a problem for him, but scoring might. He’s not at a point where he can create for himself, so around 12-13 points a game sounds reasonable.
He’ll be able to get boards easily with his 6’6 frame and his vision will remain elite. A rookie year stat line of 12 points 8 assists and 5 rebounds should be reasonable for Zo.
The other guys: Lakers supporting cast
Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., and Luol Deng headline the bench squad for the Lakers. Clarkson should be able to provide consistent scoring off the bench at around 14-15 points a game. One can also expect Larry Nance Jr. to do what he does best and make winning plays. Luol Deng might not be a consistent contributor like he once was but his veteran leadership should be great for the team.
All in all, the Los Angeles Lakers have great young pieces with so much potential down the road. They’re young so it’s difficult to see them being one of the best teams in the League, at this point. A playoff spot in the West is all but a guarantee, especially for the Lakers. They are in no rush to be better this season as they are gearing themselves for the next season. Next offseason is where the real thing begins as they can acquire PG and LeBron through FA.
As of now, it’s tough to see the Lakers making the playoffs but one can be pretty sure they will compete night in and night out to be close to that. Will they be better than last season? Most likely. Will that result in them making the playoffs? Probably not.
Even if they don’t end up making the playoffs, expect the Lakers to start playing a little like Showtime game after game. Until eventually they get it started in this era. They aren’t there yet, but they’ll back sooner than we thought.
*Featured image credits go to ETHAN MILLER/GETTY IMAGES*