The Los Angeles Lakers are young. Now that may be stating the obvious, but we learned a lot this past season. Heading into the season, fans in Tinseltown expected one rookie to contribute. Brandon Ingram was the No.2 overall pick out of Duke, a selection that had Lakers fans excited. However, the Laker faithful would get more than Ingram this campaign. In the second-round, the Lakers picked Croatian center Ivica Zubac 32nd overall. Few knew who Zubac was on draft night, but now at seasons’ end, some consider the 7’1” center a big part of the teams future.
So with two rookies contributing and playing well, surely things could’t get better? Yet somehow, yet again, the Lakers found another gem. David Nwaba would spend a large amount of the NBA season playing for the Los Angeles D-Fenders. The Lakers would call Nwaba up on February 28th, and the guard would make an instant impact.
Los Angeles Lakers 2016-17 Season: Rookie Review
As a top pick, Ingram had pressure heaped upon him from day one. The Lakers would bench Ingram to start the year, to help combat that pressure. Easing into his role in Los Angeles, the 19 year old forward started to make an impact. Playing with great length, Ingram is strong defensively and is capable of challenging some of the best scorers in the NBA. As the season went on, Ingram became more confident. The lanky forward would average 7.8 points in November, a solid total for a rookie improving every game. When the month of March arrived, Ingram reached the peak of his rookie season. Averaging a much improved 13.5 points per game.
Coming off the bench pre All-Star break, Ingram played 30 minutes in December and 28 minutes in January per game. Now as the season progressed, so would Ingram. In the second half of the season, Ingram would play more and score more. The rookie out of Duke really began to show Lakers fans why the team drafted him so high. It’s clear that Ingram will be a key part of this teams future. Having a young coach and a young roster leads to a lot of growing pains, but the rewards after those troubles could be amazing.
This past off-season Lakers fans expected big things from a big Russian. Timofey Mozgov was signed to a four-year, $64 million deal. Signing long-term, most Lakers fans thought the team landed their starting center for the foreseeable future. This wasn’t the case. Mozgov was a huge disappointment, along with fellow big free agent signing Luol Deng. So with the team and fans desperately searching for a center, the Lakers would go young. Zubac was that guy. The Bosnian born Croatian center stepped in and has fans excited.
Only starting 11 games, Zubac showed great touch and skill around the basket. Post All-Star break, Zubac would take over from Mozgov and play over 20 minutes per game in the final month of the season. Averaging 7.5 points on the season, the talented rookie could be the Lakers center of the future. Only 20 years old, Zubac has tons of potential. Along with Milwaukee Bucks rookie Malcolm Brogdon, Zubac will go down as a second-round steal. The big man’s season may have ended in injury, but expect Zubac to fight Tarik Black for the starting center spot next season.
Now, if Zubac having a good campaign was unexpected then Nwaba’s was nearly impossible. Starting the season in the NBA D-League, Nwaba wasn’t even expected to make an NBA roster. Known for his energetic attitude on the court, Nwaba is a perfect addition to the Lakers back court. Nwaba adds a defensive impact, which helps balance out the Lakers guards. D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Tyler Ennis all play with the opposite attitude. All three look to score and create, where as Nwaba does the scrappy dirty work on the court.
From D-League player to starter at the Staples Center. A huge leap, that Nwaba appears to have taken in his stride. The Lakers signed Nwaba to a two-year contract, keeping him in the purple and gold for the next two seasons.
The Los Angeles Lakers have found three key players for the future. Ingram is potentially a franchise player. Zubac is a young center that the team can grow into a strong starting option. And with Nwaba, the Lakers have a hard working team player, someone every team likes to have. The future is bright in Los Angeles, expect these three to be right there as this team once again becomes a contender.
LOS ANGELES, USA – JANUARY 08 : Tarik Black (L) of Los Angeles Lakers in action against Nikola Vucevic (R) of Orlando Magic during a NBA game between Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic at Staples Center in Los Angeles, USA on January 08, 2017. (Photo by Mintaha Neslihan Eroglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)