How many games will this 2017 Lakers team win?
Last week, Lakers Pulse ran a poll on how many wins Lakers fans anticipate for the coming season. While win projections from fans are complete conjecture, wins polls can be a helpful tool for gauging expectations of the fanbase and measuring the buzz around the team before the season begins. With the departure of Byron Scott, the signing of new head coach Luke Walton, and the addition of several exciting new players through the draft and free agency, the future looks bright. However, there is still a great range of opinion on how the Lakers will do, and a measure of uncertainty moving forward.
A well crafted wins poll creates brackets at strategic points in order to make voting more difficult and increase voter participation. A poll with wins brackets that are too big makes the choice too easy, with most people picking the same option. A poll with brackets that are too small creates too many choices and votes end up getting spread too thin, making the results inconclusive. In the Lakers Pulse wins poll from last week, pollster Kyle Hartwick expertly broke down the wins projections into four main brackets, resulting in nearly 1,000 votes. Each of the poll choices represents a different section of Lakers fans, and each group has a different attitude about the coming season. Below are the 4 different types of Lakers fans and what will have to happen for their predictions to come true.
0-15 wins (2% of poll voters)
Whether it’s Celtics fans trolling Lakers Twitter, freshly hatched Warriors fans stretching their trash talking wings, or disgruntled Byron Scott apologists (they are out there), there are always haters to kill the positive buzz and put out a “worst case scenario” prediction. [Editors note: I may have voted in this bracket… More than once… Just to have fun :D]
How it could happen
A great deal of disasters would have to befall the purple and gold in order for the Lakers to put up 15 or less wins. A catastrophic injury to sophomore point guard D’Angelo Russell would have to occur, coupled with a disappointing year from promising rookie Brandon Ingram and almost no production from new acquisitions Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng. Keep dreaming Celtics nation, this is not going to happen (knock on wood).
Some Lakers fans would prefer the team to “tank” and lose enough games to keep the top 3 protected draft pick for 2017 which is owed to the 76ers, but the Lakers have too much young talent to end up among the league’s worst teams again.
16-25 wins (11% of poll voters)
Multiple losing seasons of misery, injuries, poor coaching hires, and free agency strikeouts have a tendency to wear on a fanbase (just ask Sam Hinkie). It is from these years of famine in Los Angeles, that the pessimist fans are born. The pessimist Lakers fan must ignore the extensive history of championship success for the Lakers franchise, and instead focus on the negatives from the past few years, in order to maintain their doom and gloom attitudes for this coming season.
How it could happen
Unfortunately, the Lakers fanbase has recently seen exactly what it takes to muster a season with 16-25 wins. Bad coaching, injuries, horrific defensive play, and a lack of talent have landed the Lakers in this wins bracket by season’s end in back to back years ( 21-61, 17-65). For the Pessimists to be correct in their prediction, Luke Walton’s system will need to fall flat due to poor backcourt shooting, the Lakers frontcourt will have to continue to be a turnstile on defense, and D’angelo Russell would need to miss significant time due to injuries. While possible, it is unlikely that all of these challenges will pop up during the upcoming season to bring the team down in flames.
26-35 wins (58% of poll voters)
Luke Walton bringing Steve Kerr’s championship system to Los Angeles, the veteran free agent pickups from this offseason, and the continued development of the young talent already on the roster are indicators that this season will be the first of many successful years for this new look Lakers squad. It is not a coincidence that the majority of fans who took part in the Lakers Pulse wins projection poll chose this as the most likely outcome for the 2016/17 Lakers season.
How it could happen
In order for the Lakers to produce at the level necessary for 26+ wins, Luke Walton’s system will need to be successful at isolating team strengths (dominant point guard, youth/athleticism, frontcourt size) and hiding team weaknesses (team defense, lack of outside shooters, unproven low post offense). D’angelo Russell and Julius Randle will need to improve in pick and roll sets, and Brandon Ingram will need to have a solid rookie year as a major contributor offensively and defensively. All of these circumstances will naturally come to pass if the Lakers rebuild continues on its logical path, and the Lakers have an excellent chance at breaking through into the 26-35 win zone.
36+ wins (29% of poll voters)
Every franchise has them: the fans who think that their team is one blockbuster trade or free agent coup away from beginning a dynasty. Never mind that their team has unmovable contracts or no draft picks, so long as they can work it out on the trade machine, their team is 1 step away from glory. It is the Delusionist Lakers fans who think DeMarcus Cousins and Russell Westbrook are on their way to Staples Center in exchange for “Lou Williams and Nick Young plus picks.” They are 100% certain that Larry Nance Jr. is the next Larry Byrd, and the 1 seed in the Western Conference is a virtual lock for the home team.
How it could happen
For the Lakers to crack 36 wins and land a solid playoff spot in 2017, many things will have to break perfectly in favor of Los Angeles. Walton’s new system will have to be rolled out flawlessly, with a hybrid between what Walton ran with Golden State and a revitalized pick and roll to fit the Laker roster. Julius Randle will need to develop his midrange jump shot and increase his offensive efficiency. Brandon Ingram will need to put up Rookie of The Year type numbers and play heavy minutes at the 3 position. While extremely unlikely, blockbuster trades do happen. The Lakers front office has a history of shrewd dealing and has pulled off season changing deals in the past, so it’s fair to say that Delusionist fans wearing Lakers jerseys are just a little less delusional than their counterparts on other teams.
Which category describes you? Comment below or hit up Lakers Pulse on Twitter/IG/Facebook