As part of SB Nation’s NBA team blog preview series, here’s a look at what you can expect from the Lakers this year.
Team Name: Los Angeles Lakers
Last Year's Record: 17-65
Key Losses: Kobe Bryant, Roy Hibbert, Robert Sacre
Key Additions: Brandon Ingram, Luol Deng, , Luke Walton, Timofey Mozgov
1. What Significant Moves were made during the off-season?
First and foremost, they drafted Brandon Ingram with the second pick of the draft. While Ben Simmons might have the higher ceiling overall (debatable), Ingram fits what the Lakers needed almost perfectly, given current roster construction. Then, in free agency, the Lakers signed possibly the worst contract of the offseason in adding Mozgov to the bunch, and followed that by signing Luol Deng. Both got four-year contracts at advanced ages, so we’ll see how the investment pans out.
2. What are the team's biggest strengths?
As of right now, it’s really hard to see. If we’re listing “potential” as a strength, then there we are, but if not, the team is simply too young to really know what they’re good at, given last year’s success rate.
3. What are the team's biggest weaknesses?
Defense, and offense, which seems troublesome.
4. What are the goals for this team?
The young core of D’Angelo Russell, Ingram, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance, Jr., need to develop. Over the last couple seasons, for a litany of reasons, we simply have truly seen enough development from the youth. Yes, they all took steps forward, but serious questions remain. This season, those questions will need answers.
5. Will the Lakers’ keep their top-three protected pick for the loaded upcoming draft class?
In short: Yes. The longer answer involves the bounces of ping pong balls and math because of the lottery, but the larger point is that they should finish the season with one of the three worst records in the NBA. The west is absolutely loaded and, unless other teams that currently possess more talent would have to underperform expectations in order for the Lakers to leapfrog them.
6. What’s the deal with Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak’s timeline?
Well, this is the pink elephant in the room anytime the future is brought up. Jeanie Buss has mentioned a few times that wins and losses will matter, but Luke Walton and the rest of the basketball operations team have relayed a message prioritizing the development of the team’s youth.
In a more typical situation, fans might be concerned about a move that would leverage the future to better improve the current team so that Jim might keep his job. Jim being part owner of the team should ease some of that concern as, at the end of the day, it’s in his best interests that the team remain as sustainably profitable as possible, and the kids help that.
7. Is the face of the franchise currently on this roster?
We really have no way of knowing this as all the potential growth is based on guys like Russell, Ingram & Co. reaching their lofty ceilings. As much as we might want to say yes, we simply cannot know as of right now. By the end of the season, the Lakers will have to have some kind of answer to this. Maybe Russell takes a leap forward. Maybe Ingram surprises in his first season. No matter who the player might be, if we don’t see some kind of sizable progress, this rebuild will have taken a devastating blow. That’s a doomsday prediction and to better answer the question, I’ll say yes, but with a Barry Bonds-sized asterisk.