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.
-END OF 2016-17 PREVIEW-
The Los Angeles Lakers are a team that always gets attention during the NBA regular season. They have one of the most recognizable franchises in the NBA and they have one of the most recognizable names on the court in Kobe Bryant. The Lakers have fallen on some hard times and now they have become more of a punchline than a true championship contender in recent years. Questions have surrounded the ownership and the moves that they have made to include rewarding Bryant with an enormous contract that has strangled the opportunities to build and grow this franchise. This is a team that needs to be relevant again and a constant piece in the NBA playoffs.
LA Lakers Betting Odds
The LA Lakers are not a team that anyone is expecting to do well in the upcoming season. With so many question marks, starting with Bryant’s health, this is a team that has some high odds when it comes to the NBA betting markets. The Lakers odds to win the talented Western Conference are an eye popping (+5000) as it will be very difficult for this team to surprise anyone and make a run at the title. This of course makes it even more difficult to hoist another banner as evident by the huge odds to win an NBA Championship at (+10000). The 2015-2016 NBA regular season win totals says a lot about this team as the Lakers are listed at just 29.5 games which would mean another bad season for this once proud franchise.
LA Lakers 2015-2016 Preview
For the Lakers it all starts with one player and that is Kobe Bryant. He comes into this season with something to prove, but age and injury could lead this team to yet another bad season. Bryant may be one of the greatest players in league history, but he is old. He is now 37 years old and is on the last year of a mega-max extension and unlikely to earn a similar deal in the future if he decides to keep playing and not retire. If he does continue to keep playing it will most likely be with another franchise ending his long and successful role as a member of the Lakers. After three straight seasons ended by injury, his reputation is already tainted, but he could be motivated by the naysayers and the fact that he will be playing again for a contract and the right to be called one of the best players in the NBA. There is one thing for sure, he can’t do it alone.
If there was a positive that came out of the miserable seasons in recent years is that the Lakers have had some high draft picks. Ohio State point guard D'Angelo Russell, is the latest addition to this team and he is blessed with court vision and the ability to get his teammates involved on the offensive end.
The same goes for second-year forward Julius Randle, who played all of 14 minutes on opening night before losing his rookie season to a broken leg. These two players should log some serious minutes and at least give the Lakers fans something to get excited about this season. The Lakers needed to get some young talent because they could not get free agents to come to Hollywood this season.
The big prize of the summer as far as a free agent is concerned was Roy Hibbert instead of Kevin Love or LaMarcus Aldridge. It seemed as though the reports that Love or Aldridge would come to LA were just because of the brand and never really serious. Jim Buss has proven that he is unable to attract the big names to LA. Hibbert and Brandon Bass should offer some defensive toughness and you know Byron Scott is going to play his vets and that is something that this team desperately needs.
Teams shot an incredible 50.7% against the Lakers inside the 3 point line and 46.6% overall, good for 29th in the league. Bryant, once an advanced and pesky defender, had clearly lost a step and this team seemed to give up about ten games into the season and the first thing to go was defense.
LA Lakers Season Preview Predictions
The Lakers are a team in transition. Bryant is no longer the Bryant that we all remembered and this will be his last year in a Laker uniform and could also be his last year in the league. If he stays healthy, the Lakers could win about ten more games than expected, but that is a big if. This team will turn ugly quickly, Kobe will get frustrated and the Lakers will not come close to the posted win total of 29.5 games. The Lakers say goodbye to Bryant and look forward to another trip to the NBA lottery.