Last Updated: 2017-08-22
For the fourth consecutive season, the Los Angeles Lakers won less than a third of their regular season games, making this stretch easily the worst in the franchise history. They did improve on dismal 2016/17 record, winning 9 more games, although 5 of them came late in the season when most of the teams either tanked or rested their starters. They’ve also managed to leave a team behind in the Pacific division, but that’s more a testament of how poorly the Suns played – the Lakers weren’t much better themselves.
Kobe Bryant finally retired before the last season, allowing more time and space for the young players the Lakers accumulated in previous drafts, but the greenhorns simply weren’t ready for big things. Led by enthusiastic Luke Walton as the head coach, the Lakers were trying to mix veteran influence with the talent of the prospects, deciding to start Nick Young for 60 games, Luol Deng for 49 and Timofey Mozgov for 52, with an idea of running a more successful campaign that the previous ones. However, after going 10-10 in October and November, the season quickly broke apart. The Lakers were 19-39 at the All Star break (and continued to lose after it), so Jeannie Buss, Lakers controlling owner and president, decided that her brother Jim Buss and GM Mitch Kupchak failed to deliver their promise on when the Lakers will become relevant again and released them from their front office duties, finally putting and end to the series of miserable moves made by the Lakers management. Legendary player Magic Johnson and former high profile sports agent Rob Pelinka took their places and started clearing up the barn as soon as the season can to an end.
The Lakers luck seemingly started to change, as they retained their top pick by landing on the #2 in the lottery, which has allowed them to draft a UCLA freshman standout guard Lonzo Ball, who has express mutual interest even before he got drafted. While the Lakers had high pick in previous years, drafting Julius Randle, DeAngelo Russell and Brandon Ingram, neither possessed a generational talent Lonzo Ball has, marking a start of a new era in the rich history of the franchise.
Read on to what the new front office did this offseason to improve the present and the future of the LA Lakers and how they compare to their rivals and the rest of the league. You can find all teams season previews here at BangtheBook together with the advice on how to bet on the BetOnline Sportsbook NBA futures and props this season.
The Los Angeles Lakers Futures Odds
Los Angeles Lakers to win the Pacific Division: +6600 (third highest odds)
Los Angeles Lakers to win the Western Conference: +12500
Los Angeles Lakers to win the NBA Championship: +20000
Los Angeles Lakers Season Total Win Prediction: Total 32.5 (Over -115, Under -115)
The 2017/2018 Roster Outlook
Arrivals: Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brook Lopez, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, Stephen Zimmerman, Thomas Bryant, Briante Webber
Departures: Timofey Mozgov, Nick Young, DeAngelo Russell, Metta World Peace, Tarik Black, Thomas Robinson, David Nwaba
Roster depth at each position
Drafting Lonzo Ball alone would get the new front office positive grades for this offseason, but they’ve managed to pull out few other moves to improve their team position. Incredibly, they’ve found a suitor for an enormous Mozgov’s contract, bravely pairing it with underperforming and possibly problematic Russell, clearing out two mistakes by the previous management in one move, landing Brook Lopez in the process. Not only Lopez improves their situation in the post on both sides of the floor and is compatible with Julius Randle, but his contract expires after this season, so they can clear large chunk of their cap if it doesn’t work out. The Lakers aren’t shy to admit preparing themselves for the next summer, with a desire to sign both LeBron James and Paul George, to the extent that it may turn detrimental. The Indiana Pacers filed in tampering charges with the league and the Lakers will have to go under thorough investigation that may lead to penalties such as loss of draft picks, severe financial fine, future restrictions of signing Paul George and suspensions to the executives involved. It’s unclear if the Pacers have any proof or are just disgruntled for losing out their star, but it shows for active and decided Johnson and Pelinka are to get the Lakers back on the top. Further offseason moves were also in sync with the master plan, as the Lakers would sign only youngsters of players willing to take one-year contracts, such as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Like their city rivals, the Lakers changed the roster quite a bit. They’ll start Ball at the PG, either Pope or Jordan Clarkson at the SG, Ingram at the SF, Randle at the PF and Lopez at C. Deng, Larry Nance and talented young center Ivica Zubac should round up the group of players playing most of the minutes, and other backups with fight for the crumbs. It’s a work in progress lineup and rotation, with much more offensive potential than what the Lakers previously had. The backcourt is young, long, quick and athletic and while Randle and Lopez aren’t the Usain Bolts of the NBA, they are relatively mobile bigs and Lopez can play outside the paint to allow more space for the penetration. Only Ingram and Randle player together last season (and worked well), so there’s going to be an adjustment period for the starters and the coaches to put up a winning type of basketball. It’s still a very young team and more patience would be best for their development, yet it’s likely that they would be asked to win as many games as possible.
Winning is what Lonzo Ball’s promise is. He has the tools and the basketball intelligence to become a marquee player in this league, and seemingly can’t wait to start building his legacy. Still, players of similar build and ability have rarely put more than an individual mark in their first season, so Ball won’t catapult the Lakers to the playoffs as soon as he steps on the NBA court. Lakers fans should also hope that Ball doesn’t allow his father’s attention seeking actions and statements influence his game and professional approach, as it looks like it’s the one thing that can hold back the youngster.
The Bottom Line and Total Win Prediction
Everybody is sensing the turn off the tide within the Lakers organization, and the quality of their roster has improved with doubt. Yet, popular as they are, the books wouldn’t let such a positive change slim unnoticed in betting industry. Before they’ve even played a game (not counting the Las Vegas showcase), the Lakers are expected to improve significantly. The BetOnline Sportsbook has put up the 32.5 total wins line for the Los Angeles famed franchise. The Lakers would need to improve by 6 games to reach over the line, in the West, where no team feels too comfortable losing this season. This is not out of the world expectation but would definitely mean a strong leap in the right direction and an immediate results on the moves they’ve made.
Several things stand in Lakers way. Unfamiliarity aside, the Lakers are looking more like a Nike Hoop Summit team that has been gathered from all four corners of the world than a NBA team. There’s a realistic danger that they play like one too, showcasing their own abilities and not caring about the team. Still, let’s not be all gloomy – the Lakers should be fine together if they manage to put their cultural and personality differences aside. From the basketball standpoint, they’ll enjoy playing for Walton, who is a player’s coach, patient enough to let them grow through the infancy. Lopez and Deng should provide some veteran leadership outside the court, and the sweet shooting center could even become the primary scoring option for this team. He’s in the contract year, has performed steadily around 20 points for the Nets for 8 consecutive years and is returning to his home state of California, being born in North Hollywood. The Lakers don’t have anyone to challenge him for the job, as Ball is more of jack-of-all-trades and Ingram and Randle are more secondary options. If you envisioning Ball-Lopez pick and pop to be the bread and butter of the Lakers next season, you are not alone. The Lakers youth and athleticism will allow them to make up for Lopez allergy to rebound the rock, and to cope with the high tempo games, so everything does seem logical in this team, at least in theory.
The Lakers should improve as the season goes on, so I expect the price on the success in slow decline, making this a good period to take the over 32.5 wins. I do admit that I was hoping for a larger value here, and be aware that you’ll be likely joining the public bettors on this one (which I have no problem with on occasion).
Season total wins: Over 32.5 wins (-115)
-END OF 2017-18 PREVIEW-
The Los Angeles Lakers were a disaster last season. D’Angelo Russell broke some unwritten locker room rules with teammate Nick Young. Byron Scott refused to play Russell in key situations and showed an unwillingness to play him at all. The Kobe Bryant Retirement Tour celebrated the career of one of the greats and represented a giant distraction and hindrance for the rest of the team. When all the dust settled, the Lakers won 17 games. Over the last three seasons, the Lakers have won 65 games. They won 65 games during the 2008-09 season when they won the NBA Championship.
Things are a lot different now. Kobe Bryant is taking 45 shots at day at a local gym and not on an NBA court. Byron Scott is not an NBA head coach anymore. Nick Young has moved on from Ariana Grande. Luke Walton is now the head coach and the Lakers have something that they haven’t had since the 2012-13 season…optimism! Of course, optimism in this sense means that they might actually win 25 games for the first time since 2014, but, it’s something. And it’s a building block for the future.
Byron Scott wasn’t the right fit for this team. The working theory was probably that the former NBA player would instill a work ethic and send a dose of reality to these players. It didn’t work. Ultimately, this team is like a 16-year-old with rich parents that just got a driver’s license to drive his brand new Ford Mustang. But, the Mustang has a restrictor plate on it. He wants to gun it down the freeway. He wants to get out and run. He can’t. The Lakers have talent. It’s young. It’s mistake-prone, but it needs to get out and run. Luke Walton will take off the shackles and let it run.
NBA Championship Odds: +50000 (5Dimes)
Western Conference Odds: +18500
Season Win Total: 24.5 (-130/110)
A lot of things went wrong last season. The Lakers were dead last in points per game (hi Kobe!) and 27th in points allowed per game. Even though the Lakers were 14th in field goal attempts, they were 30th in made shots. Kobe Bryant shot below 36 percent as he sailed off into the sunset, but couldn’t hit the ocean with a rock. It might be unfair to criticize Kobe, who, as a basketball player, deserved to go off on his own terms and the terms that he decided on included taking 17 shots per game. It’s not unfair to say that the open roster spot left by his retirement is addition by subtraction.
It’s about the kids now, starting with D’Angelo Russell. The smooth passer should be a good fit for the offense that Luke Walton will try to install thanks to his Golden State Warriors days. The Lakers don’t have the personal to put premium gasoline in the engine and go out and run, but they should try it anyway. There’s nothing to lose. Russell is a big reason why. His vision is impeccable and he needs a system that fits his talent. This should be it.
Jordan Clarkson and Louis Williams combined for over 30 points per game last season and play well off of each other. That’s a good tandem to help out Russell on the perimeter and it should continue to be that way this season. Julius Randle was a double-double machine last year with 11 points and 10 rebounds on average. Randle’s lost season of development to a gruesome knee injury in Game 1 of the 2014-15 season was definitely hurtful from an organizational standpoint, but he got a lot of big minutes last season and should be an asset going forward.
The big story heading into the year will be how Walton decides to utilize second overall pick Brandon Ingram. A lot of people feel like Ingram was the more talented player between he and Ben Simmons, but Ingram is also the younger player. Ingram averaged 17 points per game during his freshman season at Duke and was an excellent three-point shooter at 41 percent. That’s something that the Lakers desperately need.
There won’t be a ton of pressure on Ingram right away since the Lakers signed a good free agent placeholder in Luol Deng. Deng has consistently been a double-digit scorer in his career and he’s played on some good teams in Chicago and Miami. He’ll add as much from a veteran experience standpoint as he will from a production standpoint. Timofey Mozgov’s usefulness as a starting center is in question, but he also brings experience and a little bit of rebounding prowess to the table, which is something the Lakers lacked behind Randle.
Luke Walton spent the majority of his career with the LA Lakers as a player and then got his coaching start with the Golden State Warriors. As a Steve Kerr disciple, he should possess a lot of the same qualities of his mentor. Walton was the head coach while Kerr was out recovering from back surgery last year. The Lakers were 24-0 under Walton to start the season and then 39-4 when Kerr returned to full-time duty. The Lakers don’t have that kind of talent, but Walton is a guy that was coaching collegiately during the 2011 lockout, so he was destined for this role.
Season Win Total Pick: Over 24.5
There’s a lot of talent here and now there’s a head coach in place that can maximize it. The Lakers were a much better team last season when Kobe Bryant wasn’t on the floor or in the lineup. That wasn’t simply a coincidence. Now that Bryant won’t be on the floor at all, the Lakers should be a much improved squad this season.
An eight-win improvement does seem a little bit lofty in terms of a goal for the season, but the Lakers were 13-53 when Bryant played. Sure, that’s only a 4-12 record without him, but there were more problems than just that. Byron Scott’s firing is also addition by subtraction. The Lakers will pass the eye test this year, so hopefully they’ll pass the win total test, too.
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