As another NBA season nears, it’s time for our season previews. Moving to the West, we begin in the Pacific.
Projected Conference Finish: 14th
Best Move of Offseason: No move deserves less credit than the Brandon Ingram draft pick. He was the second best player in the draft and he was drafted second. All 30 teams would’ve done the same thing. But the section title is a�?besta�? move of the offseason. Therefore, it doesn’t matter how obvious it was. So Brandon Ingram was the best addition the Lakers made. All of the other ones were bad. Therefore, he gets the nod here.
Worst Move of Offseason: Everything else. Giving Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng a combined $136 million was beyond excessive. This is a young team with major appeal to free agents. They easily could’ve waited a year or two to commit that money to better players. Guys who actually fit their timeline. But the Lakers were too anxious to return to respectability so they gave out enormous deals to try to get there this season. It probably won’t work. Mozgov isn’t a starter-level player and Deng might not be anymore either.
Also, Yi is back in the NBA. Yi should not be back in the NBA. I guess the Lakers are concerned with their ratings in China? There isn’t a good explanation for this one.
Their Offense: I’m cautiously optimistic. D’Angelo Russell showed signs of stardom as a rookie and now he has a coach who’s actually interested in his development. Julius Randle is a really unique modern NBA power forward, capable of posting up as a traditional 4 would but with some real range on his jump shot along with nice dribbling and passing ability. Ingram and Deng will make shots. And hey, if nothing else, Lou Williams and Nick Young can put the ball in the basket.
The questions here are longer ranging. Can Luke Walton install a ball-movement scheme? Will Russell take a leap? Can Ingram win Rookie of the Year? Is Randle part of the long-term core? Is Jordan Clarkson? It probably doesn’t matter much what the Lakers do offensively this season. Getting answers to those questions is the real goal.
Their Defense: It’s going to be historically bad, but you won’t notice because the Nets are going to be worse. But at least the Nets can say they weren’t trying. The Lakers spent $136 million on veterans with the idea that they’d help the defense. But post-injury Mozgov isn’t going to make things better and Deng isn’t the player he was four or five years ago. Everyone else is too young to play any defense at this point. And, remember the Lakers were the worst defensive team in basketball last season. If you’re holding out hope for the Lakers to keep their draft pick, this defense might be your salvation.
Their Bench: I’m not sure why Nick Young is still on this team. Someone might want to do something about that.
Best Case Scenario: The young guys look great and they hang around the playoff picture into April.
Worst Case Scenario: The young guys look bad and they send the No. 4 pick to Philly.