By now, you know the story: this is the worst Lakers team--Los Angeles or Minneapolis--of all time. The 2014-2015 Lake Show sputtered to a final, disgraceful demise last night, losing 122-99 at home to the division rival Sacramento Kings. From the outset, we all knew that this wouldn't be the most ideal season, but then again, for this franchise, anything other than a championship is less than ideal.
There will be a ton of time for reflection and analysis over this long off-season, but for now, let's stick to the basics. Would you consider this season a disappointment?
Tucker Tashjian: Any season where the Lakers don't win a championship is a disappointment. Lakers fans have been extremely fortunate, and spoiled, to have experienced winning teams for most of their lives, until now. The Lakers are at rock bottom, but hopefully hitting this point will bounce the team back into relevancy, rather than having them sink even lower.
Ben Rosales: This season is only a disappointment if we lose our pick. Everything that has happened to this point, from Julius Randle's injury to Byron Scott's awful coaching, is validated if we keep that pick. Without it, the rebuilding process takes a huge blow and all we have to show for this season is Jordan Clarkson's emergence and a handful of distant rotation players (Brown, Black). Needless to say, that would be devastating and certainly move this season into one of the worst, if not the worst in franchise history. At least last year the team was entertaining and we were guaranteed to keep our first rounder.
Harrison Faigen: No. To be disappointed in failure requires expectations of success, which was not something I possessed going into the 2014-15 season. Yes, losing Julius Randle to a broken leg in the first game of the year and Kobe to a torn rotator cuff was a bummer, as was the entire plague of injuries that overtook the locker room.
However, I went into this season hoping for top five draft position, and the Lakers did their part by compiling the fourth worst record in the league. The only disappointment will be if they lose the pick.
Sabreena Merchant: This season was absolutely a disappointment. Any time it hurts to watch the Lakers win games, something's gone terribly wrong.
The Great Mambino: It's all a matter of perspective--after all, how can you be disappointed if this is exactly what you expected? I've been saying for months that this could be the worst team in franchise history. I was right. So from a sense of expectations, I'm not at all disappointed. As a Lakers fan, of course, I'm very disappointed that the trajectory of the team was allowed to dip this low.
Trevor Lane: Definitely. Any time you set the all-time franchise record for worst winning percentage it has to be considered a disappointment. That's not to say the Lakers were expected to be a playoff team, but certainly they were expected to be better than this. We also can't overlook the fact that Byron Scott went into the season predicting how much better the defense was going to be, but the Lakers finished the season 2nd to last in defensive rating, so that was a giant swing and a miss.
Drew Garrison: Yes, but not because of the franchise-worst winning percentage and record. This season was a disaster for three reasons. The first was Julius Randle breaking his leg in Game 1. From that point it was hard to recover as a fan of this team. The second was Kobe Bryant suffering a severe shoulder injury in his shooting arm. Sure, his comeback was a mixed bag, but that was expected. ANOTHER injury to the Black Mamba, though? The final reason this season feels like it bombed is just how poorly Byron Scott performed as head coach. There's tremendous dissent across the roster, and he didn't help matters as a leader of men or basketball coach.
If you thought this season was a disappointment, what would you point to as the one determining factor? If it wasn't, what was the turning point that led the season to success?
Tucker Tashjian: Once Kobe starting shooting with his left hand against the Pelicans in January, I knew something was wrong. After tearing his rotator cuff, his third consecutive season ending injury, I realized that this season's hopes for reaching the playoffs was out of reach. Since then, I've been hanging onto the caboose of the tank-train.
Ben Rosales: Assuming arguendo that the season is disappointing without considering the draft pick status -- not a huge jump, certainly -- it was Randle's injury. So much about this season was supposed to be watching Randle's development offer a beacon of hope among a motley crew of veterans with no future on the team. Clarkson ultimately took up much of the slack here beyond anyone's expectations, but a good part of the Lakers' future is still inexorably tied to how Randle performs.
Harrison Faigen: The rapid development of Jordan Clarkson and the waiver steal that was Tarik Black appear to be the in-season successes, but again, the real success to come out of this season would be retaining a top five selection in the draft.
Sabreena Merchant: The major disappointment of this season was missing out on watching Kobe. We have so little time left to watch him, and it really sucks that we lost another 50-plus games of Kobe. Another lesser disappointment was losing Julius Randle's rookie season, although I'm ready for that to be a blessing in disguise given that the Lakers were in total disarray for much of the year.
The Great Mambino: I wouldn't go so far as to say that this season was a success (61 losses makes it hard to feel good about that), but for what the team was trying to do (rebuild and set up for the future), they certainly achieved their goals. There were several turning points that got them to where they are now, but one in particular had to be in game one with Randle's broken leg. It sent a ripple effect down the roster which included Carlos Boozer, Robert Sacre, Wesley Johnson and Jordan Hill being pressed into duty they weren't ready for.
Trevor Lane: The main factor that led to this season being such a disappointment was injuries. Some of that is luck, but some of it is not managing players minutes appropriately. We used the phrase "out for the season" way too much this year. Of course it will be nice if the Lakers are able to retain their draft pick, but two years in a row of seemingly endless injuries is never a good thing.
Drew Garrison: Nothing took the wind out of my sails more than Randle crumpling to the floor against the Rockets. That's a moment that will stick with me forever. Completely heartwrenching for so many different reasons.
Going into the off-season, are you optimistic about the Lakers going into 2015-2016, or pessimistic?
Tucker Tashjian: Top 5 pick, healthy Kobe, healthy Julius Randle, and a plethora of cap space makes me extremely optimistic that the Lakers can turn it around next season. I believe the team will make the right off-season moves in an effort to make Kobe's final season a strong one.
Ben Rosales: Again, we keep that pick and I'm quite optimistic. That gives the Lakers three very interesting building pieces (Clarkson, Randle, the top five pick) along with young, serviceable bench depth (Kelly, Brown, Black, the rest of their picks this upcoming draft) along with the cap space wherewithal to add a big piece not only this off-season but the next as well. However the Lakers end up dealing with the market (read: as long as they don't sign Rondo), it's hard not to be excited about the prospects of such a core. We'd still be a long way from calling that team a contender by any means, but after all the doom and gloom in LA the last few years, it would be quite the welcome change.
Harrison Faigen: Optimistic. There is no way it can be worse than this year, right? The team will probably be a little better and healthier, we will get to watch Clarkson, Randle, and a few other young guys develop under Kobe in his swan song. Most importantly, given the extreme unlikelihood of the Lakers keeping their pick from Philadelphia given it is only top 3 protected in the 2016 draft, there is no reason to worry about the team getting "too many" wins. Fans can just watch and enjoy the rebuild without worrying about future draft implications. After a year of stressing over every win, what more can you ask for?
Sabreena Merchant: It's hard to be optimistic about the Lakers heading into 2015-16 given just how stacked the Western Conference is. Even if the Lakers nail a top-five pick, recruit a high-quality free agent, and reintegrate a hopefully healthy Kobe, it will be difficult to qualify for the postseason when potentially 12 teams in the West have legitimate playoff aspirations. Lakers fans aren't accustomed to settling for anything less than a playoff berth. I do have significant interest in seeing Jordan Clarkson's sophomore season and the potential of Jabari Brown, Ryan Kelly, and Tarik Black. But after two years of gearing for the future while jockeying for lottery position, I'm ready to see a competitive team (2014-15 Utah-good will suffice) once more. It's been long enough.
The Great Mambino: I'll only have real optimism if the Lakers keep that pick. The key to the off-season, in my mind, is creating a foundation with Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and a top-5 pick. Those three right there will definitely keep me hopeful of the future. Anyone more than that--at a reasonable cost--will just be gravy.
Trevor Lane: I'm assuming the basketball gods won't be cruel enough to rob the Lakers of their pick, so I'm very optimistic. In fact I wrote all about it HERE. With a top-5 pick in hand, a healthy Julius Randle, an ever-improving Jordan Clarkson, and enough cap space to land a difference maker (or two) the Lakers could and should look very different by the start of the 2015-2016 season. The Lakers can really turn things around next season if they can build around a young, exciting core of Clarkson, Randle, a young free agent (aka not Rondo), and the draft pick. Once the perception of the Lakers shifts from a team on the downswing to one that is rising fast they will be a popular landing spot for superstars, and it could happen as soon as the summer of 2016. Additionally, next season there will be no reason to tank, so it's finally going to be safe to root for wins again.
Drew Garrison: Incredibly optimistic, and once the lottery passes and the Lakers (hopefully) retain their pick, I'll be beaming ear-to-ear. I think Trevor did a fantastic job breaking down WHY the future is bright already, so I'll just mention that and say one final thing. Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and that top-five pick might mess around in Las Vegas and become Summer League champions. Especially if you add in Jabari Brown to the picture.