Let’s be honest Laker fans: the present sucks for the purple and gold.
Byron Scott is the head coach. Kobe Bryant is retiring at season’s end (even though his body likely won’t make it that far), Byron Scott is the head coach, the chances the Lakers keep their 2016 1st-round draft pick looks like it’ll be a coin flip at best. Did I mention Byron Scott is still the head coach?
However, the good news is that for the first time in years our future looks bright. Three years ago, the Lakers had Kendall Marshall and Xavier Henry as their best young pieces, and I use the terms “best” and “young” loosely.
Now, there’s a list of players who look to have a role in the Lakers’ future: D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, Larry Nance, Anthony Brown (who our own Gary Kester took a closer look at recently) and Tarik Black, a player you may not have heard of because Scott likes to pretend he doesn’t exist.
Speaking of Byron, let’s dive into the mailbag, where we have some Byron Scott questions to start off with:
@LakersOutsiders why can’t bryon said postive things about our young people
— Josiah Woods (@jwoods2014) January 19, 2016
Well, that’s easy. Because they aren’t Kobe Bryant. And only players who are Kobe Bryant do things well for the Lakers and are immune from criticism.
— James Statton (@confusedLAfan) January 19, 2016
It’s not just your worst fear, but the entirety of all Lakers fans’ worst fears. We’ve talked about the front office’s ineptitude lately, but would they really go as far as to bring Scott back?
Scott was hired in the summer of 2014 on a four-year deal with a team-option for the fourth year. The 2016-17 season would only be his third year, but that’s a minute discussion and something that would not prohibit the Lakers from firing Scott.
From the onset, the hiring of Scott, dating back to even the interview process, had a weird feel to it. The Lakers interviewed Scott seemingly 15 times within a couple weeks. The sense that came with it is the Lakers were hiring someone that Bryant would approve of as well.
At the end of the day (or season), I think there are too many clear-cut better options available to keep Scott. The obvious candidate will be Luke Walton, who is working wonders with the Warriors this year. The Lakers have also long been linked with Tom Thibodeau as well, who is a coaching free agent.
For what it’s worth, I do still contend the Lakers hired Scott knowing that he would not be good and the Lakers could tank the next handful of seasons as part of a rebuild while using Bryant’s retirement and him generally being on the team as a life vest to not totally sink from relevancy.
— Kyle Hartwick (@kylejhartwick) January 20, 2016
I choose tears, then alcohol.
In honesty, gun to head and I’m forced to choose, I honestly think I choose Byron gone. This team, regardless of talent, is not winning anything significant with Scott at the helm.
With him as coach, you’re picking years of mediocrity with frustration and constant misuse of players.
With him gone, you at least have a chance at a title, even if it comes at the sacrifice of the young core.
And I want to go cry now.
@JacobRude more painful: 2009 NFC Championship or this year’s Vikings playoff run?
— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) January 19, 2016
But really, I’m crying now.
— Kal-El (@p_mind8) January 19, 2016
IT’S NOT FUNNY ANYMORE GUYS!
(The answer is the top 3 pick because even if Walsh hits the field goal for the Vikings, they’d find a way to rip my heart out the next week).
— Frank (@frankgottoGTL) January 19, 2016
Hey look, a question that doesn’t include me crying!
This is an interesting question. One year ago, the Lakers thought Julius Randle was the heir to the throne. Since then, Clarkson has emerged, the Lakers have drafted Russell and Nance has proven he was worth a first-round pick.
Despite his struggles this year, I still think Randle is the one with more potential. Next Lakers game, watch Randle on offense. There are not plays called to free him up either in the post or mid-post areas. More often than not, Randle gets the ball 15-20 feet from the basket facing up his defender.
Scott is asking his 21-year old forward in what is, for all intents and purposes, his rookie year to breakdown his defender and score.
Obviously he’s going to struggle.
The way the question is worded though offers more debate. Nance is the perfect glue guy and is already filling that role beautifully for the Lakers. His career path is going to likely be the same without much variation: do the dirty work, grab offensive rebounds, be in the right place at the right time and dunk on people.
For more STABLE career, I’ll say Nance for now, but Randle undoubtedly has more potential.
— BJ Metta (@bj_metta) January 20, 2016
In one of the weirder trade rumors to surface, the Lakers are apparently shopping Hibbert to playoff teams.
In essence, the Lakers are looking to reward Hibbert, who waived the majority his multi-million dollar trade kicker this summer to join the lowly Lakers, by sending him to a playoff team.
The problem is, his enormous contract and declining talent makes that hard. On a playoff team, Hibbert is a big man off the bench. A team isn’t going to want to give up an asset for Hibbert and the Lakers aren’t going to want to take on long-term contracts.
The possibilities are few. A team like the Bulls might look to swap Joakim Noah, who is likely to miss the year with an injury and is a free agent this summer, but they were already having problems fitting their front court pieces together pre-injury and Hibbert would only complicate that.
Portland has boatloads of cap space, but sending them Hibbert further crowds a front court with Ed Davis, Chris Kaman, Mason Plumlee and Noah Vonleh.
The biggest problem is Hibbert is no longer an elite rim protector and, given his offensive struggles, is not worth the risk for teams.
In reality, the odds of a deal happening are similar to my odds of dating Jennifer Lawrence.
SO YOU’RE SAYING THERE’S A CHANCE!?!
— BLSS (@blssblog) January 19, 2016
Hassan Whiteside has drawn much attention from Lakers Twitter in recent weeks with some big performances. Against Denver on Friday, he posted a line of 19 points, 17 rebounds and 11 blocks. He followed that up with 23 points and 18 rebounds against Milwaukee on Tuesday.
Problem is, as has been well-documented, he has some off-court problems that are worrisome, highlighted in this tweet.
On the court, he’s blocking shots but also assisting a historically terrible rate. In 40 games this year, he has a TOTAL of 13 assists. For his 107-game career, he has 18 assists.
That man is going to demand a max contract. And if I’m the Lakers, I give it to him.
He fits every need the Lakers have for a center and he’s just 26 years old. His prime will be when the young kids are getting good. You can’t say that about Al Horford, who will be 30 at the start of next season. I’m a big fan of Horford and think he’s vastly underrated, but his fit with the Lakers is similar to that of LaMarcus Aldridge last summer in that it simply doesn’t make sense.
Festus Ezeli is a wildcard and great Plan B for the Lakers, but should be little more than that. While he’s had a breakout year, he’s still averaging just 7.9 points and 6.0 rebounds and giving him big money for a bigger role is a big risk.
But he is also just 26 years old and could grow with the Lakers. With that in mind, my final list would look like:
For a better idea of the free agents this summer and who the Lakers could and should target, I highly recommend taking a look at this tweet from our own Jerry Khachoyan.