Fellow Lakers fans, it is finally October: a month characterized by fall, Halloween, and most importantly the start of the NBA season. As training camps continue to gear up and the preseason begins, questions about the state of every team arise. The Lakers are certainly not exempt from this speculation. As such, it is time to look through some of the biggest question marks surrounding the Lakers that should be answered before opening night.
Who Will Start at the Power Forward Position?
Every other starting position is likely filled (unless Byron Scott does something really weird with D’Angelo Russell) but there is some debate about who will take the four spot. The battle will come down to second-year lottery pick Julius Randle and veteran Brandon Bass, a recent addition to the team. Bass has played in the league for ten years carving out a role as a strong rebounder and decent shooter. On the other hand, Randle is one of the key pieces of the Lakers’ youth movement, and a potential future star. In theory, he should get as many minutes and reps as possible. There is debate about whether giving Randle the starting position would give the young player a sense of entitlement. I do not buy this theory, but clearly the ideal end to this debate would be for Randle to win over the job through his performance. I personally believe this will happen, but I am still deathly afraid of Scott benching him just because he is young and inexperienced. Also, keep an eye out for future Laker great Ryan Kelly. (I’m only slightly kidding)
Will Robert Upshaw Make the Final Roster?
This is the question that has been hovering around the Lakers since last June. Upshaw, an undrafted free agent, oozes with potential as a future rim protector. Questions about his character and work ethic led to a huge drop in draft stock for a player who likely would have been a lottery pick. Now, Upshaw has lost twenty pounds (#MuscleWatch lives on) and seems to be ready to make a real contribution. He will likely battle with Robert Sacre, a safer and more experienced option, for a roster spot. If Upshaw really works hard, there is no reason why he should not win the job. And if he does win the job, he could find himself in the fortuitous position of learning from one of the premier rim protectors in the league in Roy Hibbert. There is no guarantee with Upshaw, but the ceiling is oh so high.
What Will Kobe Bryant’s Workload Be?
In what may be Kobe’s final season, all eyes will be on the veteran’s adjustment to the new roster. As it stands, this may be the first season in a very long time where Bryant is not the main (and almost exclusive) ball handler in his time on the court. With a move to the small forward position and playing alongside both Russell and Jordan Clarkson, Kobe can mainly focus on picking his spots to get more efficient shots. The preserved energy may even contribute to better effort on the defensive end. More importantly, much attention will be given to Kobe’s playing time. With several injury-plagued seasons behind him, the team would be wise to be cautious with the Laker legend’s playing time. How all of this plays out should be an interesting part of the preseason and the regular season.
How Will Jordan Clarkson Adjust to His New Role?
When Clarkson came on the scene last season as the steal of the draft, his success came as a result of being the sole ball handler and offensive playmaker on the team. With the ball in his hands often, Clarkson was able to showcase his talents. This season, Clarkson will not have that luxury, trading it in for better teammates who will take some of the load off his back. There are two extreme directions this can go: either Clarkson will thrive with more space created as defenses actually have to defend his teammates, or Clarkson struggles to play off the ball as Russell and Kobe take turns handling the rock. Most probable is that it all falls somewhere in the middle. There will likely be an adjustment period (hopefully only in preseason) as the sophomore learns to play with other good players, but the end result should be a talented player with more space to operate leading to even better performances.
Will the Injuries Ever End?
This is more of a plea to the basketball gods than anything else. The last three years, the Lakers have had a bevy of injuries that have turned each season into one of disappointment and despair. While the Lakers are not ready to make a playoff run just yet, much of their success will be predicated on how healthy the roster is. More importantly, if the young players are not healthy, they will be unable to play the minutes needed for a quick development process. Let’s all hope for a healthy season from the Lake Show. HELP US, YE BASKETBALL GODS!