Now that the roster is mostly set, and there is basically nothing going on in LakerLand right now, I felt it is a good time to list five things that I want to see from the Lakers this year.
Here it goes:
1) Kobe appears in at least 60 games
If this is going to be Kobe’s final season – which I believe it is and should be – is it too much to ask that we get Kobe for at least 60 games this year?
The Lakers are not going to make the playoffs this year, so how well he plays isn’t really my concern. I just want him to be on the court and not in a suit. I want to see those fallaway jumpers, that incredible footwork, the “scowl”, and everything else that made Kobe who he is.
My dream ending to the season would be Kobe exiting Staples Center for the final time to a thunderous, five minute, standing ovation after a Lakers win (a Kobe game-winner would be icing on the cake). If we knew before that game that that was going to be Kobe’s last game, I am not ashamed to admit that I would be bawling as he left the court. I was born in 1995; Kobe entered the league in 1996. The NBA without the Black Mamba is something I’ve never experienced, and I don’t think I’m ready to do it just yet. Just give us 60+ games, Kobe.
2) Anthony Brown takes Nick Young’s spot in the rotation
While I am not a huge Nick Young fan, me wanting Anthony Brown to take Young’s spot in the rotation has more to do with me being a fan of Brown than it does me despising Swaggy P. I really like Brown’s skill set, and I believe he can be a very good 3-and-D forward down the road. He was one of the best shooters in his draft class, and he showed in Summer League that he has some serious defensive potential with a 6’11” wingspan and above average lateral quickness. He also has a great basketball IQ, and is one of those players that knows his role out there. He never tries to do too much.
In order for Brown to reach his potential though, he is going to need minutes, and I’d like it if those minutes come at Nick Young’s expense. Young is the last type of player I want playing alongside our young players, whereas Brown is the opposite of that.
3) Jordan Clarkson improves his three-point shooting percentage
When you look at Clarkson’s shot chart from the last season, you can see that he excelled from mid-range (except on the baseline), but he mostly struggled from behind the arc. He shot just 31.4% from three last year, a number that’s going to have to improve if he wants to take his game to another level.
Unless you’re as skilled and athletic as Russell Westbrook, Dwyane Wade, or pre-injury Derrick Rose, not many guards can reach All-Star status without at least being an average three-point shooter. The league average three-point percentage in 2014-2015 was 35%, so that’s the rate I want Clarkson to make his threes at in 2015-2016. If Clarkson can become that type of shooter with his athleticism and ability to get to the rim, we could be looking at a future All-Star. Otherwise, his absolute ceiling would be around Monta Ellis’ level. Considering where the Lakers drafted him, I’d be thrilled if he could get to Monta’s level, but obviously I want to see him get to a higher level than that.
4) Julius Randle finishes the season with more starts than Brandon Bass
Randle getting more starts than Bass would mean two things: Randle was healthy, and also Randle was able to beat out Bass in training camp for the starting PF spot.
Randle was okay at Summer League. He did not play as well as I had hoped, but there are reasons for that. First, it was his first real-game action he had since his season-ending injury in October. Secondly, the coaching on the Lakers’ Summer League team was horrible. The team was at its best when they were in transition and not in that horrible Princeton offense.
However, Randle does have a considerable amount of work to do before becoming the dominant player Lakers fans are pinning him to be. He has to develop a consistent mid-range jumper, he has to develop his right hand, and he has to learn to roll to the basket after setting a pick (this is more of a mental thing than anything). Oh, and more effort on defense wouldn’t hurt, but that’s common with young players.
Randle and Bass are reportedly going to battle for the starting spot in training camp, and there’s a very realistic chance – if the Lakers are going based off merit alone – that Bass outplays Randle. While it’s not ideal for Randle to be handed the starting spot, his growth and development is more important to the Lakers than winning games in 2015. Hence, I would rather see Randle starting over Bass even if the latter is the better player at the moment.
That being said, with more reps I do think Randle will beat out Bass fair and square for the starting spot. Then it’s all about staying healthy.
5) Roy Hibbert plays well enough to make the Lakers want to re-sign him in 2016
Despite all the criticism that Hibbert has gotten in the past two years, I was a big supporter of the Lakers’ decision to acquire him. He’s not an elite center by any means, but he does have an elite skill: rim-protection. And rim-protection is exactly what the Lakers need alongside Russell, Clarkson, and Randle.
Since I wrote about Hibbert and his fit with the Lakers earlier this month, I won’t post my in-depth thoughts about him here. What I will say is that I hope Roy plays well and proves to a good influence on the young Lakers so that the front office has to make a push to re-sign him next summer. He fills a need and with the way the Lakers have struck out in free agency recently, re-signing him would be a big win in my book.