Now the Lakers really have a new beginning, with Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka off their first summer running basketball operations, Lonzo Ball in place as another piece of the future and the hope that July 2018 cap space could instantly position them again for a long playoffs run.
In addition to choosing Ball with the second pick, the Lakers also got Kyle Kuzma (27) and Josh Hart (30) in the first round as part of trades … Three Lakers who started at least 50 games are gone: D’Angelo Russell, Nick Young and Timofey Mozgov … Kentavious Caldwell-Pope signed for a big 2017/18 salary ($18-million) but it’s a one-year deal that gives LA cap flexibility in return.
1. Brook Lopez in place of Mozgov at center is a double win for the Lakers as a position upgrade and a better contract, getting away from the three seasons and $48-million due Mozgov. Instead, they’re getting Lopez in the final season of his deal.
2. The season is about the continued development of young coach Luke Walton, as well as the young players. As the Lakers plan for their major push a year from now, they rightly feel Walton is capable of being part of the next level.
3. Three of the five projected starters—Ball, Caldwell-Pope and Lopez—are new to the team and a fourth, Brandon Ingram, is in his second season in the league. There will still be a lot of growing pains.
MAN ON THE SPOT
Lonzo Ball. For all the wrong reasons. There would be scrutiny enough on a No 2 pick playing and likely immediately starting for his hometown team, especially when that team is one of the visible franchises of the sport even in bad times, but, um, outside factors have put additional, unnecessary pressure on Ball.
Lonzo Ball | 14.6 ppg | 6.0 rpg | 7.6 apg (at UCLA)
Needs to prove he can handle defenses as well as the hype.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope | 13.8 ppg | 3.3 rpg | 2.5 apg
Arrives from Pistons on a one-year free-agent deal.
Brandon Ingram | 9.4 ppg | 4.0 rpg | 2.1 apg
Should improve after shooting 40.2 percent as a rookie.
Julius Randle | 13.2 ppg | 8.6 rpg | 3.6 apg
Too often overlooked in discussion of promising Lakers foundation.
Brook Lopez | 20.5 ppg | 5.4 rpg | 2.3 apg
Could have a future in LA beyond 2017/18 as final season on his deal.
Jordan Clarkson | 14.7 ppg | 3.0 rpg | 2.6 apg
Will have a big role either as the starting shooting guard or a contributor off the bench.
Ivica Zubac | 7.5 ppg | 4.2 rpg | 0.8 apg
Big finish to rookie season and now gets tutored by talented Lopez.
Larry Nance Jr | 7.1 ppg | 5.9 rpg | 1.5 apg
Energy guy at power forward entering third season.
There is a good chance more people will spend the season talking about what happens in July, with the highly anticipated free-agent splurge, than talking about the season. In the meantime, the Lakers already on the roster need to get a lot better, especially on defense, while waiting for reinforcements.
By Scott Howard-Cooper
First appeared on NBA.com Global
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