By Alexander Lawrence
1) What can we expect in the Magic Johnson regime this season?
Lonzo Ball has played his first summer league game and although he struggled, in the beginning, to score, Ball capped the summer league off as the MVP. Granted the sample size is small thus far, but Ball does have high expectations set for him, by everyone, especially the Lakers. He was brought in to be the face of the team for years to come. Maybe not this season, but we can expect him to be a nice asset this season and will prove to be efficient in his first season in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Magic Johnson has publicly stated that he expects Brandon Ingram, the Lakers current small forward, to be the man this season and believes Ingram will lead the Lakers in scoring. Ingram very well has the potential to be an elite scorer and lead the Lakers in scoring but he has to show more consistency this season. One thing for certain is that Magic is building this team around his young guys; Ball and Ingram. At worst, it’ll be a fun season for a team that could wind up fighting for a playoff berth if they can manage to stay healthy. The youth and talent is there to be a low 8 or 7 seed team.
Jordan Clarkson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will be a nice combo to man the 2-guard spot this season. Caldwell-Pope is a guy who has improved his shooting over his first four seasons in the NBA. Let’s not forget his defensive ability and how he’s really made that an identity of his game. If he exceeds expectations he could even wind up re-signing with the Lakers. Newly acquired center Brook Lopez will look to stay healthy and be a dominant center again as we knew him to be in the earlier stages of his career. Lopez could still be a nice surprise and clearly Magic saw something when he gave up D’Angelo Russell over Julius Randle for the veteran big-man.
2) LeBron James to L.A. talks real this time?
After Kyrie took the NBA by surprise and publicly announced he no longer wants to be in Cleveland playing with LeBron, it caused a great deal of commotion. LeBron has always had control of his career and his future was uncertain as he has made his frustrations known with Cleveland’s lackluster moves this offseason. Kyrie Irving wasn’t sure what LeBron’s plans were and didn’t want to be under his shadow anymore so he made the first move. His landing spots are considered to be the Knicks, Spurs, Heat, and Timberwolves, among others.
LeBron apparently no longer has an attractive team to help him win a championship and surely Derrick Rose will not replace Irving’s production in the lineup. Truth be told, LeBron has the chance to be a free agent next season, since he said he won’t waive his no-trade clause in his deal for any team this season, he will almost certainly stick it out in Cleveland for the 2017-18 season. That opens the door for him to play with potentially Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball to go with Lakers legend Magic Johnson running the Lake Show. Let’s not forget Julius Randle who still has a high ceiling. Caldwell-Pope and James are represented by the same agent, so the chance they pair-up together with the storied franchise seem even more likely.
3) The biggest concern for the Lakers are the big-men.
Julius Randle had a not-so impressive season in 2016-17, but this offseason he is looking to bounce-back in a big way. He’s been working on improving his conditioning and has reportedly shed 14lbs of body weight from last season. He’s working with a trainer and apparently enhancing his game.
The next concern is Brook Lopez who has an injury history but has proved to be a productive center in the league when he’s on the court. If Lopez stays healthy for the Lakers, he can without a doubt be one of the top offensive scoring centers this season. He was a post-player for quite a while during his career, but his newly utilized 3-point shot has helped him reshape his game a bit and his offensive game could be a dream come true for LA if the pieces all fall in place.
Those are the three stories fans of the Lakers need to be aware of as we head into the end of the dog days of summer. Temper your expectations for Lonzo Ball in year one and see if the big men can pay off this season to help them contend for a playoff berth as this team figures to be a competitive team this year. This season will be key for Luke Walton developing this team to make them an attractive free-agent landing spot for 2018 when LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, DeMarcus Cousins, and Isaiah Thomas can all hit the market.