D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson claimed they were the best players in the NBA in an interview with GQ Magazine on Tuesday, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that the former thinks the Los Angeles Lakers might be able to surprise some people this season.
“Everyone knows it’s a rebuilding process, it’s going to take some time,” Russell told Adrian Wojnarowski on the Vertical Podcast with Woj. “But it’s up to us to make it happen right away, if we want it to happen right away we can do it. I feel like we could make the playoffs this year, I feel like we could be a team to sneak some wins against some top teams in the league that they weren’t expecting us to win. The last few years we weren’t able to do that.”
Russell has reason to be excited. The Lakers free agency additions and coaching change project to make them a much more competent team on both sides of the ball, and the early returns have been promising.
That being said, Russell was correct to note that a rebuilding process takes time, and the Lakers are on the ground level. The team could eventually build their young core into a skyscraper, but there are still a lot of floors to add. The Lakers need time to grow, and even if they do squeak out a few more close wins they most likely aren’t going to sniff playoff contention.
It’s dangerous to take too much away from preseason, but his team was 2-6 in exhibition play, the third-worst record among NBA teams during that period. They looked better defensively, but the coaching staff still hasn’t finalized their starting lineup or figured out what their best groupings are.
Once that’s done, the team needs time for those lineups to get comfortable and gel together. Then things could be thrown off by an injury, or a tough spot in the schedule, or growing pains from the young players on the roster. Russell isn’t wrong to say that the Lakers could surprise some people, it’s just that so many things would have to go right for them to consistently string clusters of wins together that making the playoffs seems like an impossibility for now.
Whether one agrees or disagrees with Russell’s assessment of the Lakers’ potential, he did say at least one thing all Lakers fans are probably ready to agree on before the team kicks of their season on Wednesday night.
“It’s going to be a fun year, I’m really excited for it.”
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