The Los Angeles Lakers tip off their 2015-2016 NBA Season on Wednesday vs the Minnesota Timberwolves. Having successfully completed an eight game preseason, it’s safe to say there were a lot of positives; but there were some negatives as well.
The Lakers showed good signs of potential and growth vs Maccabi Haifa, Portland, and even Golden State (the first time they played in San Diego). However, games vs Sacramento and the final meeting between Golden State may have left you scratching your head a bit. Although LA came out the gates a bit slow in the preseason opener vs Utah, they picked it up a bit and made improvements, slowly.
Positives: Let’s take the second game vs Utah (Minus D’Angelo’s bruised glute). LA lost in overtime by three, but throughout that game and the games to come the pace, flow, ball movement and shots the Lakers took improved greatly. Having shooters in Lou Williams, Nick Young, Kobe Bryant, Ryan Kelly and Jordan Clarkson has really helped on that end. Great passers in D’Angelo Russell and Marcelo Huertas, improved ball movement, and being more friendly to three-pointers has definitely been a plus for this Lakers roster. Out of the 15 players on the roster, 11 of them had a TS% (True shooting percentage) above 50%. This is a clear sign the team was taking good shots. The Lakers also had 9 players with a PER (player efficiency rating) above the league average of 15. Having the ball move creates open shots, and the Lakers have shown an ability as a team to play more up-tempo, move the ball well and be successful doing it.
Sophomores Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson also had a very positive and promising preseason, both averaging over double digit points. In 21 minutes, Randle averaged 11.1 points per game, 2.4 assist and 5.4 rebounds. Solid for basically a 19-year old rookie power forward. You could also say Randle had a “breakout game” vs Draymond Green in San Diego when he scored 14 points in only 12 minutes. To highlight on Jordan Clarkson a little bit, he’s just been consistent. His quickness, strength and finishing ability around the rim has really improved, in 22 minutes he averaged 12 points, about 2 assist and 2 rebounds on 45% shooting. Although they may not be big numbers, you have to think they’ll increase as the regular season unfolds and his minutes increase. Kobe Bryant also looked impressive, smooth and active on both ends before missing the last few games due to injury. Bryant put in 13 points on 44% shooting and 37% from downtown 18 minutes per game.
The Negative: Well, the defense is what concerns me most about the Lakers. However, the potential is there for the Lakers to be decent defensively. They have capable players, although the Lakers seem to be a step slow and one rotation late, a lot of the time. During this last route by Golden State, LA never seemed to be in sync together defensively. Golden State had 100 points with time still left in the 3rd quarter, and ended up scoring 136 points in total. A clear setback from their previous matchup when Los Angeles actually looked decent on that end of the floor.
The Lakers also suffered some injuries, of course. Bryant had a bruised lower left leg, although he fully participated in LA’s most recent practice. D’Angelo Russell suffered a minor bruised glute in the second game vs Utah as mentioned earlier, and we thought Jordan Clarkson sprained his right shoulder, however an MRI came back as ‘normal’ and Clarkson also fully participated in Sunday’s practice. Going into the season the Lakers are relatively healthy.
Side Note: When Russell went down with his injury he reportedly felt fine after a few minutes and wanted to come back into the game. However, when Russell was cleared to play and ready to return he didn’t jump right back into his starting spot at point guard, which confused some of us. As the preseason unfolded and D’Angelo’s was not getting a ton of minutes, some questioned the trust and confidence Scott has in Russell. To add a little more, it still hasn’t been guaranteed Russell will start on opening night vs Minnesota. When on the floor, D’Angelo produces. In the pick in roll, in transition, and even in the half court he’s proven he can score. It has been somewhat frustrating to see him play limited minutes. It also raises some questions. Going into the season it’ll be interesting to see how his role plays out.