When Los Angeles welcomes All-Star weekend next season, it seems incredibly unlikely that both of the host teams will have a representative in the main event. Depending on what happens in free agency, the LA Clippers could have one or more players in the game, but the Los Angeles Lakers are a different story.
The Lakers have the second-worst record in the NBA right now, with very little hope that any of their young players will improve enough to be named an All-Star by next season. The team’s two highest-paid veterans, Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng, also would seem unlikely to earn a spot.
If those expectations come to pass, it would make 2018 the second-straight year the Lakers have been without representation in the All-Star game, and Lakers controlling owner Jeanie Buss is hoping the team can prove her wrong (via her appearance on the Forbes Podcast, as transcribed by Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times):
“Next season Los Angeles is hosting the NBA All Star game at Staples Center and I’m concerned we won’t have an All Star on the team,” Buss said on a podcast with Forbes Sports Money. “That would break my heart.”
In that case, Buss should probably have some doctors on standby to fix her broken heart, because one of the current Lakers making it into the All-Star game on performance alone would seem to be a huge long shot, especially now that their huge fan base can only affect 50 percent of the vote (call it the Zaza Pachulia rule).
D’Angelo Russell would seem primed to take another leap next year, but making the All-Star game in his third season (in a guard-heavy Western Conference) would seem to be an incredibly tall task.
As for the rest of the Lakers, Brandon Ingram needs to shoot above 50 percent for more than a month before he can get consideration. Julius Randle, Larry Nance, Jr. and Jordan Clarkson don’t look like they’re ever going to quite reach All-Star level. Ivica Zubac is still probably at least one more year away from averaging 40 points and 20 rebounds on his way to a unanimous MVP selection.
With those caveats in place, there is one way the Lakers could end up with an All-Star in next year’s game.
That the Lakers will have trade dalliances with the Indiana Pacers over Paul George this summer is quite possibly the NBA’s worst-kept secret, and it’s safe to say that between the overwhelming support of Lakers fans and his own high-level of play, George would basically be a lock to start in the All-Star game if he was in Los Angeles.
Outside of that, the Lakers will probably have to content themselves with Rising Stars appearances from Zubac and Ingram, plus a Dunk Contest title for Nance, which actually doesn’t sound so bad.
All stats per NBA.com. and Basketball-Reference.com. Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.