The Los Angeles Lakers are only a few years removed from back-to-back championships, but this season they are vying for a different prize. With one of the worst records in the Western Conference, the Lakers will be hoping for a lottery pick in the NBA draft in June.
With a record of 25-54, the Lakers sit in second last in the Western Conference and will finish the regular season with one of the worst records in franchise history. This season will mark only the sixth time that the Los Angeles Lakers did not make the NBA playoffs.
Many teams have years that they struggle in the NBA, but it is rare for a franchise as storied as the Lakers to struggle so mightily. The Lakers have been decimated by injuries this year, and that is a large reason why they are at the bottom of the Western Conference.
Kobe Bryant played just six games for the Lakers before injuring his knee. Pau Gasol has dealt with a string of back and knee injuries as well as the flu, he has played in just 60 games for the Lakers. Steve Nash played in just 15 games for the Lakers, as he struggled with back and hamstring injuries.
The Lakers line up this season consisted of mostly inexperienced, young players. Their leading scorer was Nick Young, who averaged 17.6 points per game, despite only starting in 9 games this season. Pau Gasol was the teams seconding leading scorer at 17.4 points per game, and it is likely that this year marked Gasol’s last season with the Lakers.
Players for the Future
After signing a two-year $48 million contract, it does not look like Kobe Bryant is going anywhere. The 35-year-old Bryant is expected to return next season and continue to climb up the all-time scoring list. If Bryant is fully healthy, there is no doubt that he will be able to return to his elite level of play for at least one more year.
The Presence of Bryant on the court will be an asset to the young players on the team, as he will be looked to as the undisputed leader of the team. Nick Young has been a rare bright spot in the Lakers season, but it is unknown as to whether or not the Lakers will re-sign him.
Young has a similar game to Bryant’s and he provides a much-needed spark of offense to the Laker’s bench. When Bryant takes his usual rest in games, Young can ensure that the offensive rhythm does not lose a beat.
Players to Look at in the Draft
This year’s NBA draft has no shortage of young talent and with the Lakers likely receiving a high draft pick; they will be getting a solid player. But which of these young players are the Lakers most interested in?
Jabari Parker has not yet officially declared himself eligible for the NBA draft, but the freshman Duke star has made it public that he would be honored to play for the Lakers franchise. Another player surrounding the rumor mill in Los Angeles is Australian point guard Dante Exum.
Exum is just 18-years-old, and is regarded as the top point guard pick in the draft. Exum recently signed with agent Rob Pelinka, who also represents Kobe Bryant. Exum and Bryant have both praised one another for their basketball talents.
With the trading of Steve Blake and Steve Nash’s future up in the air, the Lakers are in need of a starting point guard, and perhaps the young Australian point guard would be a perfect fit to play in the backcourt alongside Kobe.
While the Lakers have had a season to forget this year, they are a franchise known for attracting free agents, as well as drafting the correct players. Expect the Lakers organization to rebound from this season and be in contention for an NBA championship in the near future.
Commentary By Eric Kummel