With most of LA’s focus during this year’s NBA offseason squarely on Lakers’ first round draft pick Lonzo Ball, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that, when the purple and gold take the court on Thursday night for their regular season opener against the Clippers, there will be four other players to watch on the court when the game tips at 7:30 p.m. PST.
The young Ball, whose play was encouragingly solid during the preseason, is just one piece of a bigger puzzle that the Lakers’ brand new front office is already working on solving this season.
The Lakers have not won more than 27 games since the 2013-2014 season. Their last playoff appearance was in 2013. Over those years, they have been stockpiling young talent with early first round draft picks like Ball, fellow guard Brandon Ingram, and forward Julius Randle. This offseason, they also added journeyman center Brook Lopez to add some veteran experience to the young squad and help further shore up their post play.
Now, with Laker legend Magic Johnson overseeing basketball operations and newly-minted general manager Rob Pelinka at the helm, the team is looking to right the ship and get back on track to a playoff berth. Both Ball and Ingram have high expectations in the Laker backcourt, which could potentially be one of the most athletic and dynamic in the NBA. Another young forward named Kyle Kuzma is also quietly turning heads while the spotlight shines on others.
But the long-term challenge is real. The Lakers compete in the Western Conference, a grueling gauntlet of teams that includes the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder, who are looking to make waves with their big offseason signings, and the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
What can we expect out of the Lakers this year? Do you expect them to make the playoffs? Will Lonzo Ball live up to the hype? Who are some of the lesser-known players to watch? What are you most excited to see this year?
Rob Pelinka, general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers