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Lakers Optimist Facts: JaVale’s Resurgence, Lakers Recent Winning Streak and What the Addition of Tyson Chandler Means (@LakersNation #Lakeshow #NBA #Lakersnation #Lakers)

November 13, 2018

The smoke has all cleared and the new NBA season is well underway. As teams are still figuring out where they stand in this extremely competitive league, teams like the Wizards are struggling, the T-Wolves had to trade a kicking and screaming Jimmy Butler and the Cavaliers are getting used to rock bottom all over again. The Lakers themselves are still finding their way. After a lackluster yet somewhat expected 0-3 start, the Lakers have gone 7-3 and are currently on a 3 game winning streak. Within those wins are a gutsy win over a relentless T-Wolves team, a blowout of the hot starting Kings and an ugly squeaker over a hapless yet scrappy young Hawks team. Let’s take a look at a few Lakers Optimist facts we’ve learned from the young season.

Lebron James is as good as advertised. LBJ is averaging just about 26 points, 7 assists and 7 rebounds. Free throw and three-point inconsistencies aside, he is truly doing what we expected him to do. He has done a much better job taking over games of late although it’s asking too much to request a “Mamba Mentality” from King James. That being said, Lebron has done an excellent job of not stunting the growth of the young Lakers. In fact, it seems the young Lakers have benefited greatly. Kuzma having to do less dribbling now finds himself scoring much more in the painted area due to James’ ability to find him. He has also set up Ingram and JaVale McGree, giving them easy points.

JaVale McGee is the surprise of the season. For perspective, JaVale McGee averaged 4.8 points, 0.9 blocks and 2 rebounds in 9.5 minutes a game in Golden State just last season. JaVale was to be a serviceable big man for the Lakers and didn’t garner much excitement from his veterans minimum signing. 13 games in, JaVale McGee is averaging 13.7 points, 3 blocks and 7 rebounds in 25.8 minutes and vying for Defensive Player of the Year. He seamlessly fit right in with the Lakers offense, anchoring the defense, running the floor and finishing the break with resounding dunks.  Grant it, if given the minutes, perhaps he would have put forth the same effort in the Bay Area. Either way, he is more than a pleasant surprise and is a major reason why the Lakers can at times be very formidable on the defensive end.

Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson are doing what we expected. Rajon Rondo has given the Lakers a solid boost off the bench and has done a great job closing games as well, providing a veteran presence on both ends of the floor. He is giving the Lakers 9 points, just under 7 assists and 1 steal per. His ability to survey the floor and find the open man has created a calming affect for the team. Coming off the bench, this assures there is no drop off in ball movement when Zo, Bron or Ingram sit. Lance Stephenson has no doubt brought the Lakeshow to new heights with his celebrations; however, it’s not just for show as he puts up just under 9 points a game. Many of those points come during crunch time. Needless to say, these vets have become excellent supporting cast members and will pay even more dividends should the Lakers make the playoffs.

Josh Hart keeps getting better and KCP keeps falling. At the beginning of the season there was much debate over who should start at shooting guard between Josh Hart and KCP. Well, at the moment they both come of the bench. However, Josh Hart has gone from just under 8 points a game last year to just under 12 points per to go along with 1.7 steals. Conversely, KCP dropped from 13.4 points a game last year to 6.4 points per to go with 0.5 steals. He has quickly become somewhat of a forgotten man. Although he still provides great team defense, he is shooting a miserable 39% and an even more dismal 28% from behind arc. The question is whether or not Lonzo Ball swapped shooting skills with KCP when he wasn’t looking. Needless to say KCP is quite the disappointment. But as a streaky shooter, one can only hope that this is just an aberration and he will hit his stride at just the right time this season. Josh Hart however, is shooting 45% from the field and 40% from the three point line. This story-line may be only beginning but at the moment Josh Hart is being exactly what the Lakers wanted KCP to be.

Tyson Chandler, the missing piece? The Lakers at 4-6 were noticeably lacking interior defense and rebounding as they would often go small whenever JaVale McGee would take a breather. The other teams would immediately take advantage. The Lakers had one unproven rookie in Wagner and a 3-year veteran who still struggles to find himself in Zubac. John Williams gave his all but the height still was a glaring issue. Enter Tyson Chandler. Chandler’s signing immediately grabbed my attention before he made his first appearance as a Laker. He possesses great defensive instincts, a big body in the paint, excellent rebounding ability and championship experience. Albeit a short sample size, the Lakers are 3-0 with Chandler in the lineup. Chandler promises continuity in defense and rebounding with McGee sitting, a 7-footer always on the floor and a closer in the 4th. Chandler has had a game winning tip/rebound and a game winning block over these three games. The Lakers in the last few games gave up 100 per game after giving up an average of 120 points per in the first 10 games. So is Tyson Chandler the missing piece? Let’s check back in about 10 games, but it looks like the Lakers have addressed a glaring issue early in the season.

The Lakers lack killer instinct. For stretches the Lakers look like a juggernaut of a team that will run up the score and win by like 30 points. However, after getting the lead up to 15 or 20, they begin the cruise. Only against Phoenix and Sacramento did they manage to keep the score a respectable blowout. The Lakers clearly need to work on two things: 1. Taking advantage of teams they know they can beat and not losing interest. 2. Putting teams away when they have them on the ropes. Body language is everything as you can see the Lakers against Dallas and Atlanta just going to through the motions. After getting up by 15 on Atlanta you can see them start to slow it down and get out of their offensive strategy and get lax on defense. The Lakers will need to find that mojo and really start to develop a reputation for NOT giving teams a way back into games. Too early, the Lakers feel they can flip the switch when they have NOTHING to base that on as they only sit at 7-6.

It appears that the Lakers have begun to slowly turn a corner for the last three games. However, there are NO DAYS OFF as Portland comes to town Wednesday and will be seeking revenge. Portland is 10-3, yet the Lakers truly are not their record. They hope to continue to prove that in this coming game.

Stay tuned, Lakersnation!

 

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Humble Beginnings… Explaining the Lakers’ Slow Start and Why There’s No Need to Worry (@LakersNation #Lakers #LakeShow #LakersNation)

October 24, 2018

 

Hype, hype and more hype surrounds the opening tip of the 2018-2019 Lakers season. We have LeBron James. Let it sink in. We have LeBron James. So therefore, look for the Lakers to steam roll through the league into the playoffs to tangle with the beast of the West Golden State. Right?

Wrong!

The Lakers have had three of the most exciting LOSSES ever, featuring alley-oops, fights, blocks, pretty passes and some of the most fluid transition buckets ever witnessed. For stretches they look like they’ve figured it out. Then the buzzer sounds. Lakers lose. Then the buzzer sounds again. Lakers lose again. Finally, the buzzer sounds a third time. In spite of a spirited comeback, a LeBron James buzzer beater clangs the rim…and Lakers lost a third time. Lakers are 0-3.

First question. Lakers Optimist are you worried? Nope. In spite of the fact that teams like the Toronto Raptors have seamlessly incorporated their new stars en route to early success, the Lakers still have that learning curve to figure out with the new guys. The Lakers know exactly who they are and exactly what they want to do. Furthermore they know that in the open court nobody can stop them. This is why they have, in spite of shooting atrociously from three, become a top 3 in the league in points in the paint and still manage to put up 119, 115 and 142 in each of their 3 games. I expect the Lakers to figure it out and begin to be the Western Conference juggernaut everyone expects them be.

Second question. Figure WHAT out? There have been several different discussions on exactly what is keeping the Lakers from wins in these opening games. Aside from two fourth quarter meltdowns and a late minute choke against the Spurs, the Lakers have been in these games and downright dominant at times. However, by the numbers, the Lakers have given up 128, 124 and 143. You can say all you want about the rest of the league, but the Lakers need to be concerned about their defense. The biggest problem area is the team’s three point defense. The Lakers allowed Portland to make 13 three pointers at a 35% clip. That’s 39 points. With the Lakers losing by 9, take away half of those shots and the Lakers win. The Rockets shot 38%, nailing 16 three pointers. 48 points. Again, they lost by 9. Take away half of those shots, Lakers may win by 5. The Spurs shot a blistering 53% from behind the arc, hitting 15 threes! The Lakers lost by 1 point. A couple of those threes were given up in that improbable last minute Spur comeback. The Lakers have been supremely suspect in their three point defense, daring the team to beat them from behind the arc and teams are doing it. Conversely, teams are daring the Lakers to beat them from the behind the arc and the Lakers are failing to capitalize. Don’t get it twisted though, the blame does not fall on the Lakers three point shooting. It falls of their three point defense.

The Lakers have been getting outglassed routinely, with the exception of the Spurs game. In the first two games they were outrebounded by an average of 12 rebounds. Even more demoralizing is how they’ve surrendered 14 offensive boards to Portland, 13 to Houston and 10 to San Antonio. Even as they are getting stops, they are giving teams second chances.

So why, Lakers Optimist, are you not worried? I feel that both of these are easy fixes. The Lakers possess the athleticism, height and ability to switch 1 to 5 on defense and to rebound by committee. The Lakers have seemed to get somewhat confused or lazy on their rotations which results in the open looks that players like Nik Stauskas and Brynn Forbes were hitting with ease. The Lakers need to buy in to contesting every shot. If the Lakers can keep teams to less than 29% from behind the arc AND secure the rebound they will be in these games. The Lakers without JaVale McGee get killed on the glass. Incorporating a dog on the glass like Johnathan Williams will surely help with that issue when McGee is taking a breather.

Only three games in, I expect the Lakers to quickly move up the learning curve, especially when you consider that they won’t be matching up against top 3 teams all season long. Sometimes it takes a lesser talented team to help a team hit their stride. Look for the Lakers to finally notch their first win against Booker, Ayton and the Suns tonight. As they start to figure out defense, they will begin to round into form.

What Has to Happen for The Lakers to be a Championship Contender? (#Lakeshow #LakersNation #NBA #Lakers)

September 14, 2018

When Lebron James signed on the dotted line, expectations jumped instantaneously for these Lakers who showed massive promise in their 2017-2018 season. When you have the greatest player in the world, anything less than a finals appearance is a failure. Lebron James has historically been able to be that game-changer that transforms a team, and he has been known to drag any team kicking and screaming into the finals as he did with the last Cleveland team. This team featured multiple roster changes and eventually left him with a mashup of unproven kids and veterans that were still finding their way with the team. They made the finals. We all know what Lebron is capable of, but in order for this supporting cast of Lakers to be special, let’s discuss what has to happen.

Lonzo Ball has to hit shots. Lonzo Ball’s shooting issues made headline news last season and brought his awkward shooting form into question. Bad shooting and all, Zo was tops in rebounding, assists, steals and blocks. However, in order for the Lakers to be a threat in the Western Conference, Zo’s new tweaked shooting form has to pay dividends. Furthermore, Lonzo will have to use his height and attack the basket. Long story short, he has to be an actual threat to score. This will keep defenses honest and with Lebron waiting down low or on the perimeter, the Lakers will be dangerous. This will also open up the other shooters. So what we asking for is for Zo to make that same leap that Brandon Ingram a season ago.

Kuzma cannot hit a sophomore slump. Kuzmania took the NBA world by storm last season. The kid can shoot from anywhere, has an array of shots and has no fear. He even dropped 30 on the Thibideau-led defensive minded Timberwolves last season. He’s an automatic scorer and has quickly become the Lakers “next in line” star. Kuzma has to make yet another significant jump in scoring options and defensive ability. There can be no kind of a sophomore slump. The Lakers need him to continue to improve dramatically as he could easily be Lebron’s right hand man and or his favorite target for a drive and kick. This is a huge year for Kuzma who, in my eyes, still has something to prove.

Brandon Ingram must have break out year. I know, I know. Why so tough on B.I? Brandon Ingram made a significant jump from averaging just 9 points game to averaging 16 points a game. At times he looked like the Alpha Male of the team. It’s almost a forgone conclusion that Brandon Ingram starts alongside Lebron James this season. This means that he is charged with being the Durant to Lebron’s Curry. I expect Ingram to jump another 9 points per, averaging 23 points a game. He must take this season by the reins and break out. He needs to have the ability to take over a game, making Lebron James that much more dangerous. Teams need to have to worry about him.

Josh Hart and Kentavious Caldwell Pope need to be 3 and D monsters. With KCP leading in the starting shooting guard vote at the moment, Josh Hart is clearly jockeying for that position. Either way, the Lakers possess two players that need to become that player you love to hate. They cannot be left alone or they will light it up from three. They also will take on the opposing team’s best player and lock them down on defense. Expect steals and transition layups or threes from these two.

The newly acquired veterans need to be specialists. Rajon Rondo needs to be a pest on defense and throw players like Curry off of their game. He needs to be able to break down defenses to set up open looks for other players. Michael Beasley needs to effectively create his own shot and be a menace in the post. JaVale McGee needs to patrol the paint and keep offenses afraid to come into his house. Lance Stephenson needs to stay in control and attack the basket, as well as be a physical defender.

The Lakers have a very young core and some veterans that can support but not takeover a game. This can easily go either way, depending on the factors that I’ve discussed. In order for this team to flourish, we’re asking for a coming of age for the young core. We’re asking for the veterans to be specialists and good at what they do. We’re asking for chemistry to develop early. The Lakers have gotten their much needed superstar. We need for another star to emerge and for role players to be effective. Do I think this can happen?

Of course! I’m the Lakers Optimist.

Is Luke Walton in Over His Head? (#Lakers #LakersNation #Lakeshow #NBA)

August 7, 2018

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It’s funny how viewpoints can change from one moment to the next. The latest victim of the fickle fans and media is our very own Lakers coach Luke Walton. It was a historic 39-4 start that made him a hot commodity as a head coach. So when the Lakers bid farewell to then coach Byron Scott, it wasn’t long before Luke Walton took over.

So began the honeymoon period. Everybody celebrated the easy-going likeable player who was considered by the Black Mamba himself to be the next great head coach. He was given the opportunity to coach a young rebuilding team that featured D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and Julius Randle. Luke endured a very challenging first season, but managed to improve the team’s wins by 9 games.

In the following season, the Lakers made a few moves from management on down and began anew, replacing D’Angelo Russell with Lonzo Ball and adding rookie standouts Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart. Luke Walton took this young team and led the team to yet another plus 9 wins and the Lakers finished at 35-47. The second season featured heavier critiques of Luke Walton, mainly his rotations. The fans seemed to call for his head at times, but by the end of the season it was clear that Luke Walton had done a fine job with the young Lakers. He had brought them within a few games of playoff contention in spite of multiple injuries, lineup rotations, mid-season trades and LaVar Ball.

At this point it was clear that Luke Walton was very skilled at working with young players. Julius Randle became a few steps away from a star player. The young Lakers became the talk of the NBA and the rest of the NBA, including superstars began to take notice. Luke Walton had that locker room. Players loved playing for Luke. He had them running and had them playing defense. The young Lakers were poised for a real playoff run in the 2018-2019 campaign. However, behind the scenes Magic and Rob were setting the stage for another one of the Lakers historic instant upgrades. The ones that brought in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Pau Gasol and others. Magic and Rob, as pleased as they were with the progress of the young guns, were not looking to simply make the playoffs next season. They were looking to do more. So shortly after the Warriors all but walked away with their second championship, Magic and Rob brought in the best basketball player in the world— LeBron James. Shortly after, they signed Rajon Rondo, then Lance Stephenson, then JaVale McGee, then Michael Beasley.

All of a sudden the fickle media and fans looked back at Luke Walton and said, “Is this the right man for the job?” Some even said that this was a set up to get him fired. Talk of Phil Jackson returning and all kinds of obscenely inaccurate rumors started to fly. The bottom line is people started to look at this current Lakers team and ask if Luke Walton could coach this team.

So what changed? One, the Lakers morphed overnight from a possible 7-8 seed easily to a bona-fide championship contender. The goals changed from trying to make the playoffs and continuing to develop the young Lakers, to trying to win it all with the reloaded Lakers led by LeBron James, the young Lakers and a litany of veterans. The makeup of the team now begged questions like, “Can he coach LeBron James? Can he coach Rajon Rondo? Can he coach a championship contender?”

Forgive me for being dismissive, but what evidence do we have to suggest he can’t coach such a roster? Media have once again taken things way out of proportion and creating fires where there is no smoke. Even though fans and media have the ability to blow things out of proportion, they yet still can’t see any value in Luke’s ability to lead a stacked Golden State Warriors team to a 39-4 start. This was a team that featured stars and personalities and was obviously a championship contender. Fine. Let’s leave that one where it is. Can Luke coach LeBron James? Is it because he’s young? Is it because he’s inexperienced? Using that premise alone, one can then begin to exclude a young inexperienced Erik Spoelstra who then should not have coached LeBron James, DeWayne Wade and Chris Bosh, but led them to back-to-back championships. We can then also eliminate inexperience and young head coach Tyronn Lue who also coached LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving to a championship. These teams were a mix of stars, youth and veterans. Is Luke Walton less skilled of a coach than the aforementioned coaches? I don’t think so.

So with Luke Walton being able lead a young, inexperienced Lakers team to a 35-47 record and falling a few spots out of playoff contention, one can only expect an even more successful season when you add the greatest player in the world and some very savvy veterans. LeBron James and the recent additions do not now somehow become a detriment to Luke Walton’s coaching career. Quite the contrary, Luke is now on the fast track to legendary coaching status.

Does Luke Walton now have a challenge meshing personalities and deciding whether or not to go with veterans versus the current young core? No! LeBron has already expressed how much this young core excites him. Magic has explained to the new signees about their role and I’m sure they understand that a starting spot is anything but guaranteed. Rob Pelinka has flatly stated that the only guaranteed starter is LeBron James. Luke in times past has shown no qualms with sitting down veterans if they do not produce. The respect of the locker room has developed through his time as a player, his track record Golden State as an assistant and the job he’s done with these young Lakers in the past couple years. Luke Walton has learned from the best how to manage people and I expect him to do a fine job, especially when this whole team has a unifed desire to prove everybody wrong and win a championship.

What I’m saying is, media needs to stop trying to find fault with Luke before he even coaches his first game with a roster already touted to be a top 5 team regardless of what ESPN says. With this current roster, one can only be excited that we have a coach like Luke Walton taking the lead. A student of Phil Jackson and Gregg Poppovich, a 3 time champion and teammate of Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton is more than qualified to get a shot at leading the new-look Lakers back to NBA dominance.

 

 

Against the Grain: Magic and Rob’s Plan to Beat Golden State

July 11, 2018

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What the heck is Magic and Rob doing?! Calm down, folks. I should be a little upset that a few writers have beaten me to the punch; however, I still find it necessary to throw my 2 cents in. The Lakers became a legitimate threat with one massive move, signing LeBron James. Adding such a player to a team that had made a 9 game jump to 35-47, insures that the Lakers are now a force in the NBA…on paper. Having made such a power move, the Lakers know that when you bring a superstar such as LeBron James, the “championship or failure” mentality rings louder than ever. No disrespect to the rest of the league, but standing in the way of a 9th finals appearance for King James and Showtime 2.0 is the Golden State Warriors.

Pundits and sports “experts” have consistently balked at the idea of signing players such as Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo and JaVale McGee, highlighting their inability to consistently hit the 3 point shot. Why? Because you’re trying to beat the Golden State Warriors so, obviously you need shooters. LeBron James needs shooters right? All he needs to do is drive, draw and kick. The other guys will hit threes and you’ll outscore arguably the best backcourt in NBA history, KD and Draymond Green right?

Wrong!

Although Golden State is a much better defensive team than the 2004 Phoenix Suns made famous by Steve Nash, Mike D’antoni and company, teams that attempted to outrun that team were completely decimated. The team that was able to take down the run and gun was the San Antonio Spurs, who met them with the complete opposite in strong halfcourt play and physical defense. Wisely enough, the Spurs did not attempt to beat the Suns at their own game. Phil Jackson had actually attempted the same strategy, but didn’t have the personnel and ultimately fell after a 3-1 lead in 2006.

Let’s go back even further and look at the teams that gave the original Showtime Lakers fits. In the Lakers storied battles with the Boston Celtics, the Lakers brought the finesse and flashy basketball style while the Celtics were physical and focused mostly on defense. Although the Lakers got the last laugh in the late 80s, it is well documented that the Celtics did not try to beat the Lakers at their own game. The Lakers next big foe was the “Bad Boys” of Detroit who were also known for their physical play.  This Pistons team pushed the Lakers to the brink in 1988 and swept the Lakers in 1989. The strategy again was not to beat the Lakers at their own game.

Magic knows his basketball history and you have to believe that he has taken a long hard look at what it would take to compete with a team that prides itself on defending, running and shooting. Magic and Rob both know that you cannot beat Golden State and their own game. Magic also knows that physical teams have had some success against a team like Golden State. The problem has been, you still have to make baskets and you still have to have the personnel that could carry out such a task. Does this mean the Lakers now want to beat up Steph Curry and company and draw technical fouls? Of course not. However, a team that is capable of keeping a body on a player, staying in their jersey and making the offense feel you, willing to take a foul rather than give up on open layup and muddy up the game for the opponent creates problems for a team like Golden State. The players they’ve added, including resigning Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are designed to create this level of toughness and defensive prowess. The Lakers already possess developing defenders in Josh Hart, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram.

Is this fool proof? Is this the personnel to carry it out? Only time will tell. However, the Lakers brass know they have the firepower to put a bunch of points on the board. Let’s not forget the Lakers do in fact have scorers. They also possess long athletic guys who can create and get to the basket, as well as playmakers. They didn’t completely jettison the idea of having offensive weapons to be the Memphis Grizzlies by any stretch. The Lakers still intend to defend, rebound and run and have the players that can make this happen. We saw that last season. Being able to make things uncomfortable for the defending champs on the defensive end, in addition to the offensive skillset, can hopefully give them a fighting chance as they try to bring the Larry O’Brien trophy back to Los Angeles (and I don’t mean to the Clippers either).

So get used to all the articles and sports network personalities having a field day and asking if Magic and company screwed up by their recent signings. The Lakers know exactly what their doing — creating a championship contender.

“I’m Magic Johnson” – Lakers Sign LeBron James… Is Showtime Back?

July 4, 2018

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When Magic Johnson took over and Rob Pelinka joined his side, Jeannie Buss had completely transformed the Lakers regime. Fast forward to a few days ago. The Lakers managed to secure a massive amount of cap space and develop an exciting young core and determined to use both to bring in what the Lakers have lacked since Kobe Bryant sang his swan song 2 seasons ago — a superstar. As the media sharks circled around Magic Johnson, they asked him if he felt any pressure to which he replied among other things… “I’m Magic Johnson.”

In a matter of days social media was flooded with the jubilant news that LeBron James, yes THE LeBron James had agreed to a 4-year 154 million dollar contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers did it. Magic and Rob did it. They brought the greatest player in the world to Los Angeles. The organization used to having the best of the best once again had the best of the best. Not finished, the Lakers resigned Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and then added veterans Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Rajon Rondo — all 1-year contracts. We would be remiss not to highlight the genius in that point. As we are never to finish an off-season without casualties, the Lakers were not able to keep Julius Randle. He requested to be renounced to unrestricted free agency and was snatched up by the New Orleans Pelicans. With all these roster moves being made and still (at press-time) maintaining the bulk of their young core, what can we expect from this current team?

Before we get deep into this, let’s establish that the Lakers are still in need of a center so they are not finished. Even so, we still have enough to discuss how this roster improved and the way this can be one of the most dangerous teams in the NBA.

James, KCP, Rondo, Stephenson and McGee and are all great long individual defenders. The Lakers already possess developing defenders in Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma (working on it), Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart. Although their defense has not yet been proven, the Lakers added more athletic length in Siatoslav Mykhailiuk, Isaac Bonga and Moritz Wagner. They also have additional undrafted players Malik Newman and Jeffrey Carroll. The Lakers now boast a roster full of guys that can play at least 2 – 3 positions on the court. Last season the Lakers became a top 10 defensive team due to their ability to switch on defense. With this many individual defenders and players with a high IQ, the Lakers will rarely have to double team any one player and should have very little trouble with defensive rotations.

The Lakers pride themselves on pace, space, ball movement and paint. The Lakers were atop the league in points in the paint. Although Randle scored a large portion of those points, let’s just say we traded Randle for James. The Lakers now boast great passers in Lonzo Ball, LeBron James and Rajon Rondo. At times, Brandon Ingram is also a great passer. At all times the Lakers will have a general who can get and keep the ball moving. Both LeBron and Rondo have the ability to drive and kick and get to the basket and  break down defenses. Additionally, this team possesses a great many slashers who can break down defenses and either create points in the paint or set up open looks. These players include Ball, James, KCP, Rondo and Ingram. Lance Stephenson can also get to the basket and finish. Within an attack and high-pace offense, opposing teams really can’t relax as the Lakers do not intend to be in the half-court for too long. The way make a player like LeBron or even more deadly is to have guys that can knock down shots. Enter Kyle Kuzma, KCP, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Lance Stephenson and even Mortiz Wagner. These guys can hopefully be counted on to hit shots on passes from Rondo, Lonzo and James.

Can Luke mesh all these personalities together and make it work? Luke is actually a perfect fit. Having coached (in spite of people thinking even a cave man could do it) the Golden State Warriors, played with Kobe Bryant and coached a team full of young players and vets this past season, Luke Walton has shown the ability to manage people. He knows what he wants to do with a team and how it needs to be done. He also has the rings to back him up. Lastly, Luke has the respect of the players and a coaching staff that features former NBA Champion Brian Shaw. With a focus on defense, rebounding and pushing the tempo, Luke is chomping at the bit to be able to apply this exciting brand of basketball to such a talented group.

With such a deep and interchangeable roster full of savvy vets, Luke will have the luxury of keeping players minutes and keep players fresh. The young players will be less susceptible to injury, as well as the veterans. This is important as the rule still applies that the healthy team wins the championship. If this team stays healthy, you are easily looking at a top 5 seed in the West. Golden State may have pulled the heist of the century by adding Demarcus Cousins to an already stacked roster, but the Lakers stand reloaded and ready to make a strong case for the returning Kings of the West.

I hope you’ve become as excited as I am about the possible return of Showtime. Stay tuned. It’s only just begun, LakerNation!

Brace Yourselves, @LakersNation — IT’S THE OFFSEASON!

June 21, 2018

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The Lakers managed to recapture their luster of old (okay, like 7 years ago) through a combination of talented and headline-grabbing young players, cap-space saving trades, smart coaching and a whole lot of Magic. And although they did not make the playoffs, they were legitimately competing for that eighth seed for much of the season. With the game viewed as a chess match, Magic and Rob focused on placing themselves in great position for the off-season where many game-changing superstars will be choosing their destinies. The Lakers brass freed up a massive amount of cap space and amassed an intriguing mix of youth and saavy veterans. With the off-season now in full swing, rumors are flying and both fans and media alike are entertaining several scenarios ranging from the Lakers returning to the 2018-19 campaign with a superteam down to the Lakers simply walking away empty-handed and returning with their current team (still a very strong team). Let’s take a look at a few of these possibilities briefly and determine their likelihood.

Perhaps the biggest watercooler discussion is that of LeBron James’ free agency. It doesn’t take much for the media to quickly link Lebron James to Los Angeles. His son is said to be enrolling in a school in the LA area. He has been rumored to see Los Angeles as his best opportunity for other business endeavors. So, is LeBron coming to the Lakers? Do fans want arguably the best player in the world? Regardless of what anyone feels about James (he’s a crybaby, he takes over an organization, he’s not as good as Jordan), one can’t say that he is not an instant upgrade and the Lakers are at least number 4 seed on paper. Many pundits feel that with James in, Ball goes out. That couldn’t be further from the truth. James, like Kobe, does not wish to be ball dominant. Players like James and Bryant actually covet the idea of playing with a pass first point guard, especially one who sets the table like Lonzo Ball does. So with James joining purple and gold, Ball is safe. The Lakers now have a go-to player, a willing defender, and a leader. One would then have to examine what kind of domino effect this will have in terms of pulling in other free agents like a Paul George who has already been considered a lock to don the purple and gold. Brook Lopez has already been reported to be willing to take less to play for the Lakers if they are a contender. Now, do you still try to resign Julius Randle? That depends on how much Julius wants and how saavy Magic and Rob are with their funds. Adding fuel to this fire is the prospect of the Lakers also trading for Kawhi Leonard to create a LeBron-PG-Kawhi superteam. There are several moving pieces surrounding these scenarios and look for the Lakers to leave no stone unturned.

The next big looming scenario is the signing of Paul George. Paul George who hails from Palmdale, CA has been very open about his desire to play for the Lakers. The Oklahoma City Thunder took a chance on a possible 1-year PG rental; however, OKC has not been completely written off. Lakers fans are salivating at the possibility of Paul George inking a deal with the Purple and Gold. I hear from sources that Paul George has all signs pointing to coming to Los Angeles. If Paul George is a lock to be a Laker, the Lakers then have added an offensive juggernaut and a great defender who would love to be on the receiving end of Lonzo Ball passes.  The Lakers are, in my opinion, one player away from being a contender with a budding star in Julius Randle and fast rising stars Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram. Paul George would be a game-changer.  The move would be an obvious one for the Lakers, but would signal a triumphant off-season nonetheless.

The latest wildcard scenario is the potential trading of Kawhi Leonard. Kawhi has now been said to want out of San Antonio. Other sources have indicated that he’d like to be traded to the Lakers. Pump the breaks! Poppovich has never been one to trade with Western Conference rivals and certainly not to make them better! San Antonio has been rumored to be waiting patiently before even considering trading the coveted forward, but are willing to hear offers. Two questions. One, do the Lakers possess an appetizing package to peak San Antonio’s interest? Two, do the Lakers really want to give up the moon and stars to land Kawhi when he is a free agent after next season? Additionally, is Kawhi healthy? What kind of player are we in fact trading for? Who’s on the table? As I mentioned earlier, I find that Ball is off the table; however, Kuzma and Ingram are distinct possibilities because they are both forwards and Kawhi is like having Ingram at full potential now. Plus, this would be probably the strongest package the Lakers can submit without completely killing their core. Do I think it’s worth it? Not so sure yet. If the Lakers can successfully trade for Kawhi without completely breaking up the young core and are willing to deal with the 1-year rental situation; then they will definitely be getting the off-season off on the right foot.

Our last scenario is the possibility that the Lakers have a very strong team already. Supposing they do strike out on LeBron and PG, we have to consider what’s in front of them. At the present time, the Lakers have the following major free agents: Julius Randle, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Isaiah Thomas and Brook Lopez. Julius Randle has become a force to be reckoned with offensively and will be a highly coveted free agent. KCP is a deadly shooter when he’s on and has proven to be a lockdown defender, something the Lakers definitely need to keep. Isaiah Thomas averaged about 28 per only a season ago and was only limited by injuries. With a successful surgery complete and being officially pain free, one can’t help but to expect IT to pick up right where he left off. A crafty scorer, deadeye three-point shooter and excellent passer, Isaiah Thomas is the star the Lakers have right under their nose. Remember, he actually wants to be a Laker. Brook Lopez is arguably the strongest big man the Lakers have had since Pau Gasol. As I said in a previous blog, the question is which one of these players if not all do they want to keep. And how long will these players wait as the Lakers first attempt to shoot for the moon with the likes of Paul George and LeBron James?

There are plenty of scenarios that could play out this summer and as always, all eyes are on the Lakers. The Lakers have already begun by trading for an additional draft pick, securing the 25th, 39th and 47th pick in this year’s loaded draft class. Will there be more moves made?

Stay tuned, LakersNation! As Kyle Kuzma tweeted, its gonna be interesting…

 

 

Summer of Decision… Who’s In, Who’s Out and the Lakers’ Bright Future

March 28, 2018

The Lakers are winding their 2017-2018 campaign down and have been eliminated from playoff contention. With teams like San Antonio, Utah and Portland playing out of their minds leading into the post-season, it’s became more and more far-fetched for any team to drop 7 or 8 in a row as the Lakers win 7 or 8 in a row to pull off such a feat. The loss to the Pistons was the nail in the proverbial coffin. Opportunities to beat playoff contenders such as Pelicans, Nuggets and Blazers in the last few weeks also didn’t help their chances. With that being said, the Lakers brass have some decisions to make heading in the off-season. The biggest questions are what kind of team they should be looking to bring back next season? Is this team as constructed a lock of playoff seeding next year? If not, who will complete the puzzle? Who can Lakers bring in that will not stunt the growth of the youth? Let’s take a moment to look at the great and the ugly for each Lakers player.

Lonzo Ball:

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The Great – Lonzo Ball is the epitome of “all eyes on me” as his success in college, the hype surrounding his being the 2nd pick in the draft, his outspoken father and pretty much famous family has thrust him into the limelight. Lonzo has actually surprised in a different way. As most rookies come in struggling to do the other things such as defend and rebound, Lonzo has taken top rankings among point guards in rebounds, steals, blocks and assists. He has pretty much been an all around player who has been making winning plays all season long. The Lakers sputtered to a playoff chance killing 9 game losing streak in his absence. He’s had triple doubles and clutch performances, set records and has garnered the praise of stars players and NBA coaches. He definitely does make his team better and is the key reason the Lakers can play the pace and space game they desire to run.

The Ugly – Nothing summarizes Lonzo’s main issue more than the night that Pelicans players simply backed away from Zo to let him shoot. His shot is wildly inconsistent and it is surprising that this doesn’t affect his ability to have so many assists per game. Some say it’s his form. Others say it will come in time. The coaching staff fully believes that he will develop that shooting touch. Regardless of how you look at it, one can safely say that IF Lonzo is able to start knocking down 30-40% of his threes, 75-80% of his free throws and 40-45% of his field goals, you’re looking at exactly what everyone touted him to be — a transcendent player. One can’t help but be extremely excited about the 2018-2019 season for this big baller.

 

Thomas Bryant:

The Great – Thomas Bryant sits in the shoes of an Andrew Bynum, where he is one of the Lakers’ projects. A stretch big that has proven in the G-league that he can finish at the rim, rebound and provide energy on both ends, we have yet to see Bryant in extensive minutes with the Lakers team. The great for TB is the amount of potential that he possesses.

The Ugly – Not much to say here. The ugly is that, amid all the injuries and call-ups from the G-league, he has yet to log any meaningful minutes so that we can really see what he can do. Time will tell.

 

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope:

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The Great – KCP came in and immediately was a defensive presence for the Lakers, but was very streaky with his shot. His legal battles affected his focus and therefore his numbers. However, late in the season, he has really hit his stride. He’s literally been on fire from the 3-point line and continues to be a pest on the defensive end. He has proven that he can be that Micheal Cooper 3 and D guy. When the Lakers are at full strength, he becomes one more problem that you cannot leave open and an additional passing target for Zo.

The Ugly – One can only hope that he can pick up where he left off this season and we don’t have to wait another 4 or 5 months before he shoots and plays like this next season. Furthermore, with KCP already finishing out a 1-year deal, you have to figure that he’s going to want something more long-term. It won’t be hard to KCP to find that with another team gunning for a championship or seeking to be a contender. Lakers will do well to keep him, but the concern is whether or not he can be patient with the Lakers’ off-season star chase. Not necessarily ugly, but more along the lines of questionable.

 

Alex Caruso:

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The Great – AC Fresh possesses the height and basketball IQ to develop into a very effective backup point guard. When given the green light, he can be a great passer, adept scorer and a decent defender. As a young player, Lakers can still keep him cheaply and maintain a good level of depth at that position. You can probably keep him with the South Bay Lakers another season as he continues to develop.

The Ugly – Not much to report on that end. Obviously if the Lakers get some big name free agents and as the players they do have remain healthy, he may not see many minutes. He’s made some noise and the coaching staff is on notice, but it’s really his to mess up. Let’s see how he works out in the off-season.

 

Luol Deng:

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The Great – Luol’s best asset this season was his attitude. It is reported that he has tried to maintain shape and still be somewhat of a leader to the young guys. He deserves tons of credit for not rocking the boat or affecting the team in spite of a position that any competitor who has once competed at such a high level would dread. In his defense, for some reason his skill set just didn’t mesh with Luke and staff’s pace and space strategy. This doesn’t mean he can’t find his footing in a backup role with a team competing for a championship. We don’t know what kind of player he is at this point as he’s only played 13 minutes this season; however, one can hope the Lakers can reach a buyout to give him an opportunity with a team that can use a serviceable backup small forward.

The Ugly – I only can dream of making thousands of dollars to work 13 minutes. Obviously the ugly here is that he is on this team’s books. That being said, it’s safe to say that the Lakers will be either stretching his salary, trying to trade him (good luck) or trying to reach a buyout. I don’t see any team finding worth in absorbing such a contract, but anything is possible with a little Magic.

 

Tyler Ennis:

The Great – All social media hate aside, Tyler does have some great attributes. His ability to get to the rim and finish is often overlooked. He has shown the potential to go on a run where he’s scoring and drawing fouls. He still does a great job of taking care of the ball.

The Ugly – Ennis does not move the needle when he’s on the court. He remains a defensive liability and doesn’t really facilitate ball movement nor pace. His 3-point shooting is non-threatening. Many times fans like myself have questioned his minutes over players such as Caruso and even Gary Payton II. I’d be surprised if he wasn’t waived, making room for the aforementioned players to see more minutes on the court.

 

Channing Frye:

The Great – Channing Frye hasn’t had a real opportunity with the Lakers as of yet, sitting after an appendectomy and only playing one game prior and a few minutes. What I’ve come to know of Frye is his ability to shoot and be a stretch big. He can go a run scoring at times and is a big defensive body that could be of benefit, provided he is some resemblance of himself at his peak. He has a championship with the Cavs and provides that experience as well.

The Ugly – It’s clear that Cavs unloaded him (not because of the poor shooting game prior to the trade) to get younger. The Lakers also intend to stay young and quick and they have to decide if his shooting and experience is worth keeping him around. Lakers would have to consider a veterans minimum. Because we haven’t seen him in Luke’s system, it’s hard to tell whether or not he can stay in purple and gold.

 

Josh Hart:

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The Great – Josh Hart, after being given the minutes, proved to be a very integral part of this young team. Prior to his hand fracture, he was hitting the three-point shot with regularity, getting the basket and finishing at the rim, pulling down double-digit rebounds and being ferocious on defense. Josh Hart started to create whispers of being a 3 and D guy. He is no doubt going to be a key component of this teams ascent to playoff contention next season. Josh Hart has become vital to the Lakers perimeter defense and could be called on, like KCP, to defend the opposing team’s best player. Lakers fans are salivating at his return along with Brandon Ingram within the next few games to spur a strong season-ending run.

The Ugly – Josh Hart’s early opportunities were hampered with and injury prior to Summer League and as he finally saw those opportunities, he fractured his hand. We have to hope that, like many of these Lakers players, that he’s not fragile and injury prone. When he’s on the court, he is a difference maker. Let’s hope he can stay healthy once he returns.

 

Brandon Ingram:

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The Great – Brandon Ingram followed a slow start shooting and morphed into a player that has at times been unstoppable. With his length, he has great finishing ability. He’s added a very reliable mid-range shot and now the 3-point shot. On top of that, he is one of their defensive leaders. B.I. prior to his injury became the team’s closer. The fact of the matter is the only that stopped him was a groin injury in the blowout against the Miami Heat. He seems poised to take the reigns of this team and lead it back to NBA relevance as he is easily the most complete player on this Lakers team. How can one not be excited about the 2018-2019 campaign for the Humble Beast?

The Ugly – Much like Josh Hart and Lonzo Ball, we have to hope that B.I. can stay healthy. The team has seen rare moments altogether and are very dangerous when they are. It’s clear that Brandon Ingram has a very high ceiling and we just want him to be healthy enough to reach it.

 

Kyle Kuzma:

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The Great – Even if he wasn’t (and neither was Magic and Rob for that matter when they drafted him), the NBA world was stunned by the kind of player that Kuz proved to be. Kyle Kuzma possesses a killer instinct and a natural talent that looks seamless. His efforts earned him a dinner with the Black Mamba himself. After shocking the world through Summer League, Pre-season the first part of the season, his shooting took a nosedive. Kuzma still yet continues to have games where he just takes over. Kuzma has a deadly 3-point shot, but also possesses a vast array of moves to the basket. He appears at times to get his own shot anytime he wants. At the request of Luke Walton, he began to develop his defensive ability. It’s clear that, barring a sophomore slump, he is destined to skyrocket into basketball stardom.

The Ugly – Kyle Kuzma is young and will always need some grooming around the edges, but there is hardly anything ugly about Kuzma’s game. He will need to work on deciding when to settle for the open three, when to facilitate and when to get to the basket. This will come with time.

 

Brook Lopez:

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The Great –  Brook Lopez started the season shooting threes… and missing threes. His interior defense was spotty and he appeared to get outplayed by every other big in the league. Somebody finally woke up and remembered that The Wookie made his money down low late this season. Since then he’s become a deadly scorer and works effectively with Randle, creating problems in the post due to his ability to hit the jumper when necessary. His defense and rebounding has picked up and he’s beginning to look more like the All-Star center the Lakers hoped he would be. The Lakers would be hard pressed to find a big that can actually score the ball down low, hit from the perimeter and be an effective big body in the paint. Say what you want about Lopez, but he is one of the most complete centers in the league and Lakers brass would do well to hold on to him.

The Ugly – Brook is also on a 1-year rental. His end of the year resurgence will no doubt make him a hot commodity and I can see a team like the Golden State Warriors requesting his services among many. The Lakers have to consider whether he is the answer to their big man needs or do they look elsewhere. When Brook is on his game and utilized correctly, he is just what they need. Will he wait while the Lakers go star-chasing?  If they are able to bring him back, will this fire remain or will we get back to inconsistency from earlier this season?

 

Gary Payton II

GPII hasn’t really cracked the rotation to show us much about his potential. As another point guard fighting for minutes, I can’t say that I expect him to do anything aside from logging more time the G-league next season if they keep him.

 

Julius Randle

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The Great – PAY THE MAN! Julius Randle had all the fuel and motivation to prove himself this season. It’s a contract year, he was demoted to the bench, his contract wasn’t extended and he was in trade talks all the way up the deadline. All the while Randle continued to score, play defense and make winning plays. Over the last several games, Randle has averaged about a double-double including about 20 points a game. He basically has been able to score on anybody and has everyone wondering if the next perennial Lakers star was right under their nose. Don’t be fooled by the layups as Randle has even hit a few fadeaway shots in the process. He has been a monster on the defensive end and even as he hasn’t quite needed it yet, he is still a mid-range jumpshot away from utter dominance. This off-season, the Lakers have to know that he is going to be a hot commodity. It would be to their benefit to make it a priority to bring him back immediately even as they go star-chasing. There isn’t a superstar free agent out there that wouldn’t want to play alongside such a beast.

The Ugly – Randle still has to work on his jumpshot. However, teams do not have the ability to expose it, because of his great ability to pass out of double teams. That being said, he will need to add that jumpshot just in case he has to use it. Within the current team, players like Brook Lopez can stretch the floor and leave the paint open for him. He also has shooters like Kuz, KCP and Ingram surrounding him. Randle seems to fit in as a part of this Lakers puzzle. Okay, not so ugly, but the most ugliest thing is the fact that the Lakers will have to decide how much they want to put towards The Punisher to keep other teams from swiping him from under their nose.

 

Isaiah Thomas:

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The Great – You gotta love a guy who overcomes adversity time and time again. His ascent to stardom in Boston can never be overlooked. That said, Isaiah Thomas is somewhat of an enigma. Since the trade, he’s had the ability to set up Randle and create a great 1,2 punch. He’s had a few games where he’s heated up and scored at will. We know he put up All-Star numbers two seasons in Boston. He has been dubbed Mr. 4th Quarter because of his ability to light it up in crunch time. He has the drive and motivation needed to compete in L.A. and lead a team. Moreover, he actually WANTS to be a Laker. Finally, on paper, the Lakers have traded for an All-Star and should stop at nothing to keep him in L.A.

The Ugly – Isaiah is… short. Luke and staff wishes to work with position-less players in order to switch on defense. It’s hard to tell whether or not he’s going to return to his peak form as he has struggled to hit shots and even turned the ball over excessively during his time in L.A. Although he’s mentioned that he’s willing to come off the bench, how much is he going to ask for? Are the Lakers willing to forgo an another star in the off-season to take a chance with IT? As he sits out with hip soreness, he has a few more games to convince the Lakers brass to maybe try a 1-year rental and see if the IT experiment works. IT represents a potential high risk high reward situation.

 

Travis Wear:

The Great – Who knew!? Travis Wear at 6’10 can stretch the floor and play pretty good defense. After a stint in the G-league, Travis was called up and played his way into a contract. His deadeye 3-point shooting at his height fits in with the Lakers goal to have position-less players. It may be a small sample size, but Wear can easily squirm his way into another year with the Lakers coming off the bench and into the rotation. Let’s be honest. If you’re tall enough, can shoot and play defense — you got this!

The Ugly – Obviously this is only a few games, but nothing really ugly to report here. The Lakers will have to decide if he has turned a corner and can continue to provide that scoring punch off the bench. I didn’t care for him during Summer League and Pre-season, but let’s see what he can do the close out this season. We may have yet another hidden treasure.

 

Ivica Zubac:

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The Great – Ivica Zubac is still a huge ball of potential. We saw flashes towards the end of last season. He can block shots and finish at the rim pretty effectively.

The Ugly – Nobody to this day knows what happened to Zu after the end of the season. He had a lackluster Summer League and Pre-season. He then proceeded to remain on the bench during the season. Perhaps Luke’s system has him odd man out. Perhaps he’s too slow. Perhaps he’s in his own head. Either way, he failed to capitalize on what appeared to be a promising start. Do you keep him or do you make space and move on to Thomas Bryant? He’s still very young. The Lakers have a team option on Zu… and it doesn’t look good.

 

The Lakers will have some decisions to make. Do you bring back all the key players and try to make a run next season? Do you sign one max player…. or two max players? Do you go for LeBron or do you get PG? Do you resign IT, KCP and Brook? How much do you pay? Who’s willing to take a pay cut? Is this team a playoff contender next season as is?

In my opinion I can safely say that this team fully healthy is a lock for the 2nd round next season. The Lakers boast guys who can create their own shot in Kuz, B.I., Randle and KCP. They boast stretch bigs like Kuz, Lopez and B.I. They boast paint dwellers like Randle, B.I. when he gets to the basket and Kuz. They boast 3-point shooters Kuz, Lopez, B.I., KCP, Wear and Hart. They also boast defenders such as KCP, Randle, B.I., Zo and Hart. They boast an amazing point guard in Zo who can set up all of these shooters. The Lakers faithful have a reason to be very excited about the future for this team.

Let’s see what Magic and Rob do this summer!

Following the Trade Deadline, the Lakers are Right on Schedule

February 11, 2018
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Isaiah Thomas chomping at the bit to get in and play with his new team. He scored 22 points and dished out 6 assists in his debut.

Since the headline-grabbing Lakers regime change midway through last season, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka have not made too many head-scratching decisions if any. It seems that everything they’ve done has inched the Lakers closer to relevance. The Lakers under the coaching staff lead by Luke Walton stayed the course amid media and fan criticisms and now find their team in a position where LOSING is not the norm. Since early January, the Lakers have gone 12-5 which includes three 4-game winning streaks. The team is clearly a better defensive unit and are buying into ball movement, resulting in victories and an increasing confidence in this still young Lakers team.

Not to be outdone, Magic and Rob managed to pull off a blockbuster trade (eat your heart out Jerry West) by sending Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson to Cleveland in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and a 1st round draft pick. With all love to JC and Nance, this was a brilliant move. The Lakers freed up almost 44 million in cap space, which was one of their clear goals this season. They got a draft pick which was something they had all but given for nothing years ago in the Steve Nash trade. They picked up an All-Star point guard who helped lead the Celtics to the top of the East just a season ago. They also added shooters who are both on expiring contracts, leaving them with financial flexibility. Let’s not forget that in all this the Lakers are still competitive, have not surrendered their young core AND might have even gotten BETTER.

Did the Lakers get better? In IT’s debut against the Mavericks, he literally picked up where he left off last season scoring 22 points after barely averaging 15 in Cleveland. Luke’s offense? Possibly. The Lakers as a unit just all but gave that game away through lackluster defense and not giving a young and hungry Dallas team led by an All-Star veteran in Dirk Nowitski the respect they deserve. Loss notwithstanding, they showed flashes of what a knockdown shooter and elite playmaker like IT does for this team. The question is whether the Lakers can adjust to IT’s defensive shortcomings. Will they still continue to switch on defense which has worked so well for them up to this point? Dallas wisely exposed that last night. That is a moderate issue when you again consider the sample size in Boston who finished the season 53-29. Sounds like defense was not an issue.

Let’s be completely honest, Luke Walton and staff will have this team on the same page and they will have this much improved Lakers team competing at an even higher level and preparing for the return of Lonzo Ball. There is no denying that the Lakers got a major upgrade offensively. Lonzo Ball will also even the scales defensively upon his return.

There will obviously be a minor adjustment period for rotations and such, but it appears that Isaiah will eventually have to start alongside Lonzo Ball. Brandon Ingram and Juilus Randle are a lock to start as well as Brook Lopez. Is Kentavious Caldwell-Pope coming off the bench? That sounds like the best move. Look for Alex Caruso and Corey Brewer to scale back on minutes as KCP assumes the Jordan Clarkson role as 1st off the bench. The Lakers will have plenty of flexibility to go big should teams become successful exposing IT on defense. The Lakers brass has put this team in perfect position to fight for that 8th seed while preparing to make some noise in the off-season with their newfound cap space.

It’s a very exciting time in Tinseltown as the Lakers continue to get on the fast-track back to championship glory. Stay tuned, Lakers fans.

Lakers Optimist out!

 

Are the Kids Alright…or Being Shipped out? Trade Talks and the Trade Deadline in Lakertown

January 29, 2018
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Lakers are reportedly shopping Larry Nance Jr., Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson as the trade deadline is one week away.

The Lakers are 19-30 after 49 games. And although that seems extremely shabby, the Lakers have gone 8-3 in their last 11 games, to include two 4-game winning streaks. The latter of 4 game winning streaks came with Lonzo Ball out with MCL sprain. The Lakers are somewhat turning a corner. They are learning to play defense and to move the ball. More importantly — they are WINNING GAMES at an efficient rate and winning makes everything better…right?

Even as the Lakers begin to fulfill Kyle Kuzma’s promise to “figure it out”, the trade deadline is a week away. Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr. are all on the trading block as the Lakers look to clear up cap space to sign as many max players as possible. Recently, Detroit was rumored to have discussed sending Avery Bradley to Tinseltown in exchange for our very own JC. Amid all this, Julius Randle has flourished in his starting role, returning to the double-double machine he was expected to be and more! He has proven to be a threat on the block and very formidable in the paint on defense. At times, it seems nobody can stop Randle. Jordan Clarkson has become instant offense and has even willed the Lakers to victories during this impressive 11 game stretch. Larry Nance Jr. has been defensively locked in and still has kept his stellar 50-plus shooting percentage while creating whispers of competing in this year’s Slam Dunk contest. These guys have been with the Lakers during the dark times, and even with the Ingram-Kuz-Ball big three, still figure to be a key component of a future championship Lakers team.

Questions are raised from this current situation:

1. How much is a non-guaranteed max player signing worth? Let’s face it. With all the hoopla about Lebron James having much of his life in Los Angeles (which doesn’t rule out the Clippers), Paul George wanting to be Laker come hell or high water (comments about Westbook changing his mind notwithstanding) and plans to go after Demarcus Cousins (Get well soon, Boogie), nothing is guaranteed. The Lakers have players that have proven to have a key role in this team returning to greatness and providing a strong supporting cast to a developing big 3 in Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball. It’s clear that losing Clarkson and or Randle will no doubt diminish this teams’ ability to win games, and they do not have any draft pick to hang their hat on. So, assuming PG stays in OKC, Bron-Bron wants to retire in Cleveland or elsewhere and any other highly coveted star does not come to the Lakers and they strike out, they want to have a quality team to build upon. Is trading Clarkson, Randle or Nance worth the risk of coming away with nothing, and being a worse team?

2. Is this team worth standing pat at the trade deadline and seeing how well they can actually play when Zo returns? The last question assumes that this Lakers team as is can truly become a playoff contender next season with another year under their belt. This team features the aforementioned big 3 and supporting cast. This team as it stands has two weaknesses, 3-point shooters and a dominant center. With that being said, when this team returns to full health, they have proven that they can compete with anyone when they are playing defense and moving the ball. They are a better defensive and rebounding team when Lonzo is on the court. Being that they’ve learned how to dominate without Ball suggests that they (minor adjustment to the rotation time included) will be even better once he returns. Being that the Lakers want to attract free agents, gutting your team for cap space and sputtering into the end of the season won’t attract anyone. So, keeping this team as is and showing improvement to the tune of 30-40 wins can create some curiosity among max free agents. Let’s be honest, the Lakers possess players that at one point or another can take over a game in Jordan Clarkson, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle. Wisely enough, the Lakers had Brook Lopez and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on 1 year deals and will potentially have space in the off-season to sign a center that can deliver on defense and athleticism and a true 3 and D guy. So the Lakers brass have to decide if it’s simply better to just (as much as Lakers fans hate this) wait and see…

Pushing my attachment to players aside and in the most unbiased way possible, I really think the Lakers need to wait. Coach Luke Walton has this team playing the right way. Furthermore, there are no players (that a team is willing to offer) that can dramatically upgrade this Lakers team in exchange for 3 loyal Lakers players who are playing very well. With the exception of Nance (who no team will take without an additional player anyway), trading any of these players would suggest waving a white flag on the season, thus gutting the roster and really putting pressure on Magic and Rob to hit the lotto in the off-season. The Lakers have a clear path and formula. They are literally 2 pieces away. In no way am I suggesting that the Lakers are fine the way they are. I am suggesting that they will be in a better position to pick up that max player with JC, Randle and Nance than they would be without.

In the next week we will find out if cap space is worth the risk of the class of 2014 and our future dunk champion (I speak it into existence). Stay tuned Lakers fans!

Lakers Optimist out.