The Los Angeles Lakers may be the most surprising team in the NBA right now. An opening night win, an upset against the Golden State Warriors, and a 10-10 record highlights their current season. Just last year, the Lakers didn’t get their 10th win until February 2nd which shows their progression already.
Luke Walton has brought a freeing aura to this young team. The guys are confident and in this ball moving offense, they have the ability to just play basketball. They are having fun and its showing on the court and Walton deserves a huge amount of credit for that. Nick Young has turned a new leaf being hugely effective on defense as well as being that dead eye shooter that he was known to be. Lou Williams is leading the number one bench in the NBA and Julius Randle is looking better than he’s ever been.
With how well the Lakers are looking, one can only wonder is this a playoff team right now. Although its too early to tell, they are tied for 8th at the moment with the Portland Trail Blazers. The rest of the Western Conference doesn’t look as good as it once did outside of the top three teams. The Dallas Mavericks are at the very bottom, Minnesota didn’t improve like everyone thought they would, and the New Orleans Pelicans are struggling to find wins. On a given night, you don’t know what you’re going to get from Utah, the Thunder only go as far as Westbrook can take them, and Portland is just a toss up. The playoffs is surely in reach for the Lakers but it all depends on if they can sustain this play.
This current stretch will say a lot about this team. The next three out of the next four games will be on the road before they go on a 7-game road trip starting on December 7th. And all of this is ahead of them with an injury dessimated team. D’Angelo Russell is out with a knee injury and Nick Young is out 2-4 weeks with a strained right calf muscle. Without two big components of their team, this next stretch will be important for the Lakers if they want to make the playoffs.
But do they want to make the playoffs?
Reading that question sounds crazy but when it comes at the risk of a top three draft pick, it’s a very valid question. If the Los Angeles Lakers fall out of the top three in the upcoming lottery, they lose their first-round pick. So do you choose playoffs or more young talent?
I’m all about playing to win and with the way these young guys are playing, I don’t see them falling very far. I’m not a huge fan of tanking so losing to try to keep that draft pick isn’t a good strategy in my opinion. Also, experience is something you can’t teach. Reaching the playoffs would mean a lot to all of these young players who haven’t experienced that atmosphere before. It would only be a confidence boost and hopefully rollover into the following season. Plus who knows, maybe they can upset a team or two!