Hi there everyone, it’s autumn, which means the leaves start to wilt, weather starts to get colder, Demi Adejuyigbe made a new September 21 video (part 1 here), and our yearly basketball simulation game is out. And much like Sisyphus rolling up the boulder to the summit, I got the newest copy that comes out every September just in time to ruin my grades for when the school year starts.
I’ll be taking over for fellow staff writer Thai Luong this year and not only will I simulate the season, I will also simulate it under different scenarios.
It has been months since we have seen the Lakers in action, fans are rightly excited. The Lakers have a No. 2 pick and the future is bright (stop me if you’ve heard this before). With the additions of Lonzo Ball and Brook Lopez, the new look Lakers are now beginning the Magic and Pelinka era with high hopes. How did they fare in the first simulation?
The Lakers ended up with the 11th seed in the Western conference with a 39-43 record, and Lonzo ended up with the Rookie of the Year award. Which is a bit higher than most expect them to win. Lonzo was in good company in the all rookie first team along with Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons, Jonathan Isaac, and Dennis Smith Jr.
Some of the incredibly video game-y instances are the Lakers beating the Blazers 141-121 on November 2, at the Rose Garden (I know it’s Moda center but that’s a dumb name). Another high scoring instance was a win against the Magic in which the Lakers won by a score of 130-119.
The scoring was a bit spread out with Lopez averaging 17.9 points a game to go along with 5.4 rpg and 35 percent shooting from three. Clarkson finished with the same scoring average as Lonzo with 15.1 points per game in the sixth man role. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ended up with 14.2/2.5/1.4, Brandon Ingram with 12.3/3.6/.6 and Julius Randle nearly averaged a double double per game with 9.5 points per game and 8.0 rebounds per game, but his assists per game dropping to 1.9.
Individually, I’m not too impressed with Randle’s assists dropping and Ingram having less than 1 assist per game. Lonzo’s stats would be really impressive especially as a rookie. I would be pleasantly surprised if the Lakers can somehow win 39 games next season. The Lakers averaged 109 ppg and their opponents scored 110.8 on them.
Lonzo as Magic Johnson
Being a young point guard with a large amount of potential, you will be compared to Magic Johnson. Magic went out of his way to say “He’s just like me” at media day. NO PRESSURE, Lonzo! Just being compared to one of the greatest point guards of all time.
But it got me thinking: What if Lonzo was Magic Johnson? Was there a way for this to happen?
Of course there is, reader. We have technology.
So, what I did was I took all of Magic’s stats from the 86-87 season and applied them to Lonzo. I also made Lonzo 6’9″ (nice) and 215 pounds as Magic was. His stats are pretty decent for a rookie point guard in terms of passing and IQ. He had a huge increase in his layups, midrange shot, and post moves. I kept Lonzo’s three point attributes the same. I figure giving him this and keeping his tendencies the same should see the same sort of production in the previous simulation but at a higher number. I played a bit of the first game against the Clippers and it was insane to play with him, especially in transition.
The Lakers ended up with a 42-40 season, ending up with the 8th seed. Lonzo averaged 15/6.6/9.7, shooting 39 percent from three and 45% from the field overall. Here’s the crazy part:
THEY BEAT THE NUMBER 1 SEED IN 6 GAMES. Unfortunately they lost to the Jazz in 7 games in the next round (who also beat the “We Believe” Warriors who were absolutely fun, jokes on them they live in Utah). I really don’t understand how they ended up beating the Rockets in 6 until I dug a bit deeper. Lonzo ended up averaging 20.7/6.3/11.7 in those playoff games and shot 55 percent from the field and 44 percent from 3. Absolutely insane production there.
This really is a bit like Magic who, as a rookie, ended up bringing the Lakers to the Finals and then winning it all, filling in at center for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Maybe this could be a glimpse of what Lonzo has to offer in the future. (It won’t but it’s fun to imagine)
What the Fox
Prior to the draft, there were reports saying the Lakers might consider drafting De’Aaron Fox. The lightning fast point guard out of Kentucky was fun to watch during his college career and I was not against the Lakers picking him up provided they traded the number 2 pick for 5 and 10. There is now a bit of a rivalry developing between Fox and Lonzo considering their match-ups during the college basketball season and in the tournament.
The rematch during Summer League didn’t happen due to an injury to Lonzo and that was replicated in their preseason match-up as well.
Let’s flip this around, I traded Lonzo to the Kings for De’Aaron Fox.
I played with the team for a couple minutes prior to simulating the entire season and I have to say, he was insanely fast. In the picture above, he grabbed the defensive board and I was able to race down the court to lay it in over DeAndre Jordan. It was fun, I thought the Lakers could be around the 30 win range until:
The Lakers started the season off with a 11 game losing streak. After the Christmas day game, their record was 5-27. There were some highlights like the Lakers beating the Cavaliers 112-107. The Lakers averaged 101 points per game but allowed 108.
Fox averaged 9.3/2.5/4.0 and ended up on the First Team All-Rookie. Lonzo however, ended up as Rookie of the Year in Sacramento. If this is an indication of reality (it’s not), I’m glad that the Lakers took Lonzo.
I like Fox a lot. Wish him the best and for that I wish he didn’t end up in Sacramento, but such is life.
What Could Have Been
On June 20th, I was finishing up a shift at work and got several sad texts. My initial thought was: “Oh no, someone near and dear to me got hurt or killed”. In reality, it was much worse: D’Angelo Russell had been traded to the Brooklyn Nets along with Timofey Mozgov to shed the latter’s terrible contract.
So what I did was I traded back Brook Lopez and brought back D’Angelo Russell! Unfortunately Timofey Mozgov came back with him but that’s okay. Our beloved prince from Louisville was back and I could not have been more excited. Although he is a polarizing figure amongst Laker fans, I’m a huge fan of his and will continue to root for him (unless he joins the Celtics).
So! Let’s pretend that trade never happened (I would’ve been more okay if they sent out Ingram but that’s beside the point) and simulate this season.
I really wanted to see this backcourt pairing. Ball and Russell seem like they could work out as they’re both willing passers and capable scorers. Having both divvied up the ball handling duties and could allow Luke to stagger the lineups to allow one of them to play with the bench. I started Russell and had KCP coming off as the sixth man.
The Lakers ended up with a 35-47 record. Lonzo ended up with the ROY award (again….notice the theme?) with an average of 12.4 points per game and 7.4 assists per game. Russell was the team’s leading scorer with 18.4 points per game and 5.3 assists per game. Thirty-five wins is around where I see the Lakers ending up with this year.
FANTASY DREAM LAND TIME
Lakers exceptionalism. I remember when certain fans thought the Lakers could trade one player for another like it was a video game. Hell, some of these fans still exist and think this would work. So I traded Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to the Thunder for Paul George and sent Julius Randle to the Cavaliers for Lebron James.
Sidenote: I never really understood the vitriol that Laker fans had towards Lebron. Was I maybe mad about him beating the Lakers on December 25 all the time? Sure. My Christmas wish every year is for the Lakers to win and for my family to stop fighting and LeBron stopped one of those things from happening (The other issue will never fix itself).
I would never consider him and Kobe Bryant rivals, Bryant’s peak tapered off while LeBron continues to be one of the best players in the world. I would be ecstatic for LeBron to join the Lakers even at his age. Which isn’t too old. Michael Jordan won his first title at 28. LeBron’s first came at 32. Welcome him with open arms next year, Laker fans. If you appreciate basketball, you appreciate LeBron.
The way I lined up the Lakers was: Ball/BI/PG/James/Lopez. The team started off with a three-game winning streak prior to losing their next three. There were two instances of seven-game win streaks and the team ended up with a record of 45-37, ending up with the 6th seed.
Paul George was the leading scorer for the team with 24.8 points per contest, to go along with 5.9 rebounds and 4.2 assists. LeBron had pretty respectably averages of 17.9/7.8/6.4. Lonzo ended up with a stat line of 9.0/3.6/7.9.
The sixth seed Lakers went off to play against the third-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder and guess what, they won! In 6 games! However they ended up losing to the 2nd seed Houston Rockets in the next round. Houston opened up with 3-0 to start the series only for the Lakers to tie it back up at 3-3. Unfortunately, the Lakers lost in game seven. The weirdest thing is:
The 76ers made the finals! They lost, but still it was crazy to see them make it that far. Ben Simmons averaged 13.4/7.8/4.9 in the season to win ROY and his play continued in the playoffs. This was the only scenario that anyone other than Lonzo won ROY. Additional shoutout to Julius Randle for winning 6th man of the year with Cleveland averaging 10/8/3.
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES II: THE SECRET OF THE KUZ
When the Lakers drafted Kyle Kuzma, I texted Grant Goldberg and asked:
“I don’t even know” he replied.
But he had a pretty good Summer League showing, displaying his scoring in transition, shot from a distance, and chemistry with Lonzo. Naturally I don’t want to buy into the hype so I changed all his stats to 99, making him the greatest player of all time.
I went a little crazy and spent the entire first game of the season dunking on the Clippers with him and here are some of my favorite shots. I would post more but I’m afraid DeAndre Jordan would find out where I lived and he’d put me in really bad state farm commercials as a means of repentance.
Last year I did this after I made Ivica Zubac 7’6″ and he was dunking on Ryan Anderson but doing this at his normal height over DeAndre is something that must be applauded.
He ended the season as ROY boasting stats of 17.4/11.3/4.3, shooting 55 percent from the field, 45 percent from three and 99% at the line and also brought home the Dunk Contest trophy (sorry Larry Nance, Jr.). Kuzma lead the Lakers to a fifth seed berth with a record of 48-34 but, unfortunately the Lakers lost to the Timberwolves in seven games as their season drew to a close.
If you’re at this point, I just want to say thanks for taking the time to read this. Shoutout to the Lakers Outsiders fam for welcoming me (except for you, Drew) and letting me write something as incoherent and arbitrary as this. The Lakers season starts soon and I’m more than happy to welcome them back into my life.