The NBA regular season will conclude in roughly three weeks, meaning the Lakers will head into another offseason worrying about the draft lottery and free agents.
Although the end is near for these young Lakers, there are still some interesting developments to pay attention for before the season concludes.
Luke Walton shook the Lakers’ starting lineup a few weeks ago by benching D’Angelo Russell and inserting Jordan Clarkson in his place. After a few games, Walton decided to pair Russell and Clarkson together in the starting lineup. Walton’s explanation for deviating and mixing up the lineup was simple– experimentation.
With nine games left in the season, it wouldn’t be a bewilderment if Walton decides to change the starting lineup again. Only one could guess what Walton’s next experimentation with the starting lineup could be. I know I would like to see a combination of Julius Randle and Larry Nance, Jr. or Nance with Ivica Zubac in the first five. The Lakers are still assessing talent and fit, so it is necessary to try out different combinations to see which ones fail or succeed.
Speaking of Randle and Nance, the two have noticeably been taking, and making, more three-pointers as of late. They could take more, but it is promising to see them feel confident not to turn down an open shot from beyond the arch. Their inclination to take 3-pointers would not only help open their games but they also would help space the floor properly for their teammates. It would be great to see them continue to take those shots, even if they don’t hit a high percentage of them.
Russell has quietly been having a decent season. He is already averaging more points and assists than his rookie season while his three-point shooting has also been solid at 36 percent. He needs to make nine more three-pointers to surpass his last season total at 130 threes made.
In his last 15 games, Russell has been sturdy on the floor averaging 19 points and 4.7 assists, while shooting 44 percent from the field and 38 percent from deep. It will be critical for Russell to carry on his consistent play of late all the way to end of the season.
D'Angelo on final 9 games: "Individually, I want to compete. Take it to another level these last 9 games & get something out of that."
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) March 27, 2017
With free agency approaching, Russell’s play might be important in the recruitment process.
The Lakers have 21 wins so far, an improvement of four wins from last season. However, like last season, they currently sit in the bottom three in the lottery standing. And like last season, the Lakers will keep their pick if ping pong balls land in their favor and secure them a with a bottom-three pick.
As of Monday, the Lakers are only a half-game up on the Phoenix Suns for the second-worst record in the league. A lot can happen in the next three weeks, but a lot of fans will be paying extra attention to see where the Lakers and the Suns will end up being in the lottery race. Both teams are not good, but the Lakers have been playing slightly better than the Suns.
This year’s draft is considered to have a lot of talented prospects so it would be great if the Lakers can put themselves in a position draft one of them. Cheering for losses is never fun, but ironically if the Lakers win one more game putting them at 22 wins, it will be their most since the 2013-14 season.
The conclusion to the Lakers’ season is coming sooner than we think. We should enjoy these last handful of games, and hope for the Lakers to play some fun and entertaining basketball.