The Los Angeles Lakers losing the pick to the Philadelphia 76ers, which is more likely when strictly speaking numbers, is a road that still holds optimism, but is certainly built on an idealized sequence of events.
The Lakers would then have no choice but to stand pat with the young talent they have and look to the free agent market.
The Baby Lakers are already a talented bunch and should have no problem reaching the playoffs in a few years; however, there is no guarantee they can compete down the road with what they have.
Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell and forward Brandon Ingram still have star talent. Forward Julius Randle could very well be a fringe All-Star, but that seems unlikely to be enough to compete with the top squads in the Western Conference.
For example, the Golden State Warriors probably will still have four of the best players in the league, the Timberwolves squad features the brightest young star in basketball, center Karl-Anthony Towns and that still leaves the perennial contenders, San Antonio Spurs, led by superstar guard Kawhi Leonard.
As a result, the Lakers must go free-agent hunting.
There have been reports of Indiana Pacers guard Paul George plotting to become a Laker during in the summer of 2018. If they are able to land George, everything will be just fine, but a few things need to happen in order for this to truly be plausible.
Russell, Ingram, and Randle must make huge strides towards becoming dominant players in their own rights and Los Angeles would need to make the playoffs in the 2017-2018 season.
How likely is that going to happen? Who knows.
But it’s not hard to see that the future of the Lakers without a top pick seems incredibly cloudy. They will need to rely on the development of their young guns and the luster of their palm tree city to have any hopes of returning to the NBA’s elite.
Part three of a three-part series on the Lakers’ offseason:
Should the Lakers be fortunate enough to keep their pick, there is little doubt as to what direction they would go with their selection, regardless of position.
Whatever pick they possess, NBA commissioner Adam Silver will say the same line: “The Los Angeles Lakers select… Lonzo Ball out of UCLA.” It’s hard to imagine the Lakers doing anything other than choosing Ball, as both sides have expressed interest with zero subtlety.
Lonzo showed his interest when asked whether he’d prefer to be drafted with the Number 1 pick or be drafted by the Lakers, “I’m going to go with the Lakers. I’m a family dude. All my family is in L.A. So, to be able to play in front of them, I think that would mean more to me,” via ESPN.
His infamous father, LaVar Ball had a take on it as well.
“I’m going to speak it into existence,” Ball told ESPN. “I want him to be a Laker.”
It’s pretty obvious Lonzo would love to see the Lakers’ jerseys with Ball printed on the back.
On top of the Ball family’s expressed interest, Magic Johnson, the new President of the Lakers, has indicated that the feeling is mutual. Johnson has scouted one college game all year, and that one game was UCLA vs Oregon, which happened to feature Lonzo Ball.
Magic received questions about Lonzo while he was watching the game and offered nothing but praise to Ball and the rest of the Pac-12.
If the Lakers select Ball, they will have taken a major leap forward in their rebuilding process. Ball is the ideal player to bring the yet-to-be-discovered talents out of each individual on the Lakers’ young roster, for Ball has a unique talent to see plays develop a couple steps ahead of everyone else on the floor.
The pairing of Russell and Ball could end up being a match made in Heaven, with Russell being a score-first combo guard. Therefore, Russell would thrive on spot-up 3-point attempts being created by Ball and his isolation sets would be opened up by the deep threat Lonzo has proved to be.
Russell wouldn’t be the only Laker to benefit greatly from Ball’s presence, as Ingram has the capability to truly maximize the UCLA standout’s vision. Ingram can cover the floor in a small number of steps with his length and would be the beneficiary of many long outlet passes or dump offs from running the floor alongside Ball.
Lonzo’s knack for finding passing angles that seem only visible to him, would serve as a catalyst for the development of the entire roster and could be the factor that pushes them to new heights. Randle could become a dominant pick and roll finisher, Nance and Clarkson could be the ideal fast-breaking mates when the Lakers decide to push.
Everything would finally look up for the Lakers and the playoffs would certainly be within reach in the near future, as the Lakers would have a young squad who is as dangerous a rebuilding group as you can find around the league.
Part two of a three-part series on the Lakers’ offseason:
One of the NBA’s most storied franchises, the Los Angeles Lakers, has fallen into an era of darkness plagued by uncharacteristic losing.
The Lakers began a move to the future on April 12, 2013, a day in which the entire sports world would witness the conclusion of retired legendary guard Kobe Bryant’s dominance.
Bryant tore his Achilles’ tendon at the age of 34 making a return to his former self impossible. The Lakers would also lose recently acquired, star center Dwight Howard in free agency following the 2012-2013 season.
The Lakers were forced to start anew in 2014 as it appeared eminently, that without their beloved superstar guard, the team would not compete for a playoff spot. They began the year with nine losses in their first 10 outings.
The purple and gold would ultimately finish the 2014 season with a record of 27-55, miles out of the eight seed in the Western Conference. This would force the Lakers to turn their attention to the 2014 NBA Draft, in which they were slotted to select no. 7 overall. This pick would become Julius Randle, the freshman power forward from Kentucky who had turned heads with his physically imposing style of play.
Lakers fans felt rejoiced and believed Randle had the talent to become a worthy predecessor to Kobe. However, this enthusiasm was short-lived, as seven minutes into his NBA debut, Randle would suffer a broken leg that would sideline him for the entirety of his rookie campaign.
Soon after, Kobe was once again placed on the inactive list for the rest of the season with a torn rotator cuff. With a mediocre roster to begin with, Los Angeles lost their two integral pieces and were headed to the lottery for the second straight season.
The Lakers saw the ping-pong balls bounce their way, as they jumped two spots and wound up with the no. 2 overall pick. The 2015 NBA Draft featured two big men, Duke star Jahlil Okafor, and Kentucky standout Karl-Anthony Towns, who were touted as the gems of the draft. Los Angeles would venture in another direction and decide to draft Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell, who was considered to have immense star-potential in today’s pace-and-space NBA.
At an all-time-high state of delusion, the Lakers truly believed that with the offseason additions of D’Angelo Russell, an 18-year-old who had yet to learn the nuances of playing in the NBA, Roy Hibbert, a 7-foot-2, 280 pound disappointment, and Lou Williams, a high-volume scoring guard who can’t spell defense, they would punch a ticket to the 2016 playoffs.
Yet again, Laker Nation’s optimism would be stomped on by reality in flamboyant fashion. With Kobe’s Farewell Tour supplanting D’Angelo’s development as the main focus of the season, and former coach, Byron Scott, implementing no offensive philosophy and going out of his away to berate the Lakers’ future building blocks in Russell and Randle, the Lakers stunk it up on their way to a franchise-low 17-win season.
Los Angeles would receive the no. 2 overall pick once more, and with Bryant having lived out his NBA career and calling it quits, they felt they needed a star wing with the tools necessary to thrive in Bryant’s old role.
Enter former Duke Blue Devil Brandon Ingram. He was a prospect who seemed to have it all; he had the length (7-foot-3 wingspan), size (6-foot-9), a jump-shot (41 percent from three-point range in college), and a gym-rat work ethic.
However, it was clear from his first moments in the NBA Summer League, that Ingram was still a kid who had not grown into his body. At 190 pounds, Ingram became a long-term project, who was clearly not physically strong enough to compete with supreme talent or support the load of a struggling franchise.
In the 2016-2017 season, the Lakers encountered success for the first time in years. They hired a coach who fits perfectly with the young core, in Luke Walton, and they fired the ever-failing President, Jim Buss. They brought in new management in the form of showtime icon Magic Johnson and saw steady improvement from both of their two young stars, as well as the other pieces of their rebuild. While they finished with the third-worst record in the league, the Lakers’ future seems bright.
Ingram struggled early but began to acclimate himself to the NBA game evidenced in his major improvements in scoring and efficiency after the all-star break (pre-all-star: 8.0ppg on 36.4FG%, post-all-star: 13.2ppg on 47.5FG%).
Russell who was dealing with an ailing knee after a promising start to his sophomore tilt looked rejuvenated following the all-star break; he averaged an impressive 18.5 points per game along with five assists per game.
The rest of the “Baby Lakers”, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance Jr., also took considerable steps forward.
Along with the noticeable development in their already solid young core, Los Angeles has almost a 50 percent chance of adding another top 3 prospect in the 2017 NBA Draft. Whether the lottery ball Gods smile upon prized franchise of Tinsel Town will determine what the Lakers offseason will hold.
Part one of a three-part series on the Lakers’ offseason: