The Los Angeles Lakers are going into training camp with a very different team than in years past. With head coach Byron Scott gone, and new recruitments in, the Lakers are a different team. With the hiring of Golden State Warriors lead assistant Luke Walton, the Lakers have a head coach who is no stranger to the west coast. Walton played and won NBA Championships with the Lakers. He also filled in as the Warriors head coach for Steve Kerr last season, recording a 43-4 record. Despite the argument being that the Warriors excess of talent could be coached by anyone, Walton showed composure and the ability to coach and control high caliber players. While the new look Lakers don’t have a Stephen Curry or a Kevin Durant, they do have a lot of good second tier players with potential, which includes two of their free agent signings.
The New Look Lakers Will be a Competitive Team
Timofey Mozgov Will Man the Paint
Timfey Mozgov and the Lakers agreed to a hefty 4 year/ 64 million dollar deal within the opening hour of free agency, and the critics have been out to get the Lakers for the signing. Mozgov ended up at the end of the Cleveland Cavaliers bench in the postseason in favor of Tristian Thompson and Channing Frye; however, the year before Mozgov showed what he was capable of.
When the Cavaliers acquired him nearly two years ago, Mozgov was a defensive threat, and a presence in the paint. At his seven foot frame, Mozgov is a defensive backbone and is a player who can be relied on to be effective from that end of the floor every night.
His contract is extremely hefty, but it’s being made out as if Mozgov was the only player that got a massive deal. In the average fan’s mind, is Evan Turner worth $70 million? Is Chandler Parsons worth a max deal? The instant answer to both of those is no, and rightfully so, but NBA free agency isn’t what it was three years ago. With the rising cap, teams have to dish out huge deals to grab players of second and even third tier levels; it’s just the reality. Mozgov’s deal is a questionable one no doubt, but he posesess the exact skill set the Lakers needed at center.
Luol Deng Will Provide a Two-way Presence
In addition to Mozgov, the Lakers made another big financial move by signing former Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng; Deng inked a 4 year/ 72 million dollar deal.
Deng is a complete player. He is most notably a lockdown defender,and a threat from the outside, while also capable of getting to the rim off the dribble. Deng, while 31 years old, is still a two-way threat, and he can serve as a bridge to rookie forward Brandon Ingram.
Ingram was drafted by the Lakers with the number two pick in the draft. Ingram is a top ten talent, but he isn’t ready to start, mostly due to his thin frame. Ingram stands at 6’9″, and 190 pounds. He’s way too skinny to take the pounding in the NBA. Until he puts on weight, and pocesses’ superstar like potential, Luol Deng will start at small forward.
The Lakers were in the headlines due to the high priced signings of Mozgov, and Deng, but they also made two under the radar moves, including re-signing guard Jordan Clarkson.
Clarkson and Calderon will Both Play Key Roles
The Lakers re-signed guard Jordan Clarkson to a 4 year/ 50 million dollar deal. Clarkson played alongside D’Angelo Rusell for much of last year and produced well; that production should increase this season with Kobe Bryant retiring. Clarkson proved to be a scoring threat, a high flyer, and a solid defender. Keeping Clarkson was a no brainer for the Lakers. In addition to keeping Clarkson, the Lakers acquired veteran point guard Jose Calderon.
Calderon was acquired from the Chicago Bulls in a move that paved the way for Chicago to sign Dwyane Wade. Calderon, while on the back nine of his career, and a below average defender, is a very good three point shooter, an efficient free throw shooter, and can serve as a mentor to both Russell and Clarkson.
While not a Contender, the Lakers are Competitive
The Los Angeles Lakers have turned the page to a new chapter in their franchise – the D’Angelo Russell era. Russell now has the keys to the Lakers offense, and it’s his team. Jordan Clarkson will be his backcourt mate for years to come, Julius Randle will get rebounds and finish in the paint, and the reinforcements will provide verteran presences on both ends of the court.
Timofey Mozgov will be the defensive anchor, and like Randle, he will finish in the paint. Luol Deng will be a two-way presence and pave the way for second overall pick Brandon Ingram to start in the years to come. Jose Calderon will severe as a mentor to both D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson. The Luke Walton and D’Angelo Russell-led Lakers are not by any means a Western Conference contender, but they will be a very competitive team that may win between 35 and 40 games this season.