• Russell Schmidt

NBA Future Rankings 26. Los Angeles Lakers


*Photo via NBC

You can’t mention the Los Angeles Lakers without mentioning one of the greatest of all time, Kobe Bryant. Unfortunately for Bryant, father time is undefeated; nowadays you can’t mention Kobe without mentioning season ending injuries. Kobe has finished each of the past three in a tailored suit with various major injuries and the Lakers have suffered, winning only 38 percent of regular season games since 2012 – 13.

The Lakers ended their 2014 – 15 campaign with 61 losses, the most in franchise history since their 1960 relocation to L.A. Out of the 19 players who spent time on the Lakers roster last season, 10 have found new homes and the new look “Lakeshow” will be headlined by number two overall pick, D’Angelo Russell. Joining Russell will be rookie Larry Nance Jr. and sophomores Julius Randle, who broke his leg during the 2014 opener, and 2014 All-Rookie First Team selection, Jordan Clarkson.

After striking out on superstar free agents during the 2015 offseason, the Lakers recovered with quality stopgap options. A trade for Roy Hibbert (1YR/$15.5MM) along with the signings of reigning Sixth Man of the Year, Lou Williams (3YR/$21MM) and Brandon Bass (2YS/$6MM), Los Angeles has found themselves with a serviceable roster. They’ve also set themselves up to end the drought in California with the possible cap space they’ll have next season once Kobe ($25MM) and Hibbert come off the books. For the hype Hollywood gets when it comes to free agents, the Lakers haven’t signed a franchise changer since Shaquille O’Neal in 1996.

*Photo via ESPN

With the state of the current roster and the strength of the Western Conference, the Staples Center will only house Los Angeles Clippers playoff games next season. The Lakers will once again find themselves in the lottery, and that’s when things get a little cloudy in La-La Land. The Philadelphia 76ers are due a first round pick from the Lakers. The pick is top-3 protected in 2016 and 2017, but would become an unprotected pick in 2018 if the Sixers weren’t able to cash in the next two seasons. The Lakers also owe the Orlando Magic a top-5 protected first round pick in 2018 that becomes unprotected the following season.

With restrictions in multiple upcoming drafts, the Lakers will likely have to move forward with their current young guns and hope to land free agents. With the majority of Laker greats finding their way to Tinseltown via draft or trade, L.A. faces an uphill climb in their return to NBA prominence.

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Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com, NBA.com, ESPN.com

Salary cap and contract information courtesy of Spotrac.com, Hoopshype.com, Basketballinsiders.com

Future draft commitments and rosters information courtesy of RealGM.com

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