It was just yesterday that the Los Angeles Lakers suffered their worst season in franchise history, dreadfully limping their way to only 21 wins; a season of broken records no one wants to remember. Today, life in Los Angeles seems a little bit brighter. A small hint of optimism and excitement can be felt around the Lakers fans, as players like Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell are seen scrimmaging in the Lakers’ practice facility. The season can’t start any sooner. So, how did we go from disappointment and embarrassment to being hopeful and enthusiastic?
We Start With the Draft Lottery and the NBA Draft
The Lakers finished the season with the 4th worst record in the league (21-61). Heading into the draft lottery, the Lakers were cautiously hopeful that were able to keep their pick, if the pick landed outside of the top 5, the 76ers would then claim it, but that didn’t happen. A miracle from above in a form of ping pong balls helped the Lakers not only keep their pick, but moved up to the second spot in the NBA draft. The draft process was long and exciting. The Lakers did a great job of working almost every player they could. No one knew who the Lakers would select, not #Wojbomb to be found. The Lakers eventually shocked everyone and selected a player no one expected them to take, Ohio State point guard D’Angelo Russell. The Lakers did what everyone thought they wouldn’t or couldn’t do: pass on talented big man, Jahlil Okafor. Many would agree that Okafor could contribute right away and have an impactful presence on any team, but one could also make the same argument for Russell, who has the most star potential in the entire draft. Russell may have struggled in the summer league, but he showed flashes of his skillful passes and playmaking abilities. I look forward to Russell improving and learning throughout the season, and the Lakers also made decent picks in Larry Nance Jr and Anthony Brown to round out their 2015 draft.
Free Agency. Does Anyone Want to Play for the Lakers?
Free agency for the Lakers started just like how their season was: ugly. They struck out twice in their attempts to sign all-star Lamarcus Aldridge. Not only did they fail to sign him, they also failed to impress him. Reports surfaced that Aldridge did not like the Lakers’ pitch and presentation. After that, the Lakers continued to miss out on players like Greg Monroe and DeAndre Jordan. It was to a point where fans were worried if the Lakers could fill out a roster before the start of the season. Thankfully, the Lakers were able to fill out those slots with decent veterans in Brandon Bass, former All-Star, Roy Hibbert via trade and recent NBA‘s Sixth Man of the Year, Lou Williams. Additionally, the Lakers also surprised a lot of people in a decent signing of Brazilian veteran point guard Marcelo “Marcelino” Huertas to a one-year deal. Our very own Sheen Lee wrote about the significance of Huertas’ addition on the team. After a disastrous start in the beginning of free agency, the Lakers bounced back quite nicely.
More Decent Signings of Young Players
The Lakers were able to sign some non-guaranteed contracts to Michael Frazier II, Jonathan Holmes and most recently, Robert Upshaw. Each players, in their own way could have been drafted, so it is promising that the Lakers were able to land these young talented players. The risks for the Lakers are low in these signings. Training camp will be competitive, as a lot of young players will be battling for roster spots, and it will be exciting to see how comes out on top.
The Lakers Are Actually Investing in Analytics!
The Lakers will have some new toys to use this upcoming season and forward. Recently, the Lakers announced the promotion of Clay Moser to director of basketball strategy and the additions of Yuju Lee and Aaron Danielson, both known for their analytical background. Simply, these guys are really good at what they do and they are exactly who the Lakers need. Last season, the Lakers were heavily criticized for lacking in basketball analytics; it seems like they finally are addressing the issue. The additions of a new analytics department has the Lakers upgrading their flip-phone to the latest smart phone. In a recent interview with Sam Amick of USA Today Sports, Mitch Kupchak went on to say that the Lakers’ new analytics team can compete with anyone in the league:
“The five people that we talked about who are in charge of accumulating, acquiring and interpreting the data, I feel they measure up to anybody in the league,” Kupchak said. “I would put them against anybody in the league … I would not hesitate to put our department in a debate with any other (analytics) department (of another team). I know that they would be great.”
These are encouraging and confident words from the normally reserved Kupchack. It looks like Lakers are no longer lacking on the analytics side. Hopefully, it will give them some results on the court.
Everyone Is Healthy
I pray to the basketball gods for everyone to stay healthy throughout the year. The past few seasons, games weren’t the only thing that the Lakers were losing, players suffered injuries after injuries. Mitch Kupchack has recently stated that Kobe Bryant will be ready for training camp. Let’s hope the Lakers end the season the way the start it: 100 percent healthy.
Basketball Season Is Almost Here!
In less than two weeks, the Lakers will begin their training camp in Honolulu. They are in a better position now than they were last season, and that is win to me. The roster looks more competitive, with an exciting mixture of young players and proven veterans. The season is finally approaching, and I can’t wait to watch them play!