Friday, October 9, 2015

2015-16 Season Preview: Los Angeles Lakers

LOS ANGELES LAKERS
[] 21-61
[] Offensive Rating: 104.1 (27th)
[] Defensive Rating: 111.4 (29th)
[] Net Rating: -7.4 (27th)
[] Last playoff appearance: 2013
[] Coach: Byron Scott

Last season's win percentage (25.6%) was the worst in the history of the storied Lakers franchise.  The offense was bad, the defense was worse, and Kobe Bryant missed over half the season with a shoulder injury.  The Lakers turned those struggles into the 2nd pick in the 2015 draft, which they used on talented combo-guard D'Angelo Russell.  Russell and Jordan Clarkson, who surprised as a rookie, should combine to help ease Bryant's load on offense.  On top of that, 2014 lottery selection Julius Randle will be returning from a broken foot after only appearing in one game last year.  He'll pair up with the newly acquired Roy Hibbert in the frontcourt.  The Lakers should be somewhat improved from last season, but I don't think they did enough to even have dreams of a playoff berth.  The offense will likely be inefficient whether Kobe is healthy or not, and the addition of Roy Hibbert can only do so much to improve one of the league's worst defenses.  To top it all off, they're coached by a guy who couldn't possibly be further behind on what the league has done in terms of changing styles of play.  It's looking like another long year in the purple and gold half of the Staples Center.

Projected Starting Five

PG: Jordan Clarkson - 6'5, 200 - 2nd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
59
11.9
16.9
23.0%
52.8%
31.4%
.203
82.9%
.265
23.8%
12.6%

The 46th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, Clarkson was really the only pleasant surprise for the Lakers last season.  He proved to be the team's best option when it came to having a guy who you really wanted to have the ball in his hands.  That we're saying that about a rookie second round pick tells you all you need to know about last season's Lakers.  Things to improve for this year and beyond: outside shooting and playmaking.

SG: D'Angelo Russell - 6'5, 200 - Rookie
GP
PPG
RPG
APG
FG%
FT%
3P%
35
19.3
5.7
5.9
44.9%
75.6%
41.1%

The Lakers surprised some by taking Russell over Jahlil Okafor with the 2nd pick.  He could start the year coming off the bench if one of Lou Williams or Nick Young takes the other starting spot, but my money is on him getting the look early, if not on opening night.  Russell did it all at Ohio State last year, and it'll be interesting to see just how much usage he gets throughout the year.  If Kobe's healthy all year, Russell's going to have to learn how to play off the ball, at least for this year.

SF: Kobe Bryant - 6'7, 205 - 20th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
35
22.3
17.6
34.9%
47.7%
29.3%
.258
81.3%
.338
29.9%
13.5%

Kobe's played in 41 games over the last two seasons, and he enters this year with the speculation that this one may be his last.  He wasn't particularly good last season when he was on the floor, putting up good raw numbers, but poor efficiency marks in a very high-usage role.  That load should be lighter this year with Clarkson emerging, Russell capable of scoring and making plays, a healthy Julius Randle and Roy Hibbert giving the Lakers their best C option over the last few years.  Whether Kobe allows himself to actually take on a less ball-dominant role is yet to be seen.  I'm not willing to write him off completely, but it's hard to project that Kobe is going to be Kobe again between now and retirement.

PF: Julius Randle - 6'9, 250 - 2nd NBA season (2013-14 college stats)
GP
PPG
RPG
APG
FG%
FT%
40
15.0
10.4
1.4
50.1%
70.6%

Randle played a whopping 14 minutes in his rookie season before breaking his leg against the Rockets on opening night.  He recovered fully in time to play for the Lakers' summer league squad in Las Vegas, although his performance was what you would expect from a guy who hadn't played in about nine months.  When healthy, his ability to face up and attack off the dribble is what makes him hard to defend.  I liked him coming out of Kentucky, and if his leg is fully healed and he trusts it, I think he'll have a decent year.

C: Roy Hibbert - 7'2, 280 - 8th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
FT%
FTr
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
BLK/36
76
10.6
15.4
21.3%
50.1%
82.4%
.287
15.5%
9.0%
21.9%
2.3

Once credited as being the glue of a strong, stingy Pacers defense, Hibbert quickly fell out of favor in Indiana last season, as they plan on moving to a faster style of play that doesn't suit the big man.  That made Hibbert available, and the Lakers scooped up the two-time All-Star and one-time All-Defensive second team member.  Hibbert's not going to give you much offensively (how a guy his size only takes 21.7% of his shots within 3 feet of the hoop and has never shot above 50% from the field is beyond me) and his rebounding production leaves something to be desired.  What is unquestionable though, is his ability to defend, especially at the rim.  Among players who played at least 20 MPG and faced at least 3.5 shots per game at the rim, only Rudy Gobert, Serge Ibaka and Andrew Bogut produced a lower opponent FG% than Hibbert (42.9%) in 2014-15.  Within those same parameters, nobody was better than Hibbert (39.7%) in 2013-14.  He's one of the best, if not the best, rim protectors in the NBA.

Bench

G: Lou Williams - 6'2, 175 - 11th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
80
15.5
19.9
27.0%
56.4%
34.0%
.482
86.1%
.426
13.6%
8.4%

Williams is a scorer, plain and simple, and a good one at that.  His scoring exploits last year earned him the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year award, and a shout-out in a Drake song.  A terrible, terrible Drake song.  He'll have the same role for the Lakers, although if D'Angelo Russell doesn't look ready, he could open the season as a starter.  Marcelo Huertas could also make the roster as the team's 3rd PG.

SG: Jabari Brown - 6'6, 215 - 2nd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
19
11.9
11.0
18.8%
54.7%
37.1%
.365
75.3%
.500
11.0%
13.4%

Brown lit up the D-League to the tune of 24.4 PPG, eventually earning a chance to play for the Lakers over the last month of the season.  He produced solid numbers overall, and had a 32-point performance against the Kings in April, among two other 20+ point performances.  Brown's emergence is one of the reasons that the next man listed could soon be out of a role.

G/F: Nick Young - 6'6, 200 - 9th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
42
13.4
14.2
26.0%
52.0%
36.9%
.473
89.2%
.311
6.9%
7.5%

Nick Young, aka Swaggy P, aka Bean Burrito, aka The City didn't take too long to wear out his welcome with the Lakers' brass last year.  His inefficient offense, wild (and usually funny) antics and lack of anything resembling defense made him a bad fit with Byron Scott last year.  Well, the inefficient offense thing actually fit quite nicely, but the other stuff made the relationship hard.  He was on the trade block all summer and could be gone at any point this season.  The fact that there's up to three years left on his deal is probably the only reason he hasn't been dealt already.

SF: Anthony Brown - 6'7, 210 - Rookie
GP
PPG
RPG
APG
FG%
FT%
3P%
37
14.8
6.9
2.5
43.1%
79.5%
44.1%

Brown's upshot is as a three-and-D wing, something that the Lakers absolutely need.  Like most rookies, he'll probably struggle to shoot the ball while he takes his lumps elsewhere in the process.  If the Lakers had more depth at SF, I would say Brown could see some time in the D-League, which would likely be good for his development.  The signing of Metta World Peace will factor in here as well.

F: Larry Nance Jr. - 6'9, 225 - Rookie
GP
PPG
RPG
APG
FG%
FT%
3P%
31
16.1
7.2
2.5
51.4%
78.6%
33.3%

Nance was a surprise pick at the end of the first round.  His athleticism should allow him to play both F positions, although he's going to need to add some strength to play PF.  I'm not expecting big things from Nance in year one.

PF: Jonathan Holmes - 6'9, 240 - Rookie
GP
PPG
RPG
APG
FG%
3P%
32
10.3
6.1
1.1
38.9%
33.1%

Holmes' solid play for the Celtics in summer league action earned him a shot with the Lakers.  Holmes' deal has a "significant partial guarantee" according Shams Charnia of RealGM, which leads me to believe he just might make the roster.

PF: Ryan Kelly - 6'11, 230 - 3rd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
TRB%
AST%
52
6.4
8.6
14.0%
47.3%
33.6%
.434
83.2%
.307
6.5%
10.9%

Kelly is the only stretch four on the roster, but he wasn't good in that role last year.  He shot an ugly 33.7% on two-point attempts last season.  With other options available at PF, Kelly might not end the season with the Lakers.

PF: Brandon Bass - 6'6, 240 - 11th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
FT%
FTr
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
BLK/36
82
10.6
16.3
19.5%
55.7%
79.0%
.313
11.3%
7.8%
14.9%
0.6

I like Bass' ability to contribute and he was a bigger part of the Celtics' success last season than he got credit for.  That being said, I'm not sure what he really does for this Lakers team at this point.  He'll be a veteran presence, sure, but he's going to be just good enough to make the team a little better, but not good enough to help the team pursue a playoff spot.  He doesn't really fit in the rebuilding process.

F/C: Tarik Black - 6'11, 250 - 2nd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
FT%
FTr
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
BLK/36
63
6.0
14.7
13.8%
58.3%
55.1%
.432
17.0%
12.8%
21.4%
0.7

Black is a big body in the middle of the floor, and it looks like he provides, if nothing else, some serviceable depth and an upgrade over Bob Sacre.

C: Bob Sacre - 6'11, 260 - 4th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
FT%
FTr
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
BLK/36
67
4.6
10.9
14.8%
44.9%
67.1%
.268
11.4%
8.4%
14.6%
1.4

Outlook

The roster is improved from last year, but it's not enough for the Lakers to make wholesale improvements in the win column.  Their second or third option on offense figures to be a rookie, the depth, especially in the frontcourt, is questionable, and you can't be confident that Kobe Bryant is going to play more than 55 games this season.  The Lakers should consider the season a success if they feel good at the end of the year about turning the keys over to D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle.  Developing the young talent on the roster will be the key to a good year, and the front office will quietly hope that they're bad enough to keep their top three protected pick.  I think they'll be right on the border of doing that.  Something like 26 wins seems right for this roster.

No comments:

Post a Comment