I'm going to go on record here and say if our guys play we think they can, I believe the Lakers will be in the playoffs. I make this assumption based on the following:
1. Lopez is a vastly improved option over Mozgov. Lopez has his weaknesses, namely rebounding, but he boxes out his man and that should create more opportunities for a player like Randle to get all those rebounds. Lopez will also be good for Randles game. Helps stretch the floor to give Randle more space to operate down low.
2. KCP = Russel more or less offensively. Russel was slightly better and more varied on where he shot from, but for the SG role in this offense, catch and shoot is more preferred.
3. KCP >> Russel defensively. Hands down, I don't think anyone can disagree with this. Ingram is supposed to be an emerging two-way player, so with improved defense from Ingram, Hart, Kuzma, and KCP, I think we can start to establish some kind of defensive identity and culture. We don't even one right now or even the last few years so the only place to go from here is up.
4. Lonzo Ball. His passing is contagious and when players get more touches, they enjoy the game more. For those of us that play, doesn't matter what position 1-5. if you even suspect that the ball is going to come your way, you're more likely to be engaged. And that energy feeds the defensive effort. I've played the 4,5 growing up and it was very annoying how guards wouldn't pass the ball. They'd pound the rock and jack up the shot and then all the energy i spent posting up, slashing and cutting, etc would go to waste. 1, 2, 3 times and now my effort and intensity on the defensive end would wane a little. I'm a team player and i like to hang my hat on defense so i'd suck it up, but it wasn't fun. only way for me to get the ball was if i decided not to make the better pass. Lonzo Ball took a mediocre UCLA team from 15 wins to 31 wins with practically the same roster and same coaching staff. The team didn't magically get better. It was the same players just playing better. I expect to see that translate to this season. Disclaimer!! I know Lonzo has his weaknesses as well. His shot has been really bad so far but we don't need him to be taking shots. he's there to pass. the shot will come soon enough. One thing that is often overlooked, he took a mess load of 3s in college right. he shot them at a 40 some odd % clip. of those threes, about a third of them were from NBA range I believe and the other 2/3 would be a long jumper in the nba. So for those who say Lonzo can't shoot a midrange, sure his jumper is wack, but he has that range. so i expect his 10-18 field goal percentage to be pretty low, but 18+ will be much better.
5. Ingram has improved. He was showing improvement after the all star break and he seems stronger, faster, better shot, more confident. Really excited to see his growth this season
6. Randle - contract year, best physical condition he's been in, strong body is even stronger, should come in with some kind of better shot. hopefully to the three point range. I don't expect him to take 5 threes a game, but i'm hoping he can take 2 a game and make em at even a 35% rate would be good for this year. just keep defenses honest. he likes to pound it down low and thats cool as long as it isn't his only move. he also needs a more reliable jumper. again, keep defenses honest.
7. Improved bench - hart is a seasoned college player. won a championship so he should be able to handle the bright lights a little better. has some defensive chops as well. Kuzma - he's improved his jumper and three point shot from college already. we saw that in the combine and in the summer league games. has some defensive chops as well. was happy to see him trying. to that point - it doesn't even matter how good of a defender our guys our. we need that effort and intensity more than anything else. with the addition of KCP, clarkson gets moved to the bench. he's good as a firecracker off the bench. not a starting guard. he'll have a defined role and that stability will really help him out. he also doesn't want to get traded so he'll have to prove he belongs.
8. We have to play at least 0.500 ball to even consider the 8th seed. We play each team in east twice (one home and one away) for 30 games. 4 games each against the teams in our division for a total of 16 games. and we play the 10 other teams in our conference 3 or 4 times for 36 games. The east getting even weaker means we should win more games against the east. And this is where it gets interesting. I feel a lot of people are thinking that oh my God, the west got even stronger!!! There are only so many games to win!! each of those teams can't win 60 games!! So i'm thinking that means the top teams in the west will hamstring each other by taking each other out.
9. Combine all these factors together and I think the lakers sneak into the playoffs. Last year we started the first twenty games through december i believe 10-10 and then nick and russel got hurt and that messed up the rotations, etc, etc and we only won 15-16 games the last four months of the season. with good health, and absolutely no need to tank and all the incentive in the world to stick it to the sixers and the celtics, and to court some high level free agents, we're going to try and win as many games as possible. If this squad makes the playoffs, we'll definitely have everyones attention next summer.
What do y'all think?