Nov 13, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell (1) dribbles in the second quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
This summer they made probably the best managerial move they could by adding former player Luke Walton as head coach. During his career, he was an afterthought on some title-winning teams.
As a head coach however? He was the hottest available commodity in the league, a guy who was second in command of the all-conquering Golden State Warriors who took the NBA by storm.
Many, myself included, thought it would take them some time to figure things out and nobody would have begrudged them that either.
Of the players listed above, that core group, Clarkson is the oldest at 24. Yet here we are, with the Lakers the surprise package of the season so far, with a 7-5 record.
Will they finish above .500? Will they make the playoffs? That doesn’t even matter, right now this team has some buzz around it once more.
Crucially, they are also fun to watch, and are playing with a style and tempo that has some similarities to that title-winning Warriors team.
They’re taking 27.3 three-point attempts per game, good for 10th in the league right now. They’re also giving their young players ample time on the court to perform.
Randle leads the Lakers in minutes per game (28.3), with Russell close behind (27.2). Do you know what the worst part about all of this is?
You can’t help but like and respect them. These are words I never thought I’d utter, but the Lakers have handled their business in a manner they never have before and their perception has changed in the process.
Whereas in the past the Lakers would reload year after year after year, taking the best players from smaller markets, they took the harder road this time, although this was largely due to circumstance as well.
But with the introduction of the most recent collective bargaining agreement, the financial muscle of the Lakers was diminished.
So they went to the draft and … they did really well. They added players who, early on at least, look like they can be long-term, viable contributors to this team.
We can’t predict the future, but if you’re asking me, there’s at least one future All-Star in that group, potentially two.
Now that they’re back on their feet somewhat, adding a star player down the line seems like a formality more than anything else.
When that finally happens, the Lakers may become vilified by fans of every other team in the league again.
But for now at least, this team is (mostly) harmless to the contenders out there, although they’ve already beaten the Warriors and Atlanta Hawks.
Nov 15, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Recording artist Lil Wayne (center) greets Los Angeles Lakers players Jordan Clarkson (6) and D’Angelo Russell (1) during a NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
They still aren’t the best team in their own building, and they have young up and coming guys that are easy to root for.
Even Nick Young is bringing it each night, averaging 26.5 minutes a game, compared to 19.1 last season.
This is also the third-highest mark on the team and looks pretty next to his effective field goal percentage of 57 percent, by far a career high.
He’s started every game as well so far, with a usage rating of 18.2, the lowest mark of his career.
Talk about a positive turnaround, and with the Lakers getting contributions from sources like this, it’s no wonder they’re trending upwards.
All of this feeds into the bigger picture, which is that the Lakers were able to successfully rebuild their team, and quickly.
Consider this. As of right now, they are arguably in a better position than the Philadelphia 76ers. Granted they may have players with higher ceilings.
But they also have a logjam of bigs, and many of their potential stars have injuries hanging over them. They also went all the way into the depths of “The Process'”to get that done.
The Lakers have also bounced back from mediocrity quicker than the likes of the Orlando Magic and Brooklyn Nets, and they still haven’t pulled off any major move to skip the queue to success like the Boston Celtics.