The Los Angeles Lakers are at a crossroads as a franchise.
The landscape within the league has changed dramatically. Visibility of the sport is literally everywhere. A superstar no longer has to be in a major media market in order to be marketed globally. Duly, the new CBA agreement enables existing teams to offer more money than a fellow competitor hoping to poach a free agent.
Both of these facets have hurt the Lakers in recent years. When attempting to draw free agents, LA traditionally relied upon the “cachet” of playing in a media mecca (along with the potential business opportunities that exist). Within the same thought, the new agreement makes it much more difficult for players to leave their current environment – particularly if they’re in line to become a max player. They’d essentially be leaving a large chunk of money on the table in order to go somewhere else.
Four consecutive losing seasons have netted the Lakers three lottery picks (D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram). This isn’t a franchise (nor city) used to rebuilding. It’s often a situation in which the team reloads with a big-time free agent. It’s also had the luxury of relying upon a winning culture, and one rooted in championships and a plethora of iconic players.
Jeanie Buss cleared out the preexisting front office in favor of a more revitalized and modern approach. Possessing the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft, the Lakers have plenty of options. They can flip the pick (with other assets) for a more proven commodity. Or, LA can hold onto the pick – hoping to draft a true franchise player.
Of the young players on the roster, it’s unknown as to whether any will develop into a sure-fire All-Star. Randle has his limitations – both in terms of shooting from the perimeter and finishing at the rim against length. He can handle the ball, and his aggressiveness/energy makes him an interesting player. However, the jury is out on whether Randle can be a cornerstone going forward. The same can be said for Russell – who’s been beset by immaturity issues. There’s no doubting his talent, but there are real questions as to whether he can be a leader going forward. Russell was initially drafted as a point guard, but could be better served off the ball at the two.
Ingram looks to have the most potential of the three. He struggled with the physicality of the NBA early in his rookie year. As he acclimated to the pace of the league, there were tangible signs of improvement. His confidence was exceptionally high towards the last stretch of the season.
The city of Los Angeles is crafted around the entertainment industry. Fans – both ardent and casual – expect the product to be exciting. When looking at the current draft, there’s only one player fitting the bill in this capacity: UCLA PG Lonzo Ball.
His entire story has been chronicled over and over again. The local kid from a Los Angeles suburb, he went on to become an All-American at UCLA. If Russell does make the leap to the shooting guard position, the Lakers will be in need of both a facilitator and a leader.
Head coach Luke Walton was recently interviewed by TMZ. In their intrusive, unapologetic manner, the outlet asked Walton about Ball’s outspoken father LaVar. Walton had some interesting things to say about the subject:
It sure did seem as if Walton was bullish on Ball’s game. In terms of a style of play, Ball’s pass-first, uptempo feel could pair quite nicely with Walton’s scheme.
Image Source: Sporting News