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ESPN says the Lakers will be the worst team in the Western Conference

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They also say Los Angeles will have the third-worst record in the league.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers almost undoubtedly will improve this season. Kobe Bryant’s farewell tour was fun at times, but on most nights having one of the least efficient players in the league use up the fourth-highest percentage of possessions of any player to average more than 20 minutes per game was hardly a recipe for success.

The Lakers’ young players will also have an additional year of experience under their belt, and the team dipped it’s toes into free agency to sign capable veterans like Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov as well (even if they overpaid).

But while the Lakers will be better than last year, so will most of the other teams in the league, at least according to ESPN. The network released their team rankings for the Western Conference on Tuesday, and projected the Lakers will finish dead last in the conference with a record of 25-57, which would still represent progress for a team that finished with 21 and 17 wins in the last two seasons, respectively.

A 25-win record would also leave the Lakers with the third-worst record in the NBA, according to ESPN’s projections, which predict that the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers (tied at 20-62) will be worse.

This is unfortunate news for any fans hoping for a Cinderella run to a playoff spot for the purple and gold, but head coach Luke Walton noted in a podcast appearance on Monday that the team would not be judged internally on their win-loss record.

“The expectations, to me, aren’t going to be wins and losses, right now at least. The expectations are going to be the way we play,” said Walton on Monday. “It’s about having an edge when you play, it’s about competing every single time on offense and defense, it’s about playing the right way.”

If the Lakers can manage those traits (ones they haven’t exhibited over the past several years), then it will probably be easier for fans and the team alike to swallow another trip to the lottery next season.

You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.