The Los Angeles Lakers were far from contenders in Kobe Bryant’s last NBA season. They finished the season with the leagues second worst record at 17-65. All of the spotlight was on the NBA saying goodbye to Bryant one last time. Bryant ended his career scoring 60 points against the Utah Jazz. His storybook career had a storybook ending. Now that the Bryant era is over, the Lakers can finally change direction. They are loaded with young players and signed Luke Walton who went 39-4 (0-0) while Steve Kerr was recovering from back surgery. They were gifted with the second pick in the 2016 NBA Draft to continue building a young team. All the Lakers need is chemistry. Lets take a look at the summer ahead for the Lakers.
SF Brandon Ingram, Duke
With Ben Simmons likely going to the Philadelphia 76ers, the Lakers best option with the #2 pick is Brandon Ingram. He is a skinny swingman with a 7’3″ wingspan. With that wingspan, he is an excellent shooter. Ingram will join the Lakers young core with Jordan Clarkson, D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and new head coach Luke Walton. All Ingram needs to do is gain some weight. Ingram gives the Lakers some new light at the end of the Kobe Bryant era.
PG Jordan Clarkson
Jordan Clarkson is in for a massive pay raise. With very little depth at point guard in free agency, the Lakers best option is Clarkson. Their other options are Mike Conley and Rajon Rondo, but Clarkson is the youngest and the best shooter. We all know Luke Walton needs shooters for his system to work. He is a restricted free agent so the Lakers have the option to match any offer. The Lakers should re-sign Clarkson.
C Hassan Whiteside
The Lakers have a massive hole at center. Julius Randle can play center, but he is more fit to play power forward. With the space to sign a max contract, the Lakers will have their eyes on Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside averaged 14.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and an NBA best 3.7 blocks per game. He joins DeAndre Jordan as the two best rim protectors in the NBA. The Lakers will need to spill money on Whiteside for him to consider leaving the Miami Heat.
SF Harrison Barnes
Luke Walton should speak to Harrison Barnes if the Warriors let him walk. Walton intends on bringing the Golden State Warriors small-ball system and Barnes is the perfect forward in a small-ball system. Barnes has the size to play the four and the athleticism to play the three. With Stephen Curry expecting a $150 million contract after next season, the Warriors may let Barnes walk. Can Barnes average 20 points on a bad team? I think he can.
C Festus Ezeli
The Lakers need a backup plan if Hassan Whiteside signs with the Heat. Festus Ezeli is a great second option. Ezeli is a starting caliber center who comes off the bench for the Warriors. He would have no issues adjusting to a new system as he would be re-joining Luke Walton. What makes Ezeli special is his defense. The Lakers biggest need is defense. If the Lakers sign Ezeli, they need to sign another versatile big man to form a three-headed monster.
SF Paul George
Paul George to the Lakers is the best case, least likely scenario. His contract doesn’t expire until 2018, expecting that he won’t pick up his 2018 $20.5 million player option, so it will take a lot for him to leave. George is a versatile forward who scored 23.1 points per game shooting 41.8 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from three. He has made the playoffs every year he played 61 or more games. If the Lakers get him, the #2 pick, Jordan Clarkson’s rights and more are on their way to Indiana. The Lakers have a zero percent chance of getting Kevin Durant unless George is on the roster.