The title is extremely specific because, let’s be honest, making the playoffs is not a very realistic result for this current Lakers squad. On the flip side, finishing in the top-3 in the draft lottery is also not too realistic either, but I would say there is a far greater chance of the Lakers striking gold there than contending for the 8th seed. That being said, neither of these scenarios will be what I would call the “most realistic, best-case scenario” for this upcoming year.
Developing the Youth
In my opinion, developing the young players is far and away the most important part of this forthcoming season. This does not mean that D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and Jordan Clarkson need to play at an All-Star level by season’s end. It means that they need to display signs of improvement from Game 1 to Game 82, develop team chemistry, and show that they can be pieces to a championship team down the road. Jordan Clarkson had as good of a rookie year as we could have expected, and if Russell, Randle, Nance Jr., and Brown can follow his footsteps and display the potential that they have, you could call it a successful season just based off of that.
Appeal to Free Agents
The city of Los Angeles is a fantastic start to appealing to free agents, but there needs to be a product on the court that the premiere free agents stop and say, “Now this is a team that I would love to take to the next level.” This does not mean that if the Lakers do not land Kevin Durant next summer that it is a total failure. It is more of a project for the next couple years and goes along with developing the youth. The Lakers need to develop into a formidable squad where top free agents can believe that they are missing piece from taking this team to a championship level.
If I had to predict the upcoming season, I’d guess the Lakers win somewhere between 28-33 games. Winning or losing games should not be what fans use to grade the season, though. Lakers fans are not used to rebuilding and being patient with developing young talent. I started watching basketball when I was about 4 or 5 years old. This is the first time in my life that the Lakers went 5 straight seasons without making the NBA Finals. This is all new to a lot of us. However, it will make it even more sweet and rewarding as a fan when the team goes from fighting to keep a top-5 lottery pick to climbing to the top and holding the Larry O’Brien trophy.