Rebuilding Los Angeles: How The Lakers Aim to Win Big This Season
Written by Jeremy Barragan
Lavar Ball thinks the Lakers will win at least 50 games this season.
That’d be a 24 game increase of last year’s win total. The Cavs won just 20 more games when LeBron came back to Cleveland, and they traded for Kevin Love.
So, you can do the math. Maybe Lavar’s prediction was just a little bit much. He’s been known to exaggerate his opinions a tad.
But, Laker fans don’t need to exclusively be looking ahead to 2018 free agency. Not yet. This is not going to be another year of tanking. There is no lottery pick to be had, no reward for losing. Not this time around.
There are no 64 million-dollar Timofey Mozgov contracts handed out in the very first minute of free agency, no embarrassing D'Angelo Russell and Nick Young mid-season feuds, no Jim Buss.
In fact, it’s just the opposite. For the first time in years, Laker Nation has something to be excited about.
Lonzo Ball is the embodiment of Showtime basketball. He’s the selfless passer that makes everyone around him more fun to watch, a lot like the Lakers current President of Basketball Operations and franchise savior, Magic Johnson.
Magic has called Lonzo the new face of the Lakers, and never once been shy about the expectations he has for him.
“We expect a Ball jersey hanging up there one day, all right? Good.”, Magic said in Ball’s first ever press conference as a Laker.
In just one summer league Lonzo managed to get Laker fans more excited than D'Angelo Russell did in two seasons with the Lakers. Lonzo took home MVP honors, averaging 16.3 points, 9.3 assists, and 7.3 rebounds while leading the Lakers to the Summer League championship.
It might not seem like much, but when LeBron James comes out to watch Vegas Summer League, the hype is real.
For someone with so much hype centered around him, Lonzo has handled the LA spotlight exceptionally well. His laid-back demeanor isn’t something often associated with the face of the Lakers. Brandon Ingram also has a similarly quiet, confident, and mature attitude, which D'Angelo Russell certainly did not have and this is in part why he had to go.
He was never meant to be the locker room leader, and his immature feud with Nick Young proves that. If you need any more evidence of his childish attitude, look at this Tweet he liked shortly before Lonzo was drafted.
Also, what the Lakers got for him improves the Lakers this year, but also preserves the hope of signing max free agents in 2018. Not only did they ditch the devastating Timofey Mozgov contract, but they also brought in Brook Lopez and the 27th overall pick.
Lopez’ ability to stretch the floor will work phenomenally alongside Lonzo Ball in Luke Walton’s offense. Kyle Kuzma was taken with the 27th overall pick and after putting up 21 points per game in the Summer League, it seems like he could be a late-round steal.
Also, D'Angelo Russell has a team option at the end of this year, and if the Lakers are to pursue the like of LeBron James and Paul George, they would have likely had to decline his option to preserve cap space while retaining the Mozgov contract.
One of the best defenders at the guard position, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s one-year “prove it” deal aligns perfectly with the Lakers 2018 free agent plans while giving them a significant upgrade over D'Angelo Russell in the backcourt. For a player who was initially expected to get a 100 million dollar contract entering free agency, a one year 18 million dollar deal was pure luck for the Lakers.
So yes, Magic and Rob Pelinka managed to undo most of the atrocities of the Jim Buss era in just one summer. They brought in the new face of the franchise and yes, they can potentially sign free agents among the likes of LeBron James and Paul George next summer. The future is bright.
But for now, just enjoy this season and try not to look too far ahead.
Showtime is back in Los Angeles.