It’s been a rough couple of seasons for the Los Angeles Lakers. Between a string of injuries to superstar Kobe Bryant and a franchise-worst 21-61 record this past season, the NBA’s most storied team couldn’t catch a break.
But it gets worse: the 2015-2016 NBA season will most likely be Bryant’s final one—and the Lakers have no other stars on roster to replace him.
The Purple and Yellow have had absolutely no luck in free agency over the past few seasons. Dwight Howard left for the Houston Rockets, so the Lakers went hard after Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James.
Spoiler Alert: they didn’t get either.
This past offseason was much the same. Los Angeles chased Greg Monroe and DeAndre Jordan and made the biggest push for LaMarcus Aldridge.
Once again, no luck.
You would think that superstars would buy into the idea of being the next big guy one a marquee franchise, but so far no one has bought into what the Lakers are selling. Someone will eventually, but until then the team will need to learn to survive on their draft picks. Fortunately, they have quite the trio of young players emerging.
Although unproven in the pros, D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and Jordan Clarkson definitely give the Lakers and their fans some hope for the future. The major problem, however, is that while these three have very high ceilings, they are still a long way away from actually realizing their potential. The Lakers received their rude awakening to this in the NBA Summer League.
Clarkson, the 46th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, looked like the bread winner in Las Vegas. Clearly he knew what it took to compete with other men trying to make the cut as a professional basketball player.
That’s great, and the Lakers should be excited that Clarkson is coming to his own, but that’s not the guy the team is expecting to ride back to glory. Randle and Russell are charged with that seemingly impossible task.
Randle was the 7th overall selection in last year’s draft, but he broke his leg in the season opener this past year. He looked a little rusty in his Summer League appearances this month, but he still obviously relies very heavily on his left hand. That may have worked just fine throughout high school and college, but NBA players won’t be quite so easy to overpower without a bit of ambidexterity at his disposal.
Russell on the other hand doesn’t need nearly as much fine-tuning. Despite horrible shooting during his Summer League games—37.7 percent on field goals and 11.8 from beyond the arc—Russell just needs to get used to the pressure of a NBA game. He turned things around in the finally with the Utah Jazz anyways.
Russell did have some other ugly numbers, however. 26 turnovers in the Summer League isn’t something you want to see from the 2nd overall pick. Defenses will only get tougher once the regular season starts and the real pros are guarding him.
Once again, we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt though. Russell will have a lot more talent on his own team in the regular season as well. I would imagine distributing the ball to Lou Williams, Roy Hibbert, and Kobe Bryant is significantly easier than trying to get it to Anthony Brown and Larry Nance Jr.
The other thing the Lakers can look forward to moving forward? Over $40 million in extra spending money after this season. Kobe’s $25Ms and Hibbert’s $15.59M will be off the books for the 2016-2017 season, leaving Los Angeles with a large chunk of cash to waive in front of free agents like Kevin Durant.
Only time will tell, but if the Lakers play their cards right, they could easily be back on top the league in the next few seasons.
TALK ABOUT LAKERS OPTIONS FOR WINNING: SIGN A FREE AGENT VS WAIT FOR THE BIG THREE TO DEVELOP