The '14-15 Los Angeles Lakers were an awful team. While even awful teams can be entertaining on occasion, last year's Lakers were not one of those occasions. The '15-16 Lakers project to be a different story, thankfully.
The team will still lose more often than they win, but instead of those losses coming in low scoring games on the backs of Ronnie Price, Wesley Johnson, Carlos Boozer, and other veterans with no future with the organization, this team should be fun. With a youth movement in place, a healthy Kobe Bryant in his final season, and just enough veterans to keep the team respectable (on offense at least), these Lakers should offer infinitely more reasons to watch.
But which players will offer the most Vines and highlights for you to enjoy in today's social media fueled NBA experience? I tried to narrow it down using the criteria of being in a high percentage of Lakers' related highlights, providing entertainment on social media, and which players fans appear to be most interested in. Here are the top 10:
Honorable mention to Ryan Kelly, who between his mopping skills:
And completion of the "Kelly Clarkson" dynamic duo with Jordan Clarkson will surely star in a few vines this year. Although they may not always be Lakers highlights:
May Ryan's ankles rest in peace.
10. Roy Hibbert
Hibbert is not what you would call a flashy player. While I do not have stats on this, I would imagine you can count his Sportscenter Top 10 appearances on one hand. With all that said, Hibbert will likely have a few highlight-worthy stuffs at the rim this year, and possibly even a nice dunk or two. His often-hilarious social media presence will also certainly provide a few laughs as well. Plus, he can drink a Gatorade bottle faster than anyone else ever:
9. Robert Sacre
If you have followed the Lakers closely over the last few seasons you know why Robert Sacre is here. It's not for his on the court contributions, but watch this video and tell me don't think he will end up in a few of the best Lakers vines to come out of this season?
Long live the bench dancing king, who with the Lakers' offseason additions will return to his throne (the bench).
8. Tarik Black
For a center listed at a generous 6'9, without hops Tarik Black would be out of a job. Thankfully for Tarik, jumping is something he is able to do quite well, as is blocking shots, as poor Zach LaVine of the Minnesota Timberwolves discovered in Las Vegas Summer League:
LaVine shouldn't feel too bad though. His fellow Timberwolf Gorgui Deng should have warned him that could happen:
Black occasionally uses his athleticism to strong effect on the offensive end as well, like this jam right in John Henson's mug:
Tarik will not play a ton barring injuries, but he should be good for a few backboard pins and posterizations over the 82-game season.
7. Larry Nance, Jr.
Even if Nance was physically unable to jump, his father's high flying exploits would almost grandfather him to a spot on this list. Educate yourself and thank me later:
Luckily for Nance, Jr., he was blessed with his father's athletic gifts, dunking on fools all over the place in college:
"Yeah sure whatever so he dunked on college kids like he can do that kind of thing against NBA players," asks someone who is about to feel really foolish. Here is Nance blocking 2015 Philadelphia 76ers third-overall pick Jahlil Okafor so hard he yelled to the bench that he thought his hand was broken:
With Julius Randle and Brandon Bass taking up most of the available minutes at power forward, Nance will likely spend most of his season in the D-League or on the bench, otherwise he would easily crack the top-five on this list. Wherever/ whenever he does play, fans are likely in for a show.
6. Lou Williams
Going from the human air show that is Larry Nance Jr. to the ground-bound game of the 6'2 Sweet Lou is certainly a jarring transition, but Williams is going to put on a different type of show for the purple and gold. Williams is a pure, cold-blooded scorer, who will show off deep range with no conscience, prodigious foul drawing ability, and a propensity for finishing around the basket. This highlight package against the Miami Heat demonstrates pretty well what the reigning Sixth Man of the Year brings to the table:
And as a sucker for reverse layups, this is one of my favorites from Williams' previous season:
That lack of conscience I mentioned earlier? That can lead to a very different type of Vine, the "hey look at this awful shot with the game on the line" clip:
Like the next name on this list, through the good and bad, Williams will be worth watching and plenty of clips featuring him will be making the rounds during Lakers games.
5. Nick Young
And we have reached the man known as Swaggy P. There may not be another non-star player this side of JR Smith who provokes as much of a reaction on social media as Young. After becoming a fan favorite under Mike D'Antoni, Young turned back into a goat quicker than you can say "Byron Scott" under the Lakers' current head coach.
Even so, Young is sure to have his fair share of both high and lowlights during the '15-16 season. What else would expect from a player who would miss this:
... but make this:
And as far as off the court social media inspired entertainment, I will just leave this here:
(Image credit Business Insider)
Is there a headline you would not believe with Young at this point? He has basically entered "the Tyson Zone."
When watching Young this year, sometimes you will just have to throw up your hands and walk away:
4. Julius Randle
Full disclaimer: as someone who counts Lamar Odom among their favorite players ever and loves watching big men who can handle the ball, ranking Randle fourth on this list was tough. As always, I apologize to Ryan Kelly:
Now that Randle is back he will have a chance to put the rest of the league's power forwards on skates. Additionally, he take the ball full court off of steals:
He has demonstrated a gift for playmaking as well, which he also showed off during Summer League with this slick pass to D'Angelo Russell in transition:
This season is mostly about watching the Lakers' young core grow, and Randle projects to be a big part of that and is definitely a key player to watch this season.
3. Kobe Bryant
Kobe has all but admitted this season will be his "ride out to the sunset," and that alone makes however many games he can play in worth watching. If Bryant's 20th season is indeed his last, this will be fans last chance to see Bryant do things like this:
That's right Lou Williams! You know what you did!
How many other players in NBA history would completely stop play to glare at a ref because they missed a call, and then nonchalantly hit a turnaround. Old-man-I-don't-give-a-[expletive] Kobe has been its own special kind of treat over the last few years.
Even when Bryant does inevitably miss some time, he will still provide plenty of entertainment (and branding #drinkbodyarmor) on Twitter:
Can't win a shootout with a butter knife #letitfly https://t.co/57zWQzqsfg— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) June 10, 2015
As well as from the bench, where even an injured Kobe will still remind hecklers to count his rings:
Watching Kobe Bryant as Clint Eastwood in "Gran Torino" this season, taking care of the Lakers' young players and imparting his wisdom to them is going to be fun. There may be times where he is not impressed with their behavior (shoutout to Nick Young, Carlos Boozer, Jeremy Lin, and Jordan Hill):
But at the end of the season the players will likely be thanking Old Man Bryant for his lessons, to which he will obviously respond:
If we could guarantee Kobe would not miss any time with injuries, he might even soar higher on this list. The entertainment provided by his swan song may just be topped by the flashy previews of the Lakers' future that make up the next two names on this list.
2. Jordan Clarkson
If I had made these rankings for last year's team, Clarkson would have basically been the whole top-ten. Even at the two spot, both in these rankings and probably in the starting lineup, Clarkson is no slouch in the entertainment department, seen here with what was probably the best dunk by a Lakers player last year. A downright Westbrook-ian fury jam against the Oklahoma City Thunder:
Or maybe this one, a detonation on poor Dante Exum:
That was only Clarkson's second best dunk on a Utah Jazz player in 2015, topped by this Summer League K.O. of Jack Cooley that the NBA listed as the top dunk of Summer League:
So yeah, Clarkson can dunk a little bit. He can also use that athleticism to recover on defense after being initially left in the dust, as Bryce Cotton found out:
Jordan should continue to bring excitement to Lakers fans this season. It took the promise of the Laker's highest draft pick in 33 years to knock Clarkson off the top.
1. D'Angelo Russell
Russell's development is probably the most important aspect of the Lakers' season, and what most people will be watching for game-to-game after the team selected him over the consensus "safe" pick Jahlil Okafor. Russell is a flashy player whom the front office and fans surely hope can grow into the type of sweet-shooting point guard mold that has taken over the modern NBA. Russell may have shot poorly as he adjusted during Summer League and could continue to do so, but the rookie has crazy range:
While those are unlikely to become consistent weapons for Russell, he can also hit normal NBA pull up jumpers, even with his long wind up on release:
And Russell's shooting is not even the best part of his game, or at least the most attractive from a quick Vine video perspective. That honor goes to his pinpoint passes, which he can put on the money whether he is looking or not:
Russell's personality will also lead to a few fun off the court moments too, like asking Jordan Clarkson why he didn't finish one of Russell's lob passes during a media scrum:
You can't say D'Angelo doesn't ask the tough questions.
Russell will experience growing pains throughout the season, that much is not in doubt. But he will also bring plenty of highs when he hits an off-the-dribble three or leaves a defender tumbling while trying to recover to their man that he found out of the corner of his eye. D'Angelo is the player the purple and gold's future most rests on, and that is why he will be the most interesting Laker to keep up with over the '15-16 Lakers' season.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter, where Harrison can be found @hmfaigen.