Once upon a time the name Los Angeles Lakers meant something. When you saw the Lakers on the schedule you all but knew an inevitable loss was coming your way. Whether we’re talking the Showtime Lakers of the 80’s, the Shaq/Kobe Lakers of the early 2000’s, or the #24 Kobe Lakers of the late 2000’s excellence followed.
In these times fans from coast to coast tried desperately to boost their team to a chorus of “Beat LA, Beat LA,” every night the Lakers were in town. For a Laker fan these times were the best, brandishing a jersey sporting the purple and gold automatically garnered a certain level of undeniable respect.
Unfortunately that day has come and gone. The reality is the Lakers are bad, really bad. Over the past three seasons the Lakers have gone a franchise worst 65-181. It’s completely and utterly needless to say no-playoff appearances were reached in this span.
The good news is the Lakers have entered a new era. Kobe Bryant is no longer on the roster and the Lakers now have one of the youngest rosters in the association. From those three losing seasons the a have drafted three exceptional young pieces in Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram.
2014-15 Draft class hopefuls
Randle missed the entire 2014-15 season due to a foot injury, so 2015-16 served as his de facto rookie season and he slowly came along as good as advertised averaging 11.2 ppg and 10.0 rpg garnering comparisons to stars like Zach Randolph and Draymond Green. Swingman Jordan Clarkson has surprisingly emerged as a gem averaging 14 ppg as a second-round selection.
2015-16 Draft class hopefuls
The Lakers broke the conventional approach in the 2015 NBA Draft and passed on consensus #2 pick, Jahlil Okafor for guard D’Angelo Russell. Many questioned this pick, but the front office contended that in a league with guards like Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard and Chris Paul, the Lakers needed a guard of the future. Russell’s transition wasn’t a pretty one having fallen out of favor with coach Byron Scott immediately. His maturity as well as basketball acumen was cited as the reason for his benching and his maturation process was a lengthy one to put it liberally. All things considered Russell averaged 13.2 ppg and 3.3 apg and this year he seems to only be trending upward.
2016-17 Draft class hopefuls
With both guard positions solidified the Lakers needed help on the wing. All of the premiere team have one thing in common, a solid perimeter player. Whether you want to blame the 2015-16 season of tanking or Kobe’s farewell tour, the Lakers finished with the second worst record in the NBA (17-65) and landed the #2 overall pick. After the Philadelpha 76ers selected Ben Simmons, the Lakers wasted no time finding that wingman in Brandon Ingram. Ingram as an extremely gifted 6’9″ 190 lb swingman has many questions about his weight and athleticism, but so far he has shown a tremendous upside garnering comparisons to Kevin Durant. At 19 years of age, it’s no question Los Angeles has found it’s premier scorer of the future.
With Kobe’s gaudy $25 million-dollar contract off the books, the Lakers were able to open the check book and sign veterans Luol Deng and Timfey Mozgov to help the front line. Deng, a proven scorer and elite defender brings a toughness that has been absent for about half-a-decade now. Deng’s versatility to play both forward positions will help the Lakers go big or small in Coach Luke Walton’s offense. Mozgov at 7’1″ is a tremendous upgrade over the embattled Roy Hibbert, who started at center last season. The Lakers gave up a 4th worse in the league 106.9 ppg, so expect that to go down considerably with the additions of Deng and Mozgov.
Let’s be clear, The Lakeshow as we’ve formerly known it isn’t quite back, but the dark days of the post-Phil Jackson era seem to be in the rear view mirror. This young bunch will compete, they will fight and they will get better. Returning vets like Nick Young and Lou Williams will help this young team as well, so expect a far better product. Expect a win or two from teams on paper they shouldn’t. Coach Walton will definitely have this bunch a fun group to watch.
Curb your playoff aspirations this year Laker faithful, this year will be dedicated to development. Although no banners will be raised soon– one thing is for sure, this team will turn the page and looks to be a formidable fixture for years to come.