With free agency well underway now, the two biggest names on the market have chosen their landing spots. Lebron James has decided to return to his hometown of Cleveland, and Carmelo Anthony decided to return to New York and work under Phil Jackson. James was essentially the first domino to fall as once he made his decision most other free agents began to make theirs. The Lakers did their best to try and land Anthony but it was futile in the end. Anthony not signing with the Lakers, unfortunately, meant the departure of long-time PF Pau Gasol, as he declined two separate offers from LA and decided instead to sign with the Chicago Bulls.
The Lakers currently have Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Jeremy Lin, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Nick “Swaggy P” Young, Kendall Marshall, Jordan Hill, and Robert Sacre filling out the roster for the upcoming season. The roster is far from what the Lakers would like to have for next season, but it’s going to have to do. There are a few more roster spots to fill out and it is yet to be seen who will fill those spots but it won’t be a big name as the Lakers don’t have much money to work with now.
The starting five currently lacks a decent small forward, and the Lakers will likely sign someone in free agency who can fill that need. Here’s what it looks like right now.
PG Jeremy Lin
SG Kobe Bryant
PF Julius Randle
C Jordan Hill
It’s not terrible, but it’s not that great either. The Lakers are sure to go through another dull year without the talent to get them through a formidable Western Conference.
No one knows who Bryant will be when he returns this season, 36 years old when the season starts and he’s coming off two severe injuries stemming from two seasons ago. Jeremy Lin, who was nothing short of a superstar when he truly debuted in New York, has since come back down to earth and is a rather average point guard in the league. We’re yet to see Randle in an NBA game so it’s realistic to expect Randle to put up decent numbers this season as he starts his career with the purple and gold. Jordan Hill brings his game every night and is a wonderful offensive rebounder who always fights for boards on both sides of the floor. It should be nice to see him in a starting roll where he can play the majority of the position’s minutes.
And of course there’s always Swaggy P, whose crazy antics and celebrations brought a strong energy to the court every night, that will surely be a welcome sign once again.
The sleeper pick for this season is Jordan Clarkson. Yes, Jordan Clarkson, I told a friend of mine about him and he replied “Who is that?”. Exactly. He isn’t necessarily someone you would have heard of unless you’re an avid follower of Laker basketball, but believe me, this kid has talent and he was an absolute steal at #46 in the second round of this years draft. Look for him to make his mark this season.
So where do the Lakers stand right now? Well they definitely don’t look like what many fans felt they would look like a few months ago that’s for sure. Missing out on the big free agent names is something that the Lakers aren’t used to, normally players are chomping at the bit to play for the Lakers.
This hasn’t been the case since the Lakers missed out on Chris Paul. By this I mean that ever since that trade was nixed, the Lakers have really been in a downward spiral. After that, Lamar Odom was traded away to Dallas for basically nothing, and Gasol was to be in trade talks for the next three years. Phil Jackson had retired from coaching, and the Lakers went on to hire Mike Brown. Following that, the Lakers looked to get back on track with the sign and trade of Steve Nash and the acquisition of Dwight Howard through a three-team trade. This turned out to be a miserable failure which led to Brown being fired. Then the Lakers had to chance to get Jackson back, but NOPE, they threw a total curveball and went with Mike D’Antoni instead. Yeah, that worked out well. Howard despised playing in LA under D’Antoni, who couldn’t effectively utilize a big man to save his life, and he didn’t get along so well with Bryant either. Nash broke his leg in the first week of the season which led him to suddenly become “old” and he never performed like he did in his Phoenix days. Bryant tore his Achilles tendon in the final game of the 2012-13 season against Golden State, and then the Lakers were swept in the first round by San Antonio. Howard then left for Houston, and the Lakers had a lot of questions facing them for the upcoming 2013-14 season. Well, Bryant came back mid-season and subsequently broke a bone in his knee and was then out the rest of the season which led the Lakers to finishing with 27 wins and a lottery pick. Even after getting in the lottery they still managed to only get the seventh pick out of it.
So, now they’re here, a shell of the championship teams that won in 2009, and 2010; Bryant being the only remaining player from those teams. Gasol is gone and the Lakers seem to be facing more and more questions each season with hopes of future free agents wanting to come to LA in the coming years. The Lakers have lost that luster they’ve had for so many years, they just don’t have it, and who knows when it will return.
The current roster doesn’t scream success, heck, it barely even whispers mediocrity. I don’t see this team making the playoffs this season in such a tough Western Conference, unless someone plays out of their mind and carries the team. Unlikely though. To top it all off the Lakers don’t even have a first-round pick unless it’s top five; that pick was sent over to Phoenix in the Nash deal.
Uncertainty faces this team to say the least, the Lakers are in an extreme rebuilding process and it could take a while before Staples Center raises another purple and gold banner.