With the weight of Kobe Bryant’s retirement finally off the shoulders of the Los Angeles Lakers, they forge ahead into a promising new era
Losing a superstar is never easy, especially when that superstar is Kobe Bryant.
For the last few years, the Los Angeles Lakers have struggled to progress with Bryant on their roster. He’s an all-time great and arguably the best shooting guard ever, besides Michael Jordan. However he undoubtedly held the organization back in the final years of his playing career.
In addition to battling serious injuries, Bryant took huge paydays that really handcuffed the organization’s future.
Now with his contract off the books, the Lakers are in overall terrific shape moving forward.
They took Brandon Ingram with the second overall pick in the NBA Draft, brought in some much needed veteran leadership by signing Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov with their cap space, and gave head coaching responsibilities to wonder-kid Luke Walton.
Ingram is built exactly like Kevin Durant. Like Durant, he is known for his sharp-shooting and snake-like penetrating ability. In time, he will help add a new dimension to this Lakers team that it hasn’t had since Lamar Odom was on their roster.
Eventually, he should develop into a lights-out scorer in the NBA while taking tips from Deng, who will undoubtedly serve as a mentor to him initially.
While the four-year, $64 million contract they gave to Mozgov is certainly questionable, he fills a huge need they’ve had since losing Dwight Howard. Mozgov is certainly no Howard, but he definitely brings a ton of length and athleticism to the table.
He will greatly improve the team’s efficiency in the post on offense and on defense.
Deng remains a super-underrated player that can guard and play multiple positions extremely well. In the right situation, he can flourish on both ends of the floor thanks to his versatility and ability to score from anywhere.
Walton was the interim head coach of the Golden State Warriors to begin the 2015-16 NBA season. He guided the Dubs to 24 straight wins to start the year, as well as helping them win 29 of their first 30 games.
He won’t have the same instant success in Los Angeles when compared to the Bay Area, but he is a disciple of one of the best coaches in the league in Steve Kerr. He will certainly help in reshaping the team’s offensive schemes, as well as aiding in fostering the club’s young talent into stars.
It is realistic to wonder if the Lakers have a shot at the playoffs this year. To put it simply, the West isn’t as stacked as it was a couple years ago.
One big concern that remains is if the team trusts D’Angelo Russell after the Nick Young videotape fiasco last season. An incident like that one can really divide a locker room.
Russell needs to show that he is a more mature guy and someone that wants to come across as being a professional both on and off the court.
That’s how he will earn back the teammates he lost along the way. That’s how he’ll help make the Lakers a winning team once again.
They also have two additional terrific building blocks in Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle, who will be counted on to provide toughness and leadership for this young team.
Both of these players will most likely be starters this year, which means they will have to accept more responsibility coming into this season.
In terms of this year, the Lakers will just miss out on the playoffs. They will certainly be in the mix for the eighth seed, but the Utah Jazz and Minnesota Timberwolves will take bigger leaps than them this year.
Although in a few years, they might be one of the best teams in the league. The most important thing they must do is try to keep this squad together.
There has been so much upheaval and change recently within the organization, which is one of the reasons they have had so many problems.
If they truly want to establish chemistry and a comfortable atmosphere for their staff and players, sticking together with this roster is the right move.