ESPN's variety of offseason rankings is about to fire up, with their future power rankings launching just ahead of training camp. The categories Chad Ford and Kevin Pelton of ESPN rank include players, money, management, market and draft projected over the next three seasons. At the very top they anticipate the Golden State Warriors to lead the NBA, while the Los Angeles Lakers ranked in at a lowly 26th out of 30.
The Lakers improved two places over last season's 28th ranking, taking their most notable boost in the players category. The addition of D'Angelo Russell and promising season from Jordan Clarkson are clear steps forward, with veteran players like Kobe Bryant, Roy Hibbert, Lou Williams and Brandon Bass filling out the rotation. Scott expects there to be competition for roster spots during training camp.
Even with the strong market and money rankings, the Lakers still came out with an overall score that only edges out the Pistons, Kings, Knicks and Nets. Here's what Pelton had to say about how that could change for the Lakers, via ESPN Insider:
If the Lakers can lure a maximum free agent after striking out on the top players the last two summers, there's hope of turning things around quickly -- especially if they hang on to their 2016 first-round pick, which is top-three protected.
Still, the Lakers have a long way to go. They could be the worst team in the West during Kobe Bryant'spossible farewell season, and even entering the lottery in pole position wouldn't assure the Lakers retain their pick. And if they do, it would be unprotected in 2017.
Landing a coveted free agent has eluded the Lakers in recent offseasons, but with Kobe Bryant's $25 million coming off the books and an increasing salary cap, the franchise is in position to make significant signings in the next few summers. The additions of Julius Randle, Russell and Clarkson stand as a young trio that lift he Lakers into becoming a competitive team as they develop, and adding in an established maximum-level player to transition forward could make an immediate impact as soon as the '16-17 season.
26th seems low for the Lakers with as talented as the young group could turn out, but until they prove it over the next few years, there's definitely question marks in the air. Training camp begins on Sep. 29, with preseason opening on Oct. 4 against the Utah Jazz. We'll get our first look at what this team is capable of soon enough.