After another poor season, the Los Angeles Lakers will look to improve on their 26-win season. The team drafted Lonzo Ball No. 2 overall, who has since been labeled the “Face of the Franchise” by President of Basketball Operations, Magic Johnson. The off-season saw the Lakers acquire two key players, as well as trading away a young star. Brook Lopez and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope should play a big role this season, with the team moving on from 2015 No.2 overall pick D’Angelo Russell. This Lakers team will experience growing pains this season, as this is a roster with a lot of growing to do. Baby steps Lakers fans, baby steps. Here is the 2017-18 Los Angeles Lakers season preview.
Countdown to NBA Tip-Off: Los Angeles Lakers Season Preview
What Worked Last Season
As a team, the Lakers did a lot of growing last season. Then rookie Brandon Ingram made strides towards the end of the season; playing time and an emphasis on getting him more involved helped the promising forward leave his mark on his rookie season. A slow start from Ingram had some worried, but a jump in PPG would leave Lakers fans feeling encouraged.
Last season, the Lakers bench thrived all season long. Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and Ivica Zubac led the way, alongside the now Clipper Lou Williams. Clarkson failed to develop like the team expected, but he remained consistent off the bench. Zubac was a surprise, with the second-round pick making his way from the D-League (now G-League) to the NBA sooner than expected. Zubac will be part of a training camp competition between himself and veteran Andrew Bogut.
The Lakers made some good progress last season, from young players making their way in the NBA world to figuring things out behind the scenes. Head coach Luke Walton has a group of players from last season heading into the new season with one key mindset: get better every day. If the Lakers can do that, this young team has a bright future ahead of them.
What Needs Improvement
Defensively, this team was a mess last season. Despite the Caldwell-Pope signing, their youth will cost them again. 28th in points given up, the Lakers lost games solely because of their defensive ineptitude. Caldwell-Pope has a reputation for his competitive defense, but one player does not make a team. Youth is the key to most of their problems, with the defensive struggles at the forefront.
Giving up 111.5 points per game, improvement will come through experience. Ingram has the potential to become an elite defender and Ball has room to grow into a competitive defensive guard. The Lakers have the young pieces in place to become a good team defensively. However, next off-season’s free agency could see the team add one or two elite defenders. That could change the team’s overall attitude going forward.
In what was an interesting off-season, the Lakers added talent in several areas. In free agency, the team signed Caldwell-Pope, a signing that compliments Ball perfectly. To make room, the Lakers traded Russell to the Brooklyn Nets. Lopez would head the other way, in a deal that sent the team in a new direction.
The draft saw the team select four players. Ball, Summer League standout Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and Thomas Bryant. All four players are expected to make the 17-man roster. This was an off-season of change in Los Angeles, which was change for the good. This team is making progress and slowly returning to playoff contention.
Lakers fans are excited about the new season. Ball has been hyped more than any other rookie in recent years. This despite the guard not even being the No.1 overall pick.
The rookie and free agent additions will impact this team in a positive way. Set to appear on national television 23 times this season, a young Lakers team will have plenty of opportunities to impress the NBA audience.
According to LaVar Ball, his son Lonzo has already won Rookie of the Year, so no need to worry about that. In his second year, Ingram will look to be the most improved player; Clarkson has his eyes on the Sixth Man of the Year and the Lakers bench will attempt to have the same impact as last campaign.
Winning 26 games last season, the Lakers should improve this time around. The Western Conference is tough, but the Lakers can win 30-plus games. Expect the Lakers to win between 32-35 games this upcoming season. They will be better, but still short of the playoffs.
LOS ANGELES, USA – JANUARY 08 : Jordan Clarkson (L) of Los Angeles Lakers in action against Nikola Vucevic (C) 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)