Who's New?: G D'Angelo Russell (draft), C Roy Hibbert (trade), G Lou Williams (free agent), C Brandon Bass (free agent), F Metta World Peace (free agent), F Larry Nance Jr. (draft), G Anthony Brown (draft)
Who's Gone?: F Jordan Hill (free agent), F Carlos Boozer (free agent), G Jeremy Lin (free agent), F Ed Davis (free agent), G Wayne Ellington (free agent), F Wesley Johnson (free agent), G Ronnie Price (free agent)
Off-season Grade: B. The Lakers clearly upgraded their talent, though it would've been practically impossible not to. They dumped a bunch of awful defenders and added quality ones in Hibbert, Bass and World Peace (okay, he's 36 and has been "The Panda's Friend" the past two years playing abroad, but still). Brown from Stanford has a good defensive reputation as well. Choosing Russell over Jahlil Okafor will be a decision debated for years and years.
2015-16 Slogan: "Just one year left in our self-induced prison sentence."
What Else Is New?: Byron Scott has apparently gotten some education. A year ago he declared that three-point shooting doesn't win championships, which lol, but recently he revealed that his goal for the squad is for them to attempt "18-to-25" threes per game. Don't worry though, Scott still doesn't believe in analytics so he and Charles Barkley can still be friends.
Also, Kobe Bryant is hurt.
Your Likely Starters:
C Roy Hibbert
F Julius Randle
F Kobe Bryant
G Jordan Clarkson
G D'Angelo Russell
Hibbert is still one of the league's most imposing rim protectors, though he may be overextended at times as a last line of defense with so many traffic cones as teammates. Also, there are more pick-and-roll monsters on the perimeter for him to deal with on the West. Hibbert's rebounding woes were generally overstated but not enough has been made of what a sub-par offensive threat he is. How does someone who's 7'2 shoot below 45 percent from the floor three consecutive seasons? Hibbert made just 55.8 percent of his attempts from point-blank range, according to basketball-reference.com, which sounds impossible.
Luckily he'll be joined up front by Randle, a lottery pick last year who broke his leg in the season-opener. A Z-Bo clone in the making, Randle has been beasting in the preseason and has already let Draymond Green know that he can't be checked by no 6'6 dude. I'm expecting Randle to put up a 15 and 10, though I'm not sure how it'll go for him on the other end.
Bryant, attempting to make his umpteenth comeback from injury, should get the first look at the three spot since there doesn't seem to be a viable small forward on the roster and both Clarkson and Russell are too good to not start. It took until April for Hill and Boozer to pass him for the team lead in field goal attempts, which is quite the feat considering that Bryant played just 35 games. He shot a robust 37.3 percent from the floor and 29.3 percent from downtown, which sounds like a poor allocation of $23.5 million but you can't put a price on leadership and being an exemplary teammate I say.
But maybe he'll be better this year!
24 seconds of Kobe. pic.twitter.com/hDWQbVda14— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) October 5, 2015
San Antonio native Clarkson was the biggest (only?) bright spot in a miserable season for the Lakers last year. The 46th pick of the draft out of Missouri, Clarkson put up a 16.1 PER as a rookie playing 25 minutes a night for 59 games. Clarkson finished well at the rim and showed a decent mid-range game, but he's gonna have to extend his range a bit playing with Russell. Hopefully Scott will have presence of mind to stagger minutes so one or the other runs point the whole time, but I'm not making any assumptions there.
I'm most curious about Russell. Scouts love his floor vision, attitude, handle and are high on his chops. There are concerns regarding his athleticism, quickness and shooting. He's not the kind of physical marvel we normally associate with a second overall pick. Then again, Okafor really wasn't either. It's a gamble, but given that the NBA has shifted away from post play and the fact that they already have a potential inside scorer in Randle, it makes sense to draft your starting point guard for the next decade if you feel Russell's the guy, especially in the West where every good team has a star at that spot. And while I joked about leadership with Bryant, it is a big deal. Kobe won't be around much longer, so if Mitch Kupchak saw more leadership qualities in Russell than Okafor, then I can't fault him at all for the pick.
G Lou Williams
C Brandon Bass
F Ryan Kelly
F Metta World Peace
G Nick Young
F Larry Nance Jr.
G Anthony Brown
C Robert Sacre
My sentiments exactly, Tim.
Williams, the reigning 6MOY, a.k.a. "Whichever bench guy scores the most award" is joining his fourth club in five seasons. He shot 40 percent from the floor and 34 percent from downtown as a undersized two-guard who offers zero play-making and negligent defense, yet he was highly valued. I don't quite get it either. Bass on the other hand is a useful piece who should thrive in a limited role. He's been one of the league's better mid-range shooters for a while now, but was at times in over his head in Boston as a starter. Kelly suffered through an awful, injury-plagued season and his reputation as a serviceable "stretch four" is sketchy at best, but he's shown signs of life during the preseason. World Peace last played 29 ineffective games for the Knicks in 2013-14 and hasn't been good for several years. Expecting anything at all from him seems illogical. And I still wrote about him before "Swaggy P."
I am STUNNED Young is still on the Lakers. He shot 36.3 percent on two-pointers last season, which is mind-boggling for someone of his talent. He rivals only Bryant in fewest bothers given but doesn't have nearly the resume to be able to get away with it, yet here he is, a gift to us all from the basketball gods. Of course he had his best game of the season against the Spurs last year. There was no other way.
Nance did this to Festus Ezeli recently
but don't expect much of that when the games matter. I was high on Brown during the draft as a future Danny Green clone, but I'm never right on those things so he's probably doomed. Sacre is the big man version of Kent Bazemore when it comes to sideline celebrations. Marcelo Huertas, a 32-year-old from Brazil, is looking to make the squad as a backup point guard and just might. Former Rocket Tarik Black is also here and willing to bang, and he's still atrocious from the line.
Your Coach: Byron Scott
Don't be surprised if you hear Scott's name in the Coach of the Year conversation. Two examples of this will be "I think Coach 'X' should win Coach of the Year because he reminds me the least of Byron Scott," and "I don't think Byron Scott should be in the Coach of the Year conversation."
Bottom Line: We should absolutely enjoy all our Lakers schadenfreude while we can, because it's not going to last much longer. It never does. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will probably be teammates there by 2018, and that's the worst-case scenario for them. Best case would be just one of those guys and also Anthony Davis. Until then, all the yuks.
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