After a miserable ending to the Kobe Bryant led Lakers’ era and a 26-56 season for 2016-2017, the Lakers will look to reclaim the Los Angeles city as the premier NBA team.
The Lakers finished at the bottom of the west each of the last several years and are expecting a major increase in excitement in the area, and most importantly the win column. Lakers’ owner Jeanie Buss started the process by naming hall of fame player and Laker great Magic Johnson as the president of basketball operations, along with former Lakers’ small forward and former Golden State Warriors assistant coach Luke Walton as the head coach. The first question of the “New Era” is, who is the best player in year #1?
Jordan Clarkson stealing the ball from Jamal Murray.
Guard, Jordan Clarkson will be entering his 4th season in the league. He was a 2nd round pick by the Lakers in 2014 and once Kobe got hurt and Clarkson received the opportunity, he exploded immediately as the point guard. In 3 years with the Lakers his averages are at 14.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1 steal per game on 44.1 percent shooting from the field. He has become one of the more explosive players in the league, and although he’s an undersized shooting guard, he can play both positions and play off of the ball. He also has a wingspan of 7’0. Clarkson will more than likely serve as a spark off of the bench, and perhaps a future 6th man of the year.
Julius Randle posting up Warriors’ forward Draymond Green.
Julius Randle was the 7th pick of the 2014 draft, but suffered a season ending leg injury during the season opener. He bounced back the following season averaging 11.3 points and 10.2 rebounds per game as a power forward. His career averages entering his 4th season are at 12.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 2.6 assists. It’s difficult calling him a stretch 4 with that 27.3 percent from 3 point range, but he has displayed some great ball handling skills and the ability to start a fast break for a big man. With Magic Johnson running the show, expect to see many fast breaks ending with a show-time slam-dunk from Randle.
Brandon Ingram at the top of the key.
The 2016-2017 season was a disappointment for the 2016 #2 overall pick Brandon Ingram. After drawing comparisons to Kevin Durant, at 6’9 with a 7’0 wingspan Ingram only averaged 9.4 points, and 4.0 rebounds in 28.8 minutes per game on 40.2 percent shooting from the field. My excuse for him would be he started the season playing behind Luol Deng, who’s a highly respected veteran, but that 72 million dollars guaranteed for 4 years was a head scratcher by the Lakers front office. He’s 32 years old and was never a star player. But back to Ingram. Ingram has a skinny frame that forces him to play the guard positions, which is why he never was truly playing his natural position which is small forward. His weight has been a concern since his college days, so it’s a must that he gets stronger or else it’s going to be very difficult imagining him being able to compete on defense against the best.
Jan 8, 2017; Portland, OR, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (5) goes up for a dunk over Portland Trail Blazers center Mason Plumlee (24) in the first half at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope just signed a 1-year deal worth 18 million dollars with the Lakers and will be the starting shooting guard. This is a make or break season for the 8th overall pick of the 2013 draft by the Detroit Pistons. Pope spent his first 4 years in Detroit and emerged as the team’s best defensive player and a good outside shooter. The only question about his game is his consistency on offense. Pope has a career average of 11.7 points on 40.5 percent shooting from the field. I personally believe that Stan Van Gundy wasn’t utilizing him correct by forcing him to become a spot up shooter. His highest scoring output was 38 points, hitting 8 3 pointers. Pope is one of those players that stats don’t tell you the entire story. He has improved as an overall basketball player every single year since he entered the draft and became the go-to man in the clutch for Detroit. He has game winners against several teams. Pope is also an underrated passer, tallying a 10 assists game. His best attribute is his defense and energy at 6’5 being able to guard 3 positions. He’s one of the best young 2-way players in the league, and if he breaks out this season he’s due for a major payday.
Lonzo Ball, the hometown kid, the UCLA Bruin, the #2 pick in the 2017 draft is #2. It’s difficult proclaiming a player will be #1 before they play a single game in the NBA. After a miserable first summer league game where he shot 2-15 from the field, Ball averaged a triple double the rest of the way and quickly became the MVP of the summer league, and what it looks like to be the best passer in all of basketball. Whichever comparison you wish to make either if it’s to Jason Kidd or Magic Johnson, the 19-year old kid can ball. At 6’6 he’s already a great passer, rebounder, and athletic. He’s unselfish and has made his teammates better since he started playing basketball. He’s also a winner. He averaged a triple double in high and won, won in college, won in the summer league, and will look to win in LA.
Jan 12, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) is fouled as he moves by New Orleans Pelicans power forward Terrence Jones (9) during the fourth quarter at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Brook Lopez, a surprising #1 for most people, but he’s underrated and was playing for a terrible Brooklyn Nets franchise that had traded away all of their draft picks. Lopez was the 10th pick in the 2008 draft and spent his entire career with the Nets while being named to the Eastern Conference all-star squad once in 2013. His career averages are at 18.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.7 blocks on 50.6 percent shooting from the field. He averaged 20 or more points during 4 different seasons, and has not averaged less than 17 points since his rookie year. With Lonzo Ball as the point guard wanting to help guys score the basketball, Caldwell-Pope and Randle being the defensive aces, and Brandon Ingram still developing, there’s no reason Lopez should take a step back in his 9th season.