Lakers fans seemingly do not have a lot to be thankful on the court from their team this Thanksgiving, as the purple and gold have been horrific. On the other hand, at least be thankful they don't have to actually attend a theoretical Lakers' team Thanksgiving dinner this year, which would presumably be a nightmare:
- Kobe would refuse to pass any of the sides.
- Based on watching his offensive system, I assume Byron Scott would try and carve the turkey with a plastic spork using his off hand "because that's how champions do it."
- Ryan Kelly would strain a hamstring reaching for his drink.
- Given his frequent screams of "AND ONE!!!!" despite no foul being committed, Boozer would probably scream and bellow for the duration of the meal about the deliciousness of food that was not even being served.
- Ed Davis and Jeremy Lin would hold a nice conversation, until Byron banished Davis to the kids table.
But despite how horrible the 2014 season has been for the Lakeshow, there are still a few reasons for fans to be thankful:
One of the reasons that the Lakers' offense has been able to remain at this level of efficiency has to be the semi-breakout of Ed Davis. As readers of this site have almost surely heard by now, the big man once heralded as Memphis's prize in the Rudy Gay trade has probably been L.A,'s second best player in a breakout campaign. When citing his value in the past, analysts would often cite the former Tarheel's impressive per-36 minutes numbers because of his lack of extensive playing time. Let's take a look at his numbers this season:
The main thing to note from this chart is how much Davis has raised his field goal percentage this year, and how the majority of his other numbers have stayed about the same or slightly improved. For a guy making less than one million dollars this year, Davis has been a steal and may be in line to get paid this summer. As far as fallback options go if the Lakers can't manage to lure a big fish free agent this summer, the front office could do a lot worse than Davis. Or, they could use him as bait at the trade deadline to secure another draft pick if the right suitor comes along. Regardless, Davis playing this well (while still being on restricted minutes behind Carlos Freaking Boozer) is something Lakers fans can be thankful for.
The Standings (or Tank Rankings)
Normally, other teams playing above expectations would be a bad thing for the Lakers, as it would mean tougher competition. Now that it's clear this team will not be sniffing around anywhere near the playoffs, it's better for LA that some of their competitors in the NBA-approved race to the bottom of the standings are winning their way out of better lottery odds. Several teams that were expected to flounder this season (Sacramento, Utah, etc.) have been winning just enough to help the Lakers stay on the inside track to keeping their draft pick (which, unless you have been living under a rock, you know goes to the Phoenix Suns if it falls outside of the top five). While it's not fun as a fan to watch your team go down in flames like this Lakers squad, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, which leads to my next reason for Lakers fans to be thankful this season.
The 2015 Draft Prospects
Many of the the NCAA's finest have been flashing their tantalizing potential early in the college basketball season, making this draft look just as much if not more appealing than last year's. Karl Towns, Jahlil Okafor, and Emmanuel Mudiay (playing in China) make for a very appealing top three, and if the Lakers continue losing at their current rate, they have a very good chance of getting one of that triumvirate or another very talented youngster via their first round pick. Regardless of who the Lakers are to pick, a top-five choice in this draft, to pair along with Julius Randle, gives L.A. an intriguing young core to sell to potential free agents.
And finally, the gravy on top:
The Lakers Are Engorged With Cap Space
The Lakers were already projected to have oodles of cap space the next two offseasons, but now they will have even more so with the projected rise in the cap from the new national TV deal. Combining the room to sign multiple difference makers with an attractive young core, not to mention the other benefits of Los Angeles, gives the Lakers as good of a chance as anyone to sign a few impact free agents.
It's probably too early to responsibly speculate, but the with the Cavaliers struggling, would Kevin Love consider leaving? Right now Oklahoma City is down in the dregs with the Lakers, but they will finish the year much more strongly than they have started it (helping the Lakers lottery odds), but if they miss the playoffs would Kevin Durant become more amenable to leaving the following summer? Even if these two do not come, with all of their space the Lakers would almost surely be able to sign valuable contributors from such a large free agent crop, and that is something to be thankful about in a year without much.
What are you thankful for as a Lakers fan? Let us know in the comments and have a happy Turkey Day everyone.