Following what was possibly the most exciting offseason in Lakers history, Los Angeles is finally in a position to compete for a championship following a five-year playoff drought. However, despite the addition of arguably the best basketball player of all time in LeBron James, the Lakers will be given nothing in an ultra-competitive Western Conference.
Key Offseason Additions (Not Named LeBron James)
Yes, obviously LeBron James is the steal of the offseason. But he deserves a category of his own. So for now, let’s focus on the Lakers many other offseason additions. First up, the 2018 NBA Draft choices.
Mo Wagner and Svi Mikhailyuk: Wagner (a former March Madness standout) is a 6’10” power forward known for his versatile scoring both inside and outside the arc. Averaging 14.6 points per game his junior season, Wagner’s defense will need a lot of help going forward, However, a very young talent, Wagner’s immediate impact will hopefully be a reliable scorer coming off the bench.
As for Svi, he has the chance to make a big impact, very quick. the perfect embodiment of a “Three and D” player, Svi shot over 44% from three in his senior season, while also proving to be a more than reliable defender. And although the defense is always a plus, it’s Svi’s consistent shot that will prove to be the biggest help for this Los Angeles team. Because although the Lakers are filled with playmakers (Rondo, LeBron, Lonzo), shooting could prove to be their Achilles heel and any extra help will be greatly utilized.
Rajon Rondo: Fresh off what was possibly the best playoff performance of his career, Rajon Rondo has proved that when in the right situation, he can perform as one of the best “role” players in the NBA. And now playing alongside the greatest Small Forward in NBA history, Rajon should not only prove to be a great offensive facilitator but a veteran mentor for Lonzo Ball.
Michael Beasley: At this point in his career, Michael Beasley is considered more of a meme than an efficient NBA player. And although his move to Los Angeles brought some excitement, it is very unlikely he makes a substantial impact as he is a very ball dominant player on a team filled with ball dominant players. I wouldn’t be surprised if Beasley became a bench warmer by mid-January.
JaVale McGee: A now two-time NBA champion, McGee has proven he can perform on the games biggest stage. A large and long presence in the paint, every team knows what they’re getting when they sign McGee. He’s going to block a lot of shots and catch a lot of alley-oops. And that is perfect for a Lakers team full of distributors.
Lance Stephenson: Just like Javale, you know what you’re getting from Lance Stephenson. Likely to come off the bench, Lance is either going to end the game with three points and one assist, or 20 points and six assists. One way to describe Lance is the “Ultimate X Factor”.
Key Offseason Losses
Julius Randle– Drafted with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft, Julius Randle is coming off a career year. Averaging 16.1 points per game and 8.0 rebounds on 55% shooting from the field. However, although Randle was clearly one of the Lakers best players last season, it was clear they did not see him as a part of their long-term future. Giving him a limited role within the team, Randle saw less than 30 minutes per game. And after signing a two-year, $18 million dollar contract with the New Orleans Pelicans, the Lakers decided their time with Randle had ran its course.
Brook Lopez– Although Brook Lopez is a solid, offensive center. At the end of the day, he was simply a casualty the Lakers had to take on in order to dump Timofey Mozgov’s outrageous salary. However, with this new and improved Los Angeles team, there is a solid chance Lopez would’ve thrived in what will likely be an up-tempo offense.
Possibly the greatest player in NBA history, the addition of LeBron James elevates the Lakers from a lottery team, to a title contender. A three-time NBA champion and four-time NBA MVP, James is not only one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history, but one of the best facilitators and defenders to ever step on the court. By far the steal of the offseason, James is one of a handful of people that are able to fill whatever role while making everyone around them better. And signed to what is essentially a three-year deal, there is no rush for everyone to get acclimated to playing with LeBron.
Development of the Young Core
After was a largely overlooked rookie season, Lonzo Ball showed many promising signs. He proved to be a great facilitator averaging over seven assists per game. He was also a great rebounder, averaging 6.9 rebounds per game along with being a very reliable defender. However, just as everyone expected, Ball struggled mightily with his jump shot and failed to show the aggressiveness needed in a point guard. However, likely just a result of his jump shot struggles, Balls aggressiveness on offense will likely come as his confidence builds.
Although Ingram played just 59 games last season, he did average over 16 points per game on just under 50% shooting from the field and 39% from behind the arc. If Ingram can continue to score efficiency while also becoming a more complete player on the defensive end, he should develop into one of the leagues best players. And now having the tutorage of one of the greatest players to step foot on the court, Ingram’s path to greatness will only be accelerated.
Coming off an expectingly great rookie season, Kyle Kuzma is a very rare diamond in the rough that the Lakers are fortunate enough to possess. Last season, Kuzma averaged 16.1 points per game on 45% shooting from the field. A reliable scoring option that will likely come off the bench, Kuzma has a legitimate chance at a sixth man of the year award. With another year of experience under his belt, he will be the Lakers main scoring option off the bench, giving him the freedom to take as many shots as he pleases.
- Will lack of shooting prove to be a major problem?
- With numerous ball-dominant players, will the lack of ball movement cripple the offense?
- Will LeBron’s presence halt the development of some of the Lakers young, “building blocks”?
- Are the Lakers ready for a championship run?
And here we are, what it all comes down to. Come April and beyond, where will the Lakers finish? Accounting for the addition of LeBron, Svi, McGee, etc., along with the development of Ball, Ingram, and Kuzma, I feel the Lakers will win around 50-55 games. However, their young, inexperienced team could cripple them in the playoffs.
3rd seed in Western Conference
Will be eliminated in West Semi-Finals