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Vegas Win Total Projection: 31.5 (VegasInsider.com)
The Lake show will certainly be a show this season. With Kobe Bryant coming back, new draft pick D'Angelo Russell, and acquisitions like Brandon Bass, Roy Hibbert, and Louis Williams, this team will be improved from last season. Many Laker fans think playoffs, while others around the league see them making strides from last season but missing out in the deep Western Conference. I see them missing the playoffs but improving to about 33 wins this season. The additions they made certainly look good on paper, but being in the Western Conference, they won't be able to keep up with the other playoff contenders like Memphis, Phoenix, and others.
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My top pick for the upcoming season is Roy Hibbert. I've been a believer of Roy's for sometime. I think this team and how Byron Scott will use Hibbert will play a part in him becoming a top fantasy play. With Kobe declining, a lot of other youth in the backcourt, I think Byron will try and use Hibbert similar to what he did in New Orleans. Scott has a history of utilizing bigs like Tyson Chandler, David West in very big roles and I believe that puts Hibbert in a good position. He doesn't have Chris Paul to give him the ball like Chandler and West, but I expect he will get a lot of opportunity to get low-post buckets. I think Hibbert has a chance to be a 20 and 10 type of player grabbing blocks and a few assists as well.
I actually think Russell was a bad pick by the Lakers. I think they should've gone with talent and not need. In summer league, Russell didn't look comfortable and I think with Clarkson breathing down his back for playing time, that may take a toll. Russell could work out, don't get me wrong, but I just think this season will be a learning curve for the 2nd pick out of Ohio State. He's got athleticism, speed, quickness, but I just am not sold on his “point guard ability".
This Lakers team has a lot of players who could potentially breakout. One player I really like is Jordan Clarkson, I think his rookie season he proved he could play minutes in the NBA and produce. Last season, he provided the team with 11.9 points, 4 assists, and a couple of rebounds per game, as well as having a 16.94 player efficiency rating. Considering he only played 25 minutes a game, you move that to 30 or 35 minutes per night and your looking at increased stats from what he did last season. He shoots a very good field goal percentage and really has the ability to become a good player in this league for a long time. I think your looking at an extremely underrated guard, who can play with almost any scheme the Lakers choose to use.
I really like Julius Randle. I think he could be a top-10 power forward in the league for 10 plus years. He's coming off season-ending knee surgery, so expectations should be tempered, but I fully expect him to playing at a high-caliber level within a couple months of the season beginning. Randle being one of three power-forwards listed, should get ample amounts of playing time as the Lakers will need him, especially if they end up in a race for 8th.
With a coach like Byron Scott, an aging Kobe Bryant, I don't see this team improving to a playoff team, but I do see them improving. I see them being a 30-plus win team with a slightly improved defensive presence. Ranked 29th last season in points-allowed, this Lakers team with Hibbert and Bass added, should improve to 20th through 25th in points-allowed.As far as the offense, it will certainly be interesting to see how guards mesh together. You've got an experienced, aging Kobe Bryant, as well as Jordan Clarkson, D'Angelo Russell, Louis Williams, so it will certainly be an entertaining back court. This season at very least, will be entertaining and interesting to see how the L.A. Lakers end up.