At the start of every NBA season, fans are filled with optimism and hope. Every team is 0-0 and has an equal shot at the title…..theoretically. In reality, there will be title favorites and lottery favorites. Unfortunately, the Lakers will be the latter this year. Still, Laker fans can expect improvement from last season. However, winning over 30 games for this young and experienced team is unreasonable due to the time to learn the new offense, a very tough schedule, and growing pains.
When Steve Kerr was hired by Golden State, the Warriors won 67 games and coasted their way to a title. The Warriors also lost 2 of their first 7 games. If the Lakers start 5-2, it will be a success, but considering the last two seasons for the Warriors, 5-2 is a down stretch for them. Admittedly, the Warriors then won 16 games in a row, so it did not take them too long to adjust to the new offense. But Golden State was far more experienced than this Laker team, already with two playoff runs under their belt. The Lakers on the other hand are primarily made up of rookies and sophomores. If one were to presume the Lakers start D’Angleo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Luol Deng, Julius Randle, and Timofey Mosgov, the average age of the starting line up will be 25 years of age. In time, I do expect the new offense to allow the young Lakers (especially Russell, Ingram, Randle, and Clarkson) to excel, it is foolish to think there will not be an adjustment period. This adjustment period will cause quite a few losses within the 2-4 weeks. And with a young team like this, it is important to get of to a good start for confidence, chemistry, and momentum, and losses at the start of the year may cause the team to struggle. I do expect a turn around after the All-Star break, and for the team to close with a .450 record down the stretch, like the 2014-2015 Utah Jazz’s season. But in the end, the late push won’t be enough to push the Lakers over 30 games.
The Lakers have a very, very hard schedule. In fact, it’s the toughest in the NBA. This is likely a result of playing Golden State, the Clippers, and the Spurs 4 times each. This is highlighted by a BRUTAL first month, where out of the Lakers first 8 opponents, 6 made the playoffs last year. Of the two that didn’t, one is Utah who could quite reasonably be a 50 win team this year. December doesn’t let up either, with Toronto, Memphis, Utah, and Houston to start, and the Cavs, Hornets, Clippers, and Utah towards end. The easiest month is likely March, despite playing Cleveland and the Clippers.
The last and most important reason the Lakers will win fewer than 30 games is the lack of experience on the team. I loved the Luol Deng signing, and while Mosgov cost more money than I think was necessary, he is a solid starting center if he returns to his 2015 form. While those are both proven veterans, and Jose Calderon and Lou Williams are an above average reserve back court, D’Angleo will turn the ball over. Clarkson will struggle with shot selection. Julius will force the issue. Ingram will get knocked around by stronger players. And that is all OK. You learn from your mistakes. But in the short term, it will result for losses. But hey, at least this year our young guys can play through their mistakes…
As a Laker fan, I would love for the Lakers to win over 30 games this year. As a Laker fan, I would love for them to win the title also. However, it doesn’t mean it will happen. The Lakers will improve. Winning 25-29 games would be an 8-12 game improvement. But the team has to learn a new offense fast, overcome a tough schedule, and mature quick to win over 30 games, something that just isn’t likely.