Posts Tagged ‘Lakeshow’

What Should We Expect from Each Lakers Player This Season?

August 2, 2017

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The Lakers have made headlines since the middle of the prior season, make some eye-opening moves during the offseason and then proceeded to make Summer League news. With all that in the rearview and training camp on the horizon, Lakers fans are chomping at the bit and looking forward to the new NBA Season. Even before then, fans will be salivating at that first preseason game.

It’s been widely discussed what the expectations of the Lakers as a team are (we’ll leave Charles Barkley’s opinion out of it). The consistent viewpoint is that this team will improve, yet fall short of playoff contention. Vegas odds and CBS Sports have the Lakers finishing with about 36 wins, a 10 game improvement from last season AND two more wins than the temporarily “best in L.A.” Clippers. I just threw that in for the heck of it. Having said all that, what can or should we expect from each Laker on this new-look roster? Let’s take a look at each Laker and discuss what they can and must do to help these Los Angeles Lakers meet and or exceed expectations this season.

 

Brook Lopez

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Brook Lopez averaged about 20 points a game on 47% shooting and shot 34% from beyond the arc last season. He became an official stretch five last season with the Nets. He’s a pretty solid defender and has an array of post moves. The important thing is that the often in times past injury prone Lopez stays healthy. In order to be the first successful big man acquisition since Pau Gasol, he has to be a force offensively. He needs to be a real threat from the three point line and a trustworthy post scorer when called on. He has to be more of a rim protector than Mozgov and Hibbert was. I expect Lopez to be the second or third best distributor on the team by his ability to draw double teams in the post and demanding attention down low. I also expect him to run the floor and be on the receiving end of some great passes by Lonzo Ball. Lopez should easily be the team’s leading shot blocker. Much is riding on Lopez being just as dominant as he was in Brooklyn and not another failed veteran big man experiment.

 

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

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Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a defensive-minded scorer who can create his own shot. He also has great finishing skills at the basket. After not being able to score a max contract with Detroit, he was convinced by Magic and Rob to join the purple and gold for an 18 million dollar 1 year deal. My expectations for Caldwell-Pope is to be the Lakers leading scorer and to possibly make strides towards all-star status. His game will only be elevated by Luke’s system and Ball’s pass-first mentality. I also expect him to be an on ball defender taking on the opposing team’s star point guard to take pressure off of Lonzo Ball. He will no doubt lead the team in steals.

 

Loul Deng

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Los Angeles Lakers

Loul Deng is the remaining player with an unpopular inflated contract. The Lakers were successful in unloading Mozgov to the Nets, but they still have Loul Deng. Coming off an extremely disappointing Lakers debut where he averaged a lackluster 7.8 points a game on 38% shooting, he rarely showed up and was really a nonfactor in many of the games. His performance drew criticisms of fans and media alike. His meager contributions made his albatross of a contract even less appealing. Deng has reportedly been working hard in the off-season and most certainly has a lot of prove to himself, the NBA and the fans. With a year under Luke’s system, Luol will be less lost in the system and become more of a contributor. I expect Luol to come off the bench and provide some leadership, offensive punch and defense with that second unit. Although, we can’t deny that he will most certainly be on the trading block for any takers willing to absorb his contract. However, in the meantime, expect a resurgence from the 2x all-star.

 

Jordan Clarkson

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JC is truly in a make or break year. Over the Lakers rough years, Clarkson is the one player consistently contributing on a nightly basis. I expect this year to be no different. Clarkson possesses the ability to run the point, but is a true shooting guard who can create his own shot and get to the basket. He still has yet to figure out consistent defense. However, he will most likely be a 6th man, especially with KCP recently added. Expect Clarkson to average 15-20 points a game, providing a spark off the bench. He will most likely improve on the defensive side of the ball. Expect Clarkson to feast off of Lonzo Ball passes. This is probably his last chance to have a breakout year.

 

Corey Brewer 

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I like Corey Brewer’s defensive tenacity and his ability to finish on the break. I don’t expect him to get too many minutes unless someone gets injured. However, when his number is called, he will give the Lakers some toughness. His benefit will be seen in the locker room.

 

Lonzo Ball 

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What can we say about Lonzo Ball that hasn’t been said? Considered the face of the franchise by Magic Johnson and a transcendent player by Rob Pelinka, loved by Skip Bayless and already selling out Lakers season tickets, expectations are high. Lonzo gave us all a preview in Summer League, leading the Lakers to the championship and having two triple-doubles. His passing became infectious as fans saw the culture immediately transform for this Lakers team. The bold expectation of winning the whole Summer League was translated to each player and came to fruition. Lonzo comes with high expectations already. He is a star before even playing his first preseason game, much less a regular season opener. So with all that in the backdrop, what are realistic expectations for Ball? Expect Lonzo to be the assist leader for this team and making his players better. He could quite possibly average at least 10 assists a game. He is the catalyst to this Lakers team’s success by the way he stimulates ball movement. Expect Lonzo Ball to vie for rookie of the year because of his ability to create his own shot off the dribble and finish at the rim. We have yet to see him truly get hot from the three point line. I expect that to be a work in progress. In the meantime, players around him will be feasting off of open looks and ally-oop dunks. As a rookie with a target on his back from the rest of the NBA, expect some struggles, but rookie of the year is his to win or lose. No pressure. His ability to transform the offensive fluidity of a team in Summer League must translate to the regular season, which I think will happen.

 

Brandon Ingram

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In spite of all the hoopla surrounding the drafting of Lonzo Ball, this is still Brandon Ingram’s team. Magic Johnson all but flatly stated that Brandon Ingram was the one “untouchable” Lakers player, even for DeMarcus Cousins. Ingram did not really wow anyone with last year’s numbers. His rookie season featured a 9.4 point a game average. What was noticeable was his work ethic, his fearlessness, his ability to take instruction and his mechanics. You just knew that once things started to click, he was going to be special. In the latter part of the season, Brandon Ingram started to show why Magic and Rob would build around such a player. Ingram created highlight reels, dunking on the likes of Pau Gasol and Giannis Antetokounmpo. He showed out in a few minutes of play during his Summer League debut alongside Lonzo Ball and quickly scored 26 points before going down with a cramp. So what can we expect from the humble beast? Expect him to take a leadership role and be either the first or second leading scorer on this team averaging 18-25 points a game. Also expect Ingram to be even more of an attacker with one year under his belt. He’s no longer timid and will be not hard-pressed to create his own shot with Lonzo Ball setting him up. As a pretty skilled passer himself, look for him to rack up about 5-7 assists per game himself. Defensively, I look for an improvement as well. The most exciting one-two punch I’m looking forward to is Lonzo to Ingram on a nightly basis. Let’s hope he still does make good on that promise to work with the Black Mamba.

 

Julius Randle

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Randle dropped 32 points on the Houston Rockets in the latter stages of the season and seemed unstoppable. This is the love-hate relationship we have with Randle early in his career. He can be unstoppable and other times he just gets lost in the shuffle. So much is riding on this season for Randle as this is a make or break season for him. I expect him to breakout this season. Randle has made a physical transformation that shows he is taking this offseason very serious. Randle is decimating teams in this summer’s Drew League. He, like many of the other Lakers, are looking forward to playing with Lonzo Ball. Julius is a tenacious rebounder, very adept at getting to the basket and can at times be a defensive force. However, there are some that believe that he may always be on the cusp, but not quite there. I expect Randle to make it over the hump and make one more stride toward being an all-star caliber player. Rumor has it he is on the trading block, but if he does breakout, this will work in his favor whether he is traded or not. I expect Randle to up his average to about 18-20 points a game and 12-17 rebounds per. The knock on Julius is his outside shooting which was spotty last year. I look for that to improve. Again, being on the receiving end of Lonzo’s passes will give him quite a few easy buckets. I’m very excited about Randle’s potential this season, but let’s hope it doesn’t just stop at potential.

 

Tyler Ennis

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Tyler made some small strides last year during the Lakers high draft pick threatening 5 game winning streak. He showed some ability to shoot the three and he seems to create a level of calm when he is running the point position.  He has a very clean game, only averaging 1 turnover per game on his career. Although he is the only other true point guard that the Lakers currently have, I can’t say whether or not he will see much floor time. JC, BI and Josh Hart all can potentially play the point guard position as well. I personally can say that the only guaranteed rotation players off the bench are Loul Deng, Larry Nance Jr., Ivica Zubac and Jordan Clarkson. The rest will be fighting for minutes. Expectations are low for Tyler, but he will have to prove himself whenever given the opportunity.

 

Larry Nance Jr.

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(Sorry, Brook) Our very own human highlight reel Larry Nance Jr. is probably the most exciting player on this Lakers team. I am salivating at the opportunity to see that first ally-oop from Ball to Nance. Larry possesses the ability to play the four or the five. Walton tried that experiment late in the season and I hope that he will consider playing him at center in this season as well when they want to go small. Larry has all but solidified that first power forward off the bench spot to relieve Randle. Nance showed flashes of hitting that open jumper and even a few threes as well. This will be the one factor that can make him a very dangerous player considering how well he finishes and how high he flies! His fundamentals and basketball IQ makes him a team leader of sorts on and off the court. He also is moving up the defensive learning curve very quickly. We love his athleticism and effort. This season I expect him to move further past the “energy guy” phase and more of a dependable scorer and elite defender. His numbers last year were very misleading. Look for Larry Nance to up his scoring average to 10-12 points a game and for his rebounds to increase as well. I see him as becoming a integral part of that second unit as well as this young Lakers core. One last expectation we have for Nance is that he will not be snubbed for the Dunk of the Year!

 

Kyle Kuzma

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“Started from the bottom now we here” is Kyle Kuzma’s theme. A product of the Houston trade that sent off Lou Williams, Kyle played his way to Summer League Championship game MVP and a Nike shoe deal! What we got to Kyle was a dead eye three point shooter, tenacious scorer and a very fluid offensive game. He played very well off ball with Lonzo Ball setting him up. Even without Ball in the lineup he was able to create his own shot. He was the leading scorer of all the players in Summer League. He is a position-less big man who can move to the three, four or five if going small. Kuzma enters into a very crowded frontcourt; however, he seems to be the most likely of all the rookies not named Lonzo Ball to actually see floor action. The question becomes how many minutes? I will go out on a limb and say that he will be the one addition off the bench (to include Deng, Zubac, Clarkson and Nance). I expect him to become one of the main three point threats and pure shooters that Ball and the Lakers need in order to get wins this season. Also look for him to compete with Nance for minutes due to his ability to also finish at the rim and create his own shot. Ultimately though, he will be that 8-10 point sparkplug off the bench in his debut season with the Lakers.

 

Josh Hart

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When I saw the way he played in college via Youtube, I was very excited about this young man’s motor and his “hart”. Entering into a crowded backcourt with Caldwell-Pope and Clarkson eating up most of the minutes, he will most likely learn from the pine this year. There is a slim chance that Walton, in his attempt to run and keep his players fresh, will go deep into his bench which will give Hart a chance. If given a chance, you have a player that can get to the rim with ease and provide pesky on-ball defense. His ability to get to the rim can collapse defenses and set up open looks for other players. I can see Hart competing with Ennis for minutes. Expectations are cloudy, but I can see him giving a good 5-7 points at least 1 steal off the bench if given the opportunity.

 

Ivica Zubac

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Zubac wowed and surprised everyone last year the way he immediately contributed. He started with Summer League where he blocked shots and scored with ease. This translated to the regular season where eventually he took minutes from Mozgov. By the end of the season there was chatter of Mozgov taking over as starting center. So Zubac would dominate in Summer League this year right? Wrong! He seemed rusty and confused at times and seemed winded when trying to get up and down the court with the fast-paced Laker offense. Coming off a season-ending ankle injury, one can only conclude that rust was all it was. Zubac, reportedly working with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, still possesses a skill-set that is invaluable. He has a nice stroke from the perimeter, a developing array of post moves and a great defensive IQ. He still is the first center off the bench following Brook Lopez. I expect Zublocka to make great strides in his 2nd year, shake off the Summer League haters and average 10-12 points a game off of the bench, 1-2 blocks a game and continue to develop into an integral piece in the Laker’s bid to return to championship glory.

 

Thomas Bryant

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The Indiana University power forward/ center Thomas Bryant certainly turned heads during his Summer League debut. He possesses a motor similar to Julius Randle, grabbing rebounds and finishing powerfully at the rim on putbacks. He also can shoot the three which was the reason Magic and Rob really wanted him. The Lakers scored him through a trade down with Utah Jazz for two lower first round draft picks. This was the 28th pick they initially earned from the Nets in the D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov trade. Not bad. Thomas Bryant still enters into that crowded frontcourt and with Kyle Kuzma being most likely to crack the rotation first, he may have to wait his turn. Again, if Walton wants to go deep into his bench, Bryant may see perhaps a couple minutes to show what he can do. My expectations for Bryant is to soak up as much knowledge as he can and can provide a defensive and “energy guy” spark when his number is called.

 

Alex Caruso

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Alex Caruso played his way into the hearts of the Lakers fans and the Lakers brass during Summer League, putting together some solid performances in place of the injured Lonzo Ball. His ability to hit the three and play a relatively clean game positioned as a reliable backup point guard. His height also gives him the ability to see over defenders to make great passes. We won’t go so far as to call him a hidden gem, but he did earn a two-way contract with the Lakers. Having said that, Caruso will most likely be a valuable contributor to the South Bay Lakers with his ear to the phone in case any of the backup point guards ahead of him get injured. Now let’s not rule out the fact that neither Ennis or Hart are guaranteed favorites over Caruso. He is in a similar boat of fighting to crack the rotation, but will probably have less of a chance than the aforementioned guards.

 

Vander Blue

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Being a G-League MVP is a lofty honor but doesn’t guarantee NBA success. However, Vander Blue at times seemed unstoppable in Summer League as he put up big numbers. Blue is a scorer if nothing else. He has the ability to create his own shot, although his finishing ability can improve drastically. Once he does clean that up and plays within the offense with a little more discretion, he can become a “microwave” type player off of the bench. Within this Lakers team, I find it very difficult for him to crack the rotation. Shooting guard is very crowded behind KCP and JC. This will be more of a wait and see situation. Given the minutes, Vander can be an instant offense kind of guy. I’d look for him to make another bid for his second G-League MVP (or first since it was D-League before)

The Lakers’ rotation may look like this for this coming season:

Starters from 1 – 5: Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Brook Lopez

Bench rotation: Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Luol Deng, Ivica Zubac, *Kyle Kuzma, *Tyler Ennis, *Thomas Bryant

*depends on how deep they go into their rotation

So there you have it, folks! If these Lakers individually meet or exceed expectations, this team will surprise the league and make strides towards contention heading into a very exciting 2018 offseason. Stay tuned!

 

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The Unfair Expectations of the Young Lakers

May 3, 2017

The Los Angeles Lakers have finished their first official rebuild season with Luke Walton at the helm. They cleaned house and brought in Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka in place of Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak. After a marginal improvement of 9 wins from last year and another lottery season, the question now looms whether or not these current Lakers can bring the purple and gold back to the NBA supremacy we’ve grown accustomed to.

Expectations were pretty decent for Julius Randle before he broke his leg in his Laker debut 2 seasons ago. They really skyrocketed for the highly touted number 2 pick D’Angelo Russell. They are definitely up there for their next number 2 pick the following season, Brandon Ingram. Sprinkle that with very wise picks (can’t hate on Mitch too much) Larry Nance Jr, Jordan Clarkson and Ivica Zubac and undrafted big man Tarik Black and you’ve got a young and talented squad.

But not talented enough to win championships. So can the Lakers faithful wait? Are they screaming, “superstar or bust”? 

Well let’s be honest, if the Lakers can manage to keep much of their core and bring in a superstar, we’re all for it. Paul George is obviously in the discussion. Free agents coming up include Gordon Hayward, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Kyle Lowry. Of course, you run the risk of getting a highly paid albatross contract that eats up your young core’s minutes and still can’t get the Lakers to be championship contenders.

So what about this young core? If they are not what they should be, and the perennial superstar doesn’t come waltzing through the door this off-season, then what? We wait. 

I believe this team is worth the wait and that expectations are unfair. Kobe Bryant did not become the Kobe we know and love for a few years. In his first three years he averaged less than 20 points. Furthermore he was surrounded by the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Eddie Jones, Nick Van Excel, Robert Horry– to name a few. He was also on a winning team, even winning 61 games at one point under Del Harris. Therefore, while Kobe was becoming Kobe, he was not counted on to lead the Lakers. Lastly, these Lakers were not rebuilding. This new group lacks any dominant veterans, is rebuilding and the pressure to become great lies squarely on the shoulders of Russell and company. Russell is entering his third year, Randle is technically entering his 3rd year and Ingram his 2nd. Using the Kobe logic, they should be doing some major damage in maybe a year or two. Or not. Either way, now is too early to expect greatness from this team.

Having said that, a healthy injection of veteran talent via a Kyle Lowry or Paul George can be great for a young core. That would propel this young team closer to the squads that Kobe played on as he became the official Black Mamba. As I’ve said before, this team is filling seats so the fans know they have something special. We also know that great players are created in the off-season. Magic said he expects his players to be in top shape coming into training camp. Perhaps they jump the learning curve going into next season. 

This Lakers team needs to see a vast improvement this year and next year as a collective. Individually, Clarkson is the “vet” going into his fourth year and should breakout. Russell and Ingram appear on the cusp of breaking out as well. Randle has addressed what he wants to work on. Bottom line is, the fans need to understand where this team is and be patient. Expectations will need to be tempered as they inch closer and closer back to basketball royalty.

Lakers Optimism? Of Course!

April 16, 2017

Brandon Ingram flushes the dunk on Pau Gasol

At the beginning of this Lakers season, promising a fresh start and a new culture, nobody thought we’d be back here again. Where is here? Pulling out the tanks and cheering the Lakers on openly, while quietly (well not so quietly. Have you SEEN Twitter?) praying for losses in order to keep their draft pick. 

Lakers finished the season 26-56, winning 9 games more than last year. However, as we tend to look at the present, that’s just AWFUL. The Lakers yet again will miss the playoffs for 4 straight years. So we can’t overlook the obvious. The Lakers still stink from a record and competing standpoint. 

So where’s the optimism?

Assuming the Lakers increase by 9 wins each year.

Let’s first look at trends. Am I reaching? Perhaps. The Lakers finished the season under Luke’s first year +9 in wins. If this trend was to continue, logically the Lakers would be official contenders by 2019. Even before then they would start to reach that playoff bubble by 2018 and be much more fun, competitive and tolerable by next season. 

We know that late in the season there were some very pivotal changes that took place which could very well increase that +9 win total.

1. New Regime: Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss were both unceremoniously booted from leadership and replaced with former sports agent Rob Pelinka and Lakers legend and saavy buinessman Magic Johnson. Immediately after Magic took the reins as head of basketball operations, he traded 6th man Lou Williams to Houston for a 1st round pick. They have gotten behind Luke Walton as the coach for many years to come and touted Brandon Ingram as their future superstar. Evidence of that is their refusal to trade him even for Demarcus Cousins.

2. The Emergence of the Youth: Once the Lakers surrendered to the lack of playoff contention, the youth movement began. The guys got BUSY. Brandon Ingram’s scoring numbers shot up, D’Angelo Russell put up big numbers and career highs. Ivica Zubac put up career high numbers, David Nwaba made a name for himself defensively and the kids just got better. The Lakers ended the season 5-1 in their last six games and featured some of the best highlights you would ever see from a losing team. Kobe Bryant is expected to work with Brandon Ingram this summer, and it would appear that all of Lakers players intend to improve over the summer.

Tank talks now aside, the Lakers have the 3rd worst record in the league and the potential to get a top 3 pick in what has been considered by many experts and scouts to be a loaded draft class. They will either add another strong piece in the draft or at least add a promising young prospect later in the first round if they lose out on the lottery. Remember that their draft pick is top 3 protected and could go to the Sixers if it falls to 4th or lower.

Unknowns remain, such as what kind of free agent, if any, the Lakers can entice. Nick Young has a player option and has expressed that he’d like be on a playoff contender next season. Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng did not meet expectations. Are they still a part of the Lakers future? Can one of the young Lakers have a breakout year next season?

One thing for sure, the summer once again remains very exciting and expect the Lakers to be newsworthy all summer long. These Lakers impressed the league and have put them on notice. That early successful start before the injuries was no fluke. Expectations will only rise. 

The question is will expectations be fulfilled.

Stay tuned.

Why These Tough Lakers Times are Very Different Than the Previous Years (@SpectrumSN @lakersreporter)

January 26, 2017

I know. The Lakers are 17 games under .500 and suffered the worst loss of the season to the worst team in the Western Conference a few days ago. They have one of the worst defenses in the league and can’t seem to string together consistent effort on the court. 

This may lead some of the Lakers faithful and experts to go, “How is this any different than last year? Or the year before that and the one before that? We still stink!”

I’ll give you that. At 16-33, there is good reason to consider this another awful lottery year with no hope in sight. However, there are plenty of reasons to see this much differently and even more reason to believe that this team will only get better AND faster than you think.

Here are the differences between this year and previous years:

 1. Not Trying to Win with Declining Stars: The Lakers in years past were working with a declining post-Achilles injury Kobe, an ailing Steve Nash and a mashup supporting cast that featured other declining stars including Carlos Boozer. They possessed vets that were not game-changing and young players that would warm the bench on other teams. Mike D’antoni faced this issue following Dwight’s dismissal of the Lakers brass along with that injury bug. Byron tried to build with Randle and Clarkson, but there was still the glaring Kobe effect, Boozer was a disappointment and he outright did not know how to coach Jeremy Lin. Kobe’s final year was unanimously considered a full on circus with the farewell hoopla to add insult to injury. Now the Lakers possess a group that is centered around rising stars who will only get better. Players like Brandon Ingram, D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle, to name a few, have high ceilings. Growing into contenders is a united focus from top to bottom and nothing else. Therefore losses are expected and almost welcome as they become learning opportunities. Nobody likes losing, but it makes more sense now. 

2. The Coach of the Future: Long before a promising and eye-catching 10-10 start, Coach Luke Walton said that he would not measure this team’s success by wins and losses. It would be more measured by whether or not they buy into and implement what the coaching staff is trying to accomplish on the court. Therefore, even as they deal with losses piling up, this is still the right coach for the job. The team has developed a respect for Luke and staff as evidenced by their effort early in the season and in spurts as of late. It is also reflected in their attitudes towards him. D’Angelo Russell has not complained when benched in the 4th quarter. He’s gotten Nick Young to play defense and has the team together even as they face these losses. The biggest blows to the team were injuries, youth and actually, success. 

3. Chemistry with the Young Core Has Improved and Will Continue to Improve: The team that loses together will win together. The Lakers’ young core have all made substantial improvements in their numbers from last year to this year, and Brandon Ingram and Ivica Zubac have moved up the learning curve quickly during their rookie years. We know some players can have a softmore jinx or start to plateau too early, but many of the players like Larry Nance Jr. and D’Angelo Russell have high ceilings and as a collective unit, they will become even stronger. You have to consider that the rookie and youthful mistakes will begin to dwindle as time progresses. One would hope this happens sooner than later. Examples of this are the OKC Thunder and Golden State Warriors’ recent core that became dominant over a few years after forgettable playoff-less seasons.

So even as they get pummeled by some teams, get close and then can’t hit shots at the end, and surprise the top contenders and pull upsets, we have to look at this season differently. We also look at it with the same cautious optimism. Certain shots that miss will start to go in. Defensive breakdowns will occur less and less and focus will remain for more than a few quarters.

Get used to it, fans. This is a rebuild and the foundation has been laid quite nicely.

Off-Season Decisions: Who To Keep?

June 5, 2016

Decisions, decisions! The Lakers brass have to know that they can’t keep everybody on this roster– nor would they WANT to.

The Lakers know for sure that they have a young core that will receive a #2 draft pick to add to it. They intend to dip into that 60 million plus to pick up some quality free agents or a big fish (i.e. Durant, Whiteside). With all that in mind, the Lakers had some players that were bright spots in a dark season. They had some let-downs and some guys that simply felt the sting of an awkward Kobe-farewell riddled season. There are also guys that have overstayed their welcome wearing the purple and gold.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way. We know that Anthony Brown is staying. Jordan Clarkson wants to stay. Kobe is gone. Nance, Randle and Russell are here for the long haul.

So we have for sure Brown, Clarkson, Russell, Nance and Randle.

So let’s talk about the remaining 9 Lakers on the fringe. Let’s discuss who the Lakers should try to keep and who they should trade, waive or just not resign.

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Brandon Bass was the most consistent player on this team. He was a bully in the post and cleaned the glass night in and night out. He also did a pretty decent job on defense. He probably had a career year and can be a perfect bench piece for a championship team. The problem with Brandon Bass is the Lakers have that in Tarik Black who just couldn’t find the minutes due to the logjam at that position.

Verdict: I don’t think Bass wants to return anyway. However, it might be better to make room for Tarik Black to fill that role with the rest of the young core. 

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Tarik Black was pretty efficient as an undersized center in Byron’s first year as Lakers head coach. However he somehow managed to get in Scott’s doghouse for much of the following season. He also lost minutes in favor of Brandon Bass and Julius Randle. Black showed much of the same offensive and defensive prowess as Bass. He is a terrific finisher off pick and rolls and has a great motor. The question with Black is can he pickup where he left of the season before last and add some outside shooting to his repertoire. Playing under Luke Walton in a more fast-paced offense can lead to many highlight dunks.

Verdict: Lakers should keep Black and hopefully Luke will find a way to work him into the rotation as a key component of this young core.

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Roy Hibbert was brought in to adress a dire need for a rim protector. Byron’s instructions were to rebound and defend. What he didn’t know was that he would be forced to make up for an awful perimeter defense that allowed consistent dribble penetration. Hibbert was forced to help while receiving no help himself. He was not asked to be a featured scoring option so we can’t blame him for that. Nor can we blame him for being just a few years past his prime as he got schooled consistently by the Whitesides and Deandres on a nightly basis.

Verdict: I’d let him go and either see what you can get on the free agent market or who on your roster can fill that role as center.

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Marcelo Huertas dazzled us with pretty passes and intelligent plays during the pre-season. Then he went into Scott’s doghouse in favor of defense, before returning to pre-season form and finishing the year strong. He has a calming and cerebral approach similar to the great Steve Nash. He definitely has a place in the NBA. Pop is probably waiting for Lakers to drop the ball on this guy. The problem with Marcelino is he can be somewhat of a liability on defense (Like Steve Nash). However, that can be trumped by how he can potentially feast in Luke’s system.

Verdict: Make sure you keep this kid. He can and will be a part of a competitive NBA team.

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Ryan Kelly had his best year under D’antoni as a stretch four. Byron took the reigns and tried the failed experiment of placing him at the five. In Byron’s last year Kelly started the pre-season attacking the basket and looking really good. Defensively challenged, he was forced out of the rotation and never really recovered. At his best he is a stretch four that can finish at the rim. At his worst he is a poor shooter and a so-so defender. The problem with Kelly is do we wish to play the game and see which one shows up?

Verdict: With the Lakers loading up on bigs through the draft and free agency, it’s time to move on from this kid and see if a change of scenery will do him some good (And let’s hope that doesn’t come back to bite us).

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Robert Sacre plays his heart out. He fights on defense, he has a decent jumpshot and uses all six of his fouls on defense. He’s a locker room guy. The problem is has he peaked? Is this all there is? What can Luke do with this kid to make him a solid contributor?

Verdict: I was surprised last year when he was still on the team. It’s time to let him try his luck with another team.

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Lou Williams is a beast.  He lit up OKC for over 40 points and shouldered much of the scoring load consistently throughout the year when healthy. The former 6th man of the year made a bid for future star of LA, post-Kobe. He has a killer jump shot and can create his own shot. He couldn’t truly be the man sharing the spotlight with Kobe. I see no downside with Lou, other than whether or not he wishes to be a part of a rebuild once more.

Verdict: Along with Marcelo Huertas, he can really light it up off the bench. Under Luke Walton and under normal circumstances, Lou can return to bid for 6th man of the year. Try to keep him.

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Metta World Peace was kept as an on the floor coach and locker room mentor. However, when he went in the game the complexion on defense changed. He still has it. Although offensively he’s seen better days. Of course I never could understand why Scott never just stuck him in the post to bully the smaller weaker 3’s on the opposing teams. Metta is defense and can be a locker room mentor for this young team. The problem is do you have space to keep him there?

Verdict: This is tough. Invite him to training camp and see what you have when it’s time to make cuts. He still has a couple good years in him in short bursts off the bench and provides a player with championship experience.

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Nick Young never could find his footing with coach Byron Scott to say the least. Not sure who’s fault that was. Then they were losing. Then D’Angelo Russell happened. Now the Lakers are faced with a few questions. One, is he and Russell going to be able to coexist? Two, can he clear the baggage from his head and return to Swaggy P form? Three, can his fire-at-will game fit Luke’s strategy? At his best, Nick can light it up. But will Luke have Nick and Lou work together off the bench or do they have to pick one or the other (hint: it would be Lou).

Verdict: If you can’t ship him out in a package deal with Kelly and Sacre, let’s see what Luke can conjure up to make him an integral part of this new era.

So there you have it. Most likely heading into training camp I see the following team:

Anthony Brown – SF
Jordan Clarkson – SG/PG
D’Angelo Russell – PG
Julius Randle – SF/PF
Larry Nance Jr. – PF/C
Tarik Black – PF/C
Marcelo Huertas – PG
Lou Williams – SG
*Metta World Peace – SF
*Nick Young – SF/SG

*tentative

The Lakers will not be done seeking deals and adding free agents. This will look much different before training camp begins. Stay tuned.

It’s an exciting off-season as the Los Angeles Lakers try to right the ship and return back to winning ways.

Post-Kobe…and So Far it Looks Good!

May 26, 2016

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Well folks, we finally say goodbye to the worst Lakers season in HISTORY. This season started with a somewhat unexpected Kobe retirement announcement and ended with a Kobe 60 point ending. But the Lakers managed only a 17-65 lottery earning season.

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The season featured the development of 2nd round draft pick D’Angelo Russell, 2nd year “rookie” Julius Randle and softmore Jordan Clarkson amid celebrating the Kobe retirement tour. Coach Byron Scott attempted to navigate such a conundrum, and Mitch Kupchak stated that he did a good job— before firing him.

Nobody really wishes to relive this horror story of a season, so let’s move on. The fact of the matter is the Lakers have quickly moved from the NBA’s punching bag to a team on their way back to the hated winners we all are used to. Within a matter of about a month the Lakers had a combination of choices, circumstances and luck that set the stage for a quick turnaround. Here are following things that are very promising for your beloved Los Angeles Lakers.

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1. Kobe retires: Mamba out. I can’t stress enough how HUGE this is. Last season was an anomaly of sorts because Kobe was in and out of the lineup to preserve him to the end of the season. When Kobe was in the game, Kobe was going to still be Kobe for better or for worse. And while Kobe was noble in his efforts to teach the kids, the rookies’ development somewhat took a backseat. Furthermore, the gaping hole that Kobe leaves is what presents the biggest benefit. The team is now crying for an alpha male to take over the franchise. This player will no longer have to defer to anyone. This also leaves the Lakers with a fresh start mentality that goes a long way. Lastly, this hole can be very appetizing to a free agent looking to fill such a gap on a storied franchise such as the Lakers. Not to mention, the millions that they now have to potentially pay that max player if they choose. Here’s to new beginnings. I can’t leave this section without saying thank you, Kobe for everything!!!!

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2. Lakers part ways with Byron Scott. Even if Byron didn’t see this coming, I think a lot of fans and sports analysts did. I read a great article that did a great job pointing out how Byron was fired for doing exactly what was expected of him this year. Perhaps he was the right guy to manage this team under the circumstances. His job was to develop the youth and get Kobe through the season. He wasn’t told to win at all costs. However, all that aside, one can argue that this Lakers team which features the future tandem of Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell is not looking forward to starting this new era under Byron Scott’s tough love regime. Lastly, it just made sense that this new era begins completely anew. Remove the stains of the previous two forgettable seasons. Fair? No. Necessary? Yes. Magic didn’t necessarily rejoice like he did when D’antoni was let go, but I’m sure he knew this was necessary.

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3. Lakers hire Luke Walton. Luke Walton became an instantly sought after coach after guiding Golden State’s historic start as Steve Kerr was recovering from surgery. He is widely known as someone whose basketball mind would lead him to being a great coach some day. He’s a young likable guy who can embrace the current direction the game is going while having been a part of winning organizations in Los Angeles and Golden State. Okay. He’s unproven. He has no true head coaching experience. So why is his hiring such a big deal? Because he’s fresh and new, he knows basketball, the young players like him already and and he represents the new era. He will also reportedly be joined by lead assistant coach Brian Shaw. Lastly, he’s Luke Walton. Get excited.

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4.  Lakers get the #2 pick. After sitting in front of the television sweating bullets, the Lakers survived the lottery and kept their second pick. This puts them in the running to pick up a rookie that can help them immediately. Ben Simmons is picked to be the next LeBron while Brandon Ingram is considered to be the next Durant. Okay, we’re jumping ahead of ourselves, but the Lakers are poised to add another piece to the new era puzzle (or trade it which I doubt).

These factors put the Lakers in an excellent position to start heading in the right direction.  These small moves have resulted in an immediate upgrade. 

Stay tuned as we watch the Lakers prepare for the new post-Kobe era. Once again we start anew and the Lakers Optimist is ready!

Great Lake-spectations

August 22, 2015

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Alright folks we are on the verge of training camp, pre-season the 2015-2016 NBA season. The Los Angeles Lakers have once again retooled and yet again, nobody expects anything out of purple and gold.

The funny thing is, they are not necessarilly basing thier opinion on how bad the Lakers are, as opposed to how good the West is. Okay, but let’s look at it differently. Let’s actually take a look at these Lakers.

The pundits, stars-or-bust fans and Lakershaters can confidently say before every season that the Lakers will suck because there are “too many questions.” How illogical is that? If there are too many questions then how does that lead you to make a definitive answer? Secondly, they continue to overlook the fact that the Lakers have not been fully healthy since the year they were eliminated by Dallas in the second round! My favorite part is where they say even if healthy they would have still been just as bad. Based on what facts or sample size? Much like any other team in the league, your success is banked on the fact that a large percentage of your key players are HEALTHY enough to make a substantial contribution (see OKC and Pacers) The healthiest team wins the ring.

I just had to get that off my chest for what it’s worth. So what do the Lakers have this year? Lakers have a combination of untapped youth potential, budding stars, recent all-stars and effective veterans— and Kobe.

Looking at their potential starting five, let’s just assume that this team can develop chemistry quick enough to eek out some wins as they are learning to gel. In the middle at the 5 is Roy Hibbert. Roy is an elite defender and is chiefly responsible for the defensive prowess in Indiana. Roy’s expectation is to defend and to remove the swiss cheese defense plaguing the Lakers over the last few years. Byron will have him on the block to rebound and catch and dunk as needed. For the first time since the botched Dwight experiment, they have a true center. Major upgrade.

Hibbert will share the frontcourt with our number 4, Julius Randle. Julius is now back. Julius posseses mini-LeBron capabilities as a one man fast break. He creates contact and can get to the paint in a hurry. Offensively he is expected to control that area just around that free throw line and below. He is also a decent passer out of double-teams. His deciding factor is finishing consistently at the rim and hitting that mid-range jumper. His brand of bully ball should help him grab plenty of rebounds as well.

Small forward, the 3, has been a questionable area for Lakers. I like that Kobe will be manning that wing spot. Kobe will find himself in the post and on the recieving end of some passes to hit some open threes as well. From that vantage point he can still create closer to the basket rather than bringing the ball upcourt. We know Kobe, so expect great. Period. Defensively this will be a concern and a question of matchups from night to night. However the Lakers have shored up this position to give Kobe a break with Nick Young, Lou Williams, Anthony Brown and Johnathan Holmes, all possibilities to fill this spot.

Alternating most likely at the 4 and 5 are 2nd pick D’angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson. D’angelo has already been touted for his playmaking ability and shooting. He is going to make several mistakes which is why it’s great that 2nd year softmore Jordan “Fearless” Clarkson will share point guard duties. Clarkson has become a deadly paint attacker and pretty effective from outside. He also is a very good finisher and rebounder. Your wings can pretty much be Clarkson and Bryant. As a backcourt, expect glimpses of a dangerous duo in Clarkson and Russell. Defense will be a question, but the instant youth injection can boost Lakers perimeter defense on athleticism alone and allow them to stay in front of the ball much better to keep Hibbert from doing too much bailing out.

The defense will get better, how much better will remain to be seen. However, offensively, there will be two guards essentially able to get to the basket and hit the open three. Also they can set the table for each other, as well as Kobe, Randle and Hibbert down low. Kobe will have that post and will feast in that area. Randle will also be a bully on the block and in that mid-range. Hopefully Russell and Clarkson can effectively space the floor by hitting open threes. Spacing within Bryon’s offense is key so defenses will have to remain honest. Lakers potentially can have quite a few weapons.

Oh yeah that bench! Potential gunners working side by side are newly signed Lou Williams and Swaggy P himself, Nick Young. Brandon Bass will bring toughness on defense and a good jumpshot. Lakers also have another potential standout guard in Jabari Brown who showed flashes of point guard brilliance. Tarik Black is almost a shoe-in for backup center for Hibbert and is just tenacious on both ends. Lakers have also picked up big man Jeremy Tyler and guard Michael Frazier. Lakers have shored up their three point shooting this year.

It’s funny nowadays that to assume health and chemistry for the Lakers is to assume alot, but to assume doom gloom and 26 wins before the first tip-off isn’t.

Well this team right here, regardless of the way the West looks, is a very solid team that will only get better. I do expect no less than 40 wins– MINIMUM. In April they will compete for 7th or 8th. That’s honestly in my opinion being modest.

So I guess I’m saying ESPN doesn’t know what they are talking about.

But remember, I’m The Lakers Optimist.

Byron Scott to Make Lakers Starting Lineup Changes: Who’s In, Who’s Out?

December 7, 2014

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Coach Byron Scott ponders lineup changes.

Newsflash. Lakers still stink. They show quick glimpses of hope by way of a few wins and then they go back to losing. They have dry spells, 3rd quarter lapses and 4th quarter meltdowns. They have minimal help for Kobe on offense, their defense creates layup lines, players look disinterested at times and Byron Scott has had enough.

So guys gotta sit the bench.

But is this going to work? It’s certainly worth a try. The Lakers for the first time in a couple years has had the benefit of starting lineup consistency and have squandered it. This lineup is bad, real bad– Michael Jackson (#kanye)!

Let’s look at it this way. If Byron is truly in harmony with Lakers management, which I think is true, players should take note when coach benches you. This should create an urgency to earn your minutes or be benched, waived or traded. This is important because the concern with benching players is this drops morale and can create friction and negative energy. Management needs to back the coach. Because this is necessary. They are losing bad! You’d hope players are on board with doing anything for the team.

So how should Byron do this? Who’s benched? I’m on the edge of my seat and here’s what I hope for.

Lin is NOT the starting point guard. Everyone has said it. He and Kobe cannot coexist. Mainly because Lin can’t be alpha dog mentality with Kobe. He won’t. That’s not his persona on a consistent basis. So chemistry suffers. Defensively, he’s still not quite there either. He’s not that dude. So somebody has to replace him. In pre-season Price and Kobe did well because Price simply set Kobe up. Price doesn’t feel pressure and didn’t seem to cave in to it. Upgrade? Not really but it also gives Lin an opportunity to run the offense in that second unit.

Carlos Boozer is NOT the starting power forward! Mainly this is a defensive issue. The fouls, the getting beat on defense, it’s becoming an issue. Maybe he’s not working well with Kobe either. Something is lacking though. He needs to join the bench mob. I love the Lin – Davis connection, so perhaps it’s time to put Sacre at center and move Hill to power forward. I also am for Davis starting too. This actually helps Kobe and Hill with Davis being the big man down low and Hill and Kobe with the mid-range game. Either move will help defensively. How Booz will take it? I don’t know but it’s necessary that he finally take a seat. (Wish Randle was here).

Wesley Johnson was given ultimate trust by Byron Scott and we didn’t see that new Wesley. Wesley Johnson is NOT the starting small forward. Purely for that inconsistent play. With Lin going to the bench, you can either have Lin and Young on the wings on that bench, or bring Young in as starting small forward. The Lakers need energy in the starting lineup AND consistency. Now Swaggy P has been known to falter a bit as a starter, so I’m on the fence about this. Kobe can also move to small forward to replace Johnson, inserting Ellington to the 2. No matter what Johnson is going to join the bench mob.

The only two guys guaranteed a starting position are Kobe Bryant and Jordan Hill. I’d be shocked and disappointed if I didn’t see 3 new guys alongside them.

I’m also not opposed to Byron developing his youth. Maybe we bring Roscoe Smith and Jordan Clarkson from the D-league and give them some minutes. Also, sign Earl Clark immediately as another small forward option.

Chemistry and wins also develop faster with better players. Lakers are mum about trades but I’m sure there’s something on the horizon. It’s not like Byron has a plethora of options to choose from. Overall they don’t have players that would ever really start on a championship contender. Grant it, any player can shine given the opportunity. This is what we have left to hope for in the case of our beloved Lakers, that somebody steps up.

With the Lakers being this horrible right now, there is still nowhere else to go but up. Let’s start with the starting lineup and see if Byron can at least find a competitive combination and go from there becase you just don’t get killed by the Boston Celtics!

Fire D’antoni?

March 8, 2014

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Well if you’re a Lakers fan, in a basketball level, my heart goes out to you. This season the Lakers have broken records. However most of these records are not good records. This is historically the worst season ever. Pouring salt in the wounds, the Clippers gave them their worst beating ever en route to possibly being NBA champs this year (I think I threw up in my mouth a little).

Easy answer. Blame D’antoni. Fire D’antoni. We should have hired Phil. Let me be the first to say I was thoroughly upset when they chose him. Why? Because I knew from past experience watching the Suns that HE DOESN’T COACH DEFENSE. Phoenix’s plan was to run, attack, hit threes and layups and make every opponent pay for every missed shot, every turnover.

Here’s why it worked.

First of it’s kind. Small ball took every other team by surprise because outside of maybe the Sonics, everybody else was old school balling. Run and gun was not the norm. And no team in those years were equipped to compete without running out of gas.

Great players. Nash, Stoudemire, Marion, Barbosa. D’antoni had the right pieces at the right time to pull this of. He had bonafide athletes who can shoot lights out and finish at the rim. With the opposing teams on their heels and not able set defense, they would literally get run out if the building!

Defense was not emphasized because offense was clicking and the pace of the game left offenses out of sorts. But D’antoni also had defensive minded players with active hands like Raja Bell who didn’t need defensive coaching.

During the season.

We all knew what beats this team. What their Achilles heel was. What kept him from ever getting a ring. Phil knew even when his team was the lowly eighth seed.

Slow it down. Force halfcourt ball. Utilize your big men. Make them play real defense. Lakers almost pulled an upset this way but didn’t have the skillset or discipline to completely pull it of. Poppovich and those Spurs did. Tim Duncan. Paint dweller. Small ball loses.

In a seven game series defense wins rings.

After a few years the rest of the league caught up. Now they were all running some hybrid of Mike’s system. These teams have true athletes. Thunder, Heat, Nuggets, Warriors. Now you can’t just out score them. You can’t out run then. You also have to stop them.

D’antoni never coached defense. That doesn’t mean he didn’t think it necessary. What coach is that foolish? D’antoni never needed to. So that isn’t his strong suit.

Fast forward. The current team he has are not great athletes who are dead eye shooters. Furthermore they are not defensive minded. They compete with other teams with the same or better shooting ability and the outcome is the Lakers score about 103 and allow the opponent to score 110.

Now he must coach defense. Not energy. Defense. Defensive strategy. X’s and O’s. Problem.

But the train wreck of 2013-2014 can’t all be blamed on coach D (pun intended). 

We have one main reason the jury is still out on firing D’antoni.

Injuries.

It’s impossible to say even the great Zen master can guide a team missing this many players for such a long time to any kind of success. No Kobe, no Nash, at times no Gasol. Down to where your bench starts the game. The most starting lineup changes I’ve ever seen. This leaves Lakers with a sloppy roster mashup and chemistry issues that make it hard to evaluate a coaching performance.

The elephant in the room is that the Lakers either cannot or do not play defense. The other elephant in the room is the injuries.

That loss to the clippers didn’t help D’antoni in any way. I don’t care how injured your team is.

The question is simple. Given the desired circumstances of having at least a healthy Kobe and company, keeping the young stars of tomorrow from this team, picking up some quality players in the draft and free agency, is D’antoni the proven guy?

I don’t have enough evidence to say yes. Although I can’t blame it on this season. That wouldn’t be fair. This season didn’t give D’antoni a fair opportunity to prove otherwise.

But here’s the issue. CAN HE COACH DEFENSE? Furthermore, does Lakers management have the patience to wait and run the D’antoni experiment again?

If Mitch decides that defense is the bigger elephant in the room than injuries and that he cannot wait, everybody in LakerNation will get their wish granted.

Fire D’antoni.