For many Lakers fans and fans of the NBA alike, it has been a long off-season. Despite the fact that the NBA has one of the shorter off-seasons in sports, it has still dragged on for some time. Alas, the wait is almost over. With the season only days, away it’s time that we play everyone’s favorite game: “over or under”. For this season, we will keep it low and start the line at 30 wins. I am predicting that the Lakers will win over 30 games.
As it stands the roster is full of young, inexperienced talent, wily veterans with experience in good locker rooms as well as NBA Finals, and players who went overseas and subsequently came back for a shot in the NBA, a trade piece that garnered 2 draft picks, and a “catalyst”. All with a brand new coach whose only experience happens to be with one of the greatest teams of all time (who blew a 3-1 series lead in the Finals without him as coach).
The roster stands as such:
How can this roster win more than 30 games?
I’ll state outright that I don’t think they will win more than 35 games. Even if they win 30, that’s a 13 win increase from the abysmal season prior. This would be fantastic. How can this be done?
Last season, chemistry could best be described as 15% or worse in 2K terms. Already it looks to be around 70%. The young teammates have constantly been seen together working on their game and hanging out. They have also been complete gym rats with an entirely new coaching staff that is working with each of the young players. To go along with this, the main acquisitions during the off season of Timofey Mozgov and Loul Deng have fit in well. Both players are terrific locker room players. Between the two, they have 102 playoff games worth of experience, including Timofey Mozgov’s recent championship with the Cavs last season. They both have suffered bad seasons as well. They know how to win, and know how to remain locked in during bad seasons.
At least this summer I’ve really enjoyed going to the gym and seeing the faces and people that we’re with us now. That’s the culture change. You’re going to the gym seeing Luke and Randle and they’re laughing. Seeing Jordan and Russell shooting half court shorts and they’re laughing. The strength coaches are pumping people up.
The locker overall seems to be in a better place than it was last season under Byron Scott. Could that add more wins? Absolutely. Having great chemistry can lead to teammates wanting to go all out for each other. This team already feels like each player will give their all to pick the next guy up. As seen with multiple social media photos, the kids enjoy each other’s company. Make no mistake, that will translate on the court. Possibly can lead to 5-6 more wins.
After the departure of Byron Scott, the Lakers completely changed their coaching staff. It’s gotten younger, wiser, and way more flexible. Luke Walton has added coaches that specialize in every dynamic that basketball can throw at you. The system of isolation ball is no longer the main facet of the offense. Instead, a free flowing pick-and-roll system will be the main focus of this young team.
With the signing of Timofey Mozgov and resigning of Tarik Black, it is apparent that pick-and-roll will be one of the main offensive focuses. With a point guard in D’Angelo Russell that feasts off pick-and-roll, we will see more games be far closer than last year. Closer games can also result in close wins. For a team that was blown out early and often last season, keeping games closer, and winning more games will boost confidence and lead to more wins beyond that. On the defensive side of the ball, a more switch heavy systems seems to be the focus for the team. Byron Scott preached “stick to your man” defense. That said, when Kobe didn’t guard his man, Byron blamed others. New offense and defense add a potential for 5 to 6 more wins.
Finally, the most important factor for this season and seasons to come: developing the young talent that we have. This will be Brandon Ingram and Ivica Zubac’s first season. This will be the second season for Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr. D’Angelo Russell, and Anthony Brown. Draft steal Jordan Clarkson will start his third year. If the players that we all feel can make those leaps this season, there is no doubt in my mind we can add 2-3 more wins this season.
If it all goes to plan
The bottom line is the team is already far better just based off the coaching change alone. With the addition of savvy veterans, talented rookies, and additional years for the current young core, the team already looks like it could win a few more games than last season. IF all goes well, I could absolutely see this team winning 30-35 games. That is an absolute stretch though. Most importantly, as Luke Walton states: this season isn’t about wins and losses. This season is about the development of the team as a whole. No one outside the players themselves predicts this team making the playoffs, especially in the Western Conference. For now, let us all get excited for a new era for the Lakers. A young team of talent, led by a young talented coaching staff.
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