The Lakers Are Closer To Contending Than Most Realize

Dec 3, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Brandon Ingram (14) looks to make a move on Memphis Grizzlies guard Troy Daniels (30) during the second half at FedExForum. Memphis Grizzlies defeats the Los Angeles Lakers 103-100. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 3, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Brandon Ingram (14) looks to make a move on Memphis Grizzlies guard Troy Daniels (30) during the second half at FedExForum. Memphis Grizzlies defeats the Los Angeles Lakers 103-100. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

There has been speculation the Los Angeles Lakers are still a long way from becoming a relevant franchise again, but that is far from correct.

Kobe Bryant‘s departure marked the end of an era for the Los Angeles Lakers. Albeit, Bryant was ineffective for the team in the latter end of his career, as he was barred by injury more often than not.

Yet, he still provided something for the Lakers that most veterans are incapable of.

Following the drafting of D’Angelo Russell, the Lakers obtained a small collection of future star potential, and Bryant became the guiding force for the youth of the team.

The Lakers were still unable to find any success despite Russell’s offensive potential – and a minor morale issue that turned into a load of drama – but the team as a whole still looks pretty solid.

And as they’ve showed this season, perhaps the Los Angeles Lakers are closer to contending than we all realize.

The future is bright

Unfortunately for the franchise, Bryant didn’t stick around for the drafting of Brandon Ingram, who could certainly use his guidance given his slow start to the 2016-17 season.

Just last week, Ingram threw up a 16-point performance against the Warriors, which is a decent sign for the near future.

Sure, this performance came in a blowout, but Ingram still displayed some quality play. He also got to play against Kevin Durant, whom analysts have compared Ingram to since his days at Duke.

Though Bryant isn’t around for Ingram’s development, the signing of Luol Deng and Metta World Peace offers a bit of positivity for him moving forward.

The Emerging Lakers

Alongside Ingram, Julius Randle is budding into an amazing, talented point-forward. His assist numbers are still relatively low at 3.5 per game, but he’s managed to provide some offensive facilitation for the roster when needed.

Jordan Clarkson, too, is maintaining some decent production off the bench, averaging 14.8 points per game and a career-high 1.7 steals through 22 games.

Perhaps the most crucial element to the roster, though, is veteran Lou Williams. He’s been a bench guy for the majority of his career, and this season is no different. However, Williams is averaging a career-high 17.5 points per game in 24.2 minutes.

In a 103-100 loss to the Grizzlies, Williams scored 40 points, proving just how useful he can be for this rising franchise.

Dec 2, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Los Angeles Lakers point guard Jordan Clarkson (6) drives to the basket as Toronto Raptors guard Norman Powell (24) guards him at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Lakers 113-80. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The State Of The Lakers

Even though the Los Angeles Lakers are 10-12, they’re only a game and half out from the 8th seed in the Western Conference, and this season is still young.

It should also be noted that Russell has missed the last two weeks with an injury.

Timofey Mozgov and Nick Young have been less of a topic of this piece, but they are also good cogs to the Lakers’ offense and defense.

Maybe it seems premature to assume the Lakers are better than people make them out to be, but it seems unfair to claim that they are still one of the lesser NBA teams this season.

They made some respectable moves this past summer, and there is still plenty of time to make trades, so the Lakers could easily see a boost in their lineup in the near future.

For the moment, though, the young prospects seem like a good sign for the future.

D’Angelo Russell is injured at the moment, but his presence this season has been nothing short of impressive for the Lakers’ franchise, and things can only look up at this point.

Maybe the Los Angeles Lakers are closer to contending than most people realize.

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