Resurgence of the Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers once again struck gold on last Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery. The basketball gods awarded them the unprotected top-3 draft pick they wish they never gave away when the Lakers traded for Steve Nash in 2012. LA had a 46.4% chance to drop out of the top-3 selection. Luckily, they got the #2 selection, the 3rd in 3 straight years. This was a blessing for the Lakers rebuilding process under new management Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka.
So, what does this mean for LA? It depends.
Scenario A: Develop the Prospects
The Lakers now have the choice to pick a player in what many say is a deep draft. While that might be true, the Lakers are still a long way back to relevance. UCLA golden child and hometown hero Lonzo Ball is projected to be selected #2 and the Lakers will take a long look at him. It’s also no secret that the Big Baller Brand star was always tied to the Lakers from the start, thanks to his father LaVar Ball. Can Lonzo really be the transition franchise superstar that many hyped him to be? Can he handle the bright lights of Los Angeles, shadowed by the all the past Laker greats?
Lonzo Ball's shooting mechanics are ugly AF, but it's wet.
Ball draws some premature (and blasphemous) comparisons to Magic Johnson and Jason Kidd, with an unorthodox jumper that makes you wonder if his elbow is still intact after he shoots. He has great length and height which allows him to see above opposing point guards. Listed at 6'6, he is an ideal fit for Luke Walton's fast-paced offense with the ability to push the floor and his pass-first instinct will surely fill the void of a team desperately needing a true floor general. Remember, the NBA today is a point-guard league.
Drafting Lonzo Ball means the D’Angelo Russell point-guard experiment is over. But in today's point-guard heavy league that emphasizes floor spacing with the three ball, the Lakers might be better off in the long run slotting an elite passer and quality shooter like Ball next to a scorer like Russell. Luckily, Russell also has the height and size to play the 2-guard, with him best excelling as a scorer anyways.
A team as loaded with high-end prospects like the Lakers will have plenty of offers before the draft. D'Angelo Russell seems like the most sought-after target. It's reported that teams have been calling LA for the former Ohio state product since it was revealed the Lakers would get the #2 selection. But it would be smart for General Manager Rob Pelinka to hang on to Russell as he is still only 21 years old. "Ice in My Veins" averaged 15.6 Points per game this season, showing plenty of flashes as a scorer throughout the year.
I will reiterate, 6'5 guards with length, size, court-vision and 3-ball, don't grow on trees.
This is a similar story for Julius Randle. He has poor defensive tendencies because of his limited length and size. He also tends to force it offensively when he's attacking the basket, but he's done nothing but improve after missing all but 14 minutes of his rookie year. Last season, at 22 years old, he averaged 13.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 0.5 blocks per game on a career high 48.7 percent shooting from the floor with a career-best 16.32 PER. Add a pass-first point guard and he should be valued as a core piece to the Lakers rebuild process.
We haven't even gotten to names of Brandon Ingram, who arguably has the best upside of the core. Ingram has tons of areas which he needs to improve on, but at the raw age of 19, his arrow is on the upward trajectory. With names like Jordan Clarkson, Larry Lance JR. and Ivica Zubac on the roster, the Lakers can at least give this roster a hard look as they work on developing these prospects.
With the blessing of the Draft Lottery results, the Lakers also get to keep their 2019 first round pick, thanks to it being tied to this year’s draft pick. They also have the 28th pick in the draft this year, another valuable asset they received from Houston when they traded Lou Williams in February. Should they believe this core isn't the future, the Lakers can also choose another route...
Scenario B: Enter PG13
The rumors are already swirling for hometown product Paul George to come to the Lakers. If the Lakers really want George, the Indiana Pacers will entertain offers, as he can walk next summer as an unrestricted free agent. Any package for George will almost surely start with the #2 pick.
The Lakers miss a guy who has the #@!% to take these type of shots with the game on the line
Paul George is a star entering his prime at the age of 27. It is debatable if he is truly a superstar you can build a franchise with. However, PG13 never had the luxury with playing with another star. Perhaps coming home to the Lakers to play with high-upside prospects will be a nice change of scenery. Let's face it, he was never going to get past the beast they call LeBron James in the East anyways. He's not only coming home, but he would play for the team he grew up cheering for. It's a fact that Paul George's family still idols Laker legend Kobe Bryant over George himself in the household. It’s reported he’s scheduled to work out with the Black Mamba this summer. Perhaps he would be able to work out with childhood idol on a daily basis should he come to Hollywood.
Black Mamba Inspired? Only a handful of players in the NBA are able to create their own shot like PG13
Some might remember his terrifying leg accident in 2012, but that's long history. Obviously, he only came back post-injury for 6 games in the 2014-2015 season, where he played limited minutes. Otherwise, he has improved every year statistically since entering the league. He’s been even better now than he was before his leg injury, with a much-improved jumper from mid-range and long-range. George averaged career-high 23.7 points in the regular season, with career-best percentages from the field (.461), the 3-point line (.393) and the foul line (.898). PG13 has shot 496 of his total 1348 field-goal attempts from deep this season, and he's been effective, connecting on a career-best 39%. He also averaged career-best 28 points per game during the postseason against the Cleveland Cavaliers this year. Ironically, Paul George’s Pacers were really the only team that pushed Cleveland to a closer, more entertaining series than any other opponent the Cavs have faced this postseason.
Paul George has become a capable lethal shooter from deep
Scenario C: Wait and Poach:
This option would be the best and most ideal for the Lakers. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, it is believed Paul George is set to join the Lakers in the summer of 2018 when he is an unrestricted free-agent. The Lakers were told not to give up assets to trade for him because he is willing to sign with them. That gives the Lakers great leverage and value because the Pacers would be in a panic, sell-high mode. It could also force them into a situation where George can tell other teams they won't re-sign with them unless it's the Lakers.
And he's has been consistently linked to the Lakers. Sam Amick of USA Today reported in February that "George—barring a title chance in Indy—is hell-bent on heading for Laker Land. This message has been sent throughout the NBA."
The real question is, does Paul George even fit with the Lakers?
Let's face it, the Lakers are bad. They're still really bad despite the amount of huge-upside players they have. The Lakers are super young, as they all have a lot of growing to do, on-court and off-court. There is no guarantee that any of these young prospects will become cornerstone household names like a Russell Westbrook or a Kevin Durant. And I'm a Laker fan, let's be real.
However, getting a player like Paul George, who is entering his prime at 27 to be with this young core could be a good thing though. Paul George could elevate this team to be playoff-bound, where the young Lakers can learn and get adjusted to playoff basketball, something that just has to be experienced for players to measure themselves, in order to take their game to the next level.
All in all, even if Paul George somehow lands in La La Land, he won't make them into instant contenders. What follows next, is who the Lakers get next via trades or free agency and who is still on the roster following George's arrival.
But guess what? The Lakers are coming. The future is bright. They're slowly creeping back onto the grid after completely falling off the map. They have finally adjusted to today's NBA where they have started from the grounds up on rebuilding. (Something the New York Knicks can't seem to do) They learned their lesson where legacy and past traditions was not a selling point to free agents. Yes, Los Angeles is a beautiful city to live in and the market is incomparable, but players want to win. Players today are attracted to talent, and that's exactly what the Lakers have now.
Dr. Jerry Buss can rest easy. Jack can come to Lakers games and actually enjoy them again. The Los Angeles Lakers under the Magic Johnson era is off to a promising start.
What do you think of this article? Lonzo Ball the next prophet? Will Paul George come to LA?