There has been no shortage of excitement for the Los Angeles Lakers in the past few days. The team started their NBA Summer League campaign with a dominating victory over Buddy Hield and the New Orleans Pelicans, followed by a thrilling come-from-behind win that saw D’Angelo Russell sink Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers with a three-point shot as time expired to send the Thomas and Mack Center into a frenzy.
The Lakers have played far better than they did a year ago in Las Vegas, which has generated a lot of buzz and optimism amongst the fan base. The youth has shown why the future looks so promising, but general manager Mitch Kupchak understands that there are still growing pains to go through before the team even thinks about contention. Kupchak sat down with Justin Termine and Eddie Johnson from Sirius XM NBA Radio and reminded everyone to keep expectations for the upcoming season in check.
— SiriusXM NBA Radio (@SiriusXMNBA) July 10, 2016
One way the front office would have been able to transform the Lakers from a 17-win team into a title contender in one offseason would have been by landing two different stars in free agency with the massive amount of salary cap space they had going into July 1st. But coming off the worst season in franchise history made that task a near impossibility, as Kupchak acknowledged.
Kupchak told me on @SiriusXMNBA it's not realistic to "clear the deck" in order to clear space & sign multiple big FA's in one offseason.
— Justin Termine (@TermineRadio) July 10, 2016
In the summers of 2014 and 2015, the Lakers had enough cap space to offer one max contract in free agency, which they spent a lot of time attempting to do. This year, though, they had enough to go after multiple marquee free agents, but they ended up taking a more realistic approach, signing veterans Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng while bringing back several players from last year’s roster and trading for Jose Calderon.
The 2016-17 regular season is going to be all about development for the Lakers under new head coach Luke Walton and his staff. Los Angeles may still be a year or two away from even thinking about being a playoff team, but what they can do this year is finally take steps forward in both development and the win column. If they make noticeable strides in both of those areas, the excitement for the future will only continue to build.