It started out as a success and shock when the Los Angeles Lakers started the season off 6-4. With getting big time victories against playoff caliber teams such as the Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks, and Golden State Warriors; it seemed as though the Lakers were going to surprise a lot of people and be able to contend for the post season for the first time since the Dwight Howard days. However, that was a short-lived scenario because as we all know, there are more than just 10 games in a full NBA season.
Since that little 10 game run, the Lakers followed up with a 4-5 end of November record, went 2-14 in the month of December that included an eight game losing streak, a 5-10 record in the month of January that included two stretches of three game losing streaks, and so far in the month of February had a 2-5 record heading into the All-Star break.
With All-Star weekend here, we have hit the unofficial half-way point of the NBA season. That being said, the Lakers sit on a 19-39 record, surpassing last years win total of 17 with 24 games left in the season.
It seems as though the Lakers will once again be out of the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season, barring a serious run and collapse from other teams after the break. However, even if they finish with about only 30 wins and don’t make the post season, this season should not be viewed as a failure like in years pass.
This should be said because the team is heading in the right direction both on the court and off.
On the Court
The team has already surpassed their win total from the year before and have a chance to add to that and possibly win 30 games before the year is over. In order for them to do that, they’d have to go 10-14 in their last 24 games and I feel that is doable for this team since they have been playing .500 ball since about mid to late January.
If all goes well and the team gets to 30 wins, it will be somewhat of a success for first year head coach Luke Walton. In Walton’s case, he’s not as fortunate to be a first year coach of a team that either has LeBron James or a trio of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, or Draymond Green like David Blatt and Steve Kerr had in their first seasons. It would be a great strive for the team and Walton if he’s able to get this young, inexperienced, and somewhat injury prone team to get to 30 wins this season.
Speaking of young and inexperienced, the Lakers have that on their side and should be looked as a positive moving forward. Second overall pick, Brandon Ingram, has come on as of late and has shown flashes of what he can potentially be in a few years with his length and offensive game. Since returning from injury, D’Angelo Russell has been having some solid performances, averaging about 15 points per game and dishing out a little under five assists per game.
Jordan Clarkson has been a nice spark off of the bench and has been consistent with averaging 14 points per game and leading the team in steals with about two a game. Julius Randle has been probably the best and most consistent young Laker on the team throughout the entire season. He’s averaging about 14 points per game, over eight rebounds, and before Russell came back, was leading the team in assists with about four per game.
From a team standpoint, they need to get older, need more experienced, and they will be contenders. A few pieces to add to this team to shorten up the rebuilding process a bit will be to add one to two defensive minded players since the team is giving up over 110 points per game to opposing teams which ranks 27th in the league. Another piece to add would be an established low post scorer.
Timofey Mosgov is great at protecting the rim and running basket to basket, but when it comes to scoring the ball with his back to the basket, he’s just not there. If I’m the Lakers I would look at free agency this year to try to add a veteran player like that to help them with scoring in the paint. It’s great that they have a ton of young players who can drive, dunk, and shoot threes, but if they get a low post scorer who can take some pressure off and even get their shooters like Russell, Young, and Williams some better looks, then why not?
Off the court
Thanks to part owner and team President Jeanie Buss, the franchise brought back arguably the greatest Laker of all time Magic Johnson. Johnson will be used to make basketball decisions. This should be viewed as a positive for the team because it brings in a 5 time champion, who loves the organization, the city, and wants to see the Lakers win championships just as bad as the fans do. Bringing in Magic to work alongside GM Mitch Kupchak and other part owner Jim Buss, they can regain the relationship Magic had with former owner Dr. Jerry Buss and ultimately bring glory back to the franchise.
Having Magic come back will spark an immediate change in the way things are ran because he knows how to recruit and will help them with trying to lure big named free agents to the Lakers during the summer time. Not only that, but with it being only a few weeks, Magic has already talked about bringing in Kobe Bryant to help with the team and its young talent.
Reason being? Johnson said,“Because Kobe understands winning … I would call: ‘What role you want, bro? … If you’ve got a day, just give me that day.’”(CBS Los Angeles). So it’s already noted early on that Magic has a plan and wants players from the past to help come in and try to help him and the team reach that Championship level it’s so use to having. Bringing in Magic, I think will be a positive for the team because he’s a winner on the court and a great business man off that knows how front offices work. If he can lure even one big named free agent to come to the Lakers within the next three seasons and get them back into the playoff picture, then I think it will be looked back as a great decision and a successful one.
With the trade deadline around the corner, it’s usually that time of year when the buzz starts going around the Lakers and whether or not they will try to make a huge splash before it ends to get a player. Some of these players for this year have included: Jimmy Butler, Paul George, and have even considered bringing back Larry Sanders after being out of the league for the past two seasons. However, as history shows, the team hasn’t made these big timed trades in the past simply because they never pull the trigger and I think for the case and state they are in now, that may be the best case scenario.
With the Lakers being named the NBA’s second most valuable franchise at 2.7 billion dollars, it is easy to see why they are always in the rumors and have a lot of buzz surrounding them year in and year out. From my view, I don’t think they will trade any one of their young players away for a shot at a Paul George or Jimmy Butler because this year they’re not as serious and open to trading players as in years past. Which in this case, should be taken as a positive because the front office is finally seeing what they have and can potentially be in a few years.
Overall, the Lakers I think are heading in the right direction. They have drafted well, no one has been considered a “bust”, and all the young talent want to be there. If they go through the deadline without making any trades like I think they will, I feel they will have something to offer to a free agent this summer and by this time next year, we can be talking about the Lakers in the playoff hunt. The team and organizations re starting to regain an identity and are in the process of building a solid foundation with having Luke Walton as their coach and bringing in Magic Johnson. I expect the Lakers to finish the season out strong and get around that 30 win mark when mid-April comes. Then after that, free agency will be upon us.