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NBA 2015-16 Team Previews: Los Angeles Lakers – Bryant’s Swan Song?

By Tamberlyn Richardson
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Los Angeles Lakers

Our NBA 2015-16 Team Previews continues with the Pacific Division. Next up it’s time to break down the Los Angeles Lakers:

Record:  (21-61) 14th in the Western Conference, 5th in Pacific Division, Failed to make playoffs
Rank: Offense: 100.8 (24)   Defense:108.0 (29)  Differential/Net: minus -7.2 (27th) Pace: 96.3 (14)

2014-15

Key Stats:

  • Sport VU/John Schuhmann report 69% of Kobe Bryant’s jump shots were contested (369 of his 535) based on players who took 300 shots. This was the highest in the NBA with teammate Nicky Young (272 of his 402) second on the list at 68%. Now factor in the addition of Lou Williams (who ranks in the top 20). League wide contested jumpers yield an effective field goal percentage  of 10% points less than uncontested jumpers. So if you are a Lakers fan start running for the exits if you don’t like contested jumpers or iso-ball
  • The Lakers allowed teams to shoot 46.6% (29th) from the field and 36.3% from behind the arc (26th)
  • There was so much wrong last season basically it’s easiest just to say the team needs to focus on defensive fundamentals and keep schemes on both ends simple.

Off Season Moves

Key Areas Needing Addressing:

  • Defense
  • Offense
  • Patience developing the young players

Draft:

Player Additions/Players Re-Signed:

Players Exiting:

2015-16

Core Players:

D’Angelo Russell, Kobe Bryant, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, Roy Hibbert

Key Reserves: 

Lou Williams Brandon Bass  Metta World Peace

Outlook

Rising Star:  Rookie D’Angelo Russell is raw, but watch some of his passes and you can see the potential. Those who are huge Lakers fans are probably dreaming of what a Bryant-Russell back court could have been were Kobe 10 years (or even 5) younger. He’ll need to improve on the defensive end, running the pick and roll and managing the on court team without stepping on Kobe’s toes. This squad specifically feels like it will need a strong hand in terms of distribution otherwise the big’s may never get to touch the ball.

On The Bubble:  Roy Hibbert   comes to Los Angeles with a spotlight already shining on him. Just a few years removed from being pinpointed as the type of center teams should desire, the up tick in small ball and position-less ball has witnessed his star dropping. Factor in issues with his teammates and inability to provide much offense and he was stuck in a no win situation. Moving forward arguably the Lakers are a perfect fit for him given the number of guards and isolation shooters. Given that fact he likely won’t have to worry about offense, but he will need to showcase his ability to defend.

X-Factor:  Jordan Clarkson has been the pleasant surprise that came out of last season terrible campaign. He can handle the ball, shows great decision making skills, has a versatile offense and unlike many of last season’s squad has the ability to defend his position. What will be interesting is whether management has the patience to wait for Russell to develop of if they’ll decide to move Clarkson to the point. He’s good enough that I’ve wondered how great he could be on a winning squad.

Best Case:  I respect and appreciate the Kobe love from Laker’s fans who’ve witnessed his greatness and compete level and it’s unfortunate he won’t be competing for a title this season let alone making the post season. With all the debate regarding what comprises an MVP I still find it unfathomable Kobe Bryant won just a single regular season MVP and yet he has 5 championship rings to his credit.

LeBron James has won 2 titles yet he has regular season MVP’s.  Mind boggling. I digress, my point is since Kobe and the Buss’ decided he would remain a Laker for life (and it does seem appropriate) the best he can hope for is this year’s squad to finish dead last increasing their chances of a top pick to either add talent or trade to add experience.

Worst Case:  Again, you know Kobe won’t concede to lose, so this season is going to be hard on him. I expect to hear of some major shenanigans in the locker room once Bryant recognizes Lou Williams is a chill dude who’ll play to get his shots, but a) doesn’t play defense and b) doesn’t care when his team loses. At least that’s what happened in Toronto.

Williams was loved by his Raptor teammates, but after losses even in the playoffs his demeanor was no different than when they won. This led to Masai Ujiri not extending an offer to the reigning 6th man. In fact Williams wanted to return, but was flatly told to accept the Laker offer because it was deemed his personality was more detrimental than helpful to the youth on the team. Take note Lakers fans this will become a talking point this season!

Bottom line, the worst case scenario is the Lakers win enough to not be bottom dwellers Williams attitude spreads among the youngsters and once that attitude is in place it’s difficult to shift.

Prediction:

With the Lakers unsuccessfully trying to recruit LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Monroe and a slew of big men already signed the Lakers turned to Roy Hibbert who seems like a really odd fit for L.A. given the youth on the squad and speed they play.

Looking at GM Mitch Kupchak’s additions it’s an odd mix of Roy Hibbert, Brandon Bass and Lou Williams. While we wait to see if this will be Kobe‘s last season his new teammate Bass calls him the best player in the NBA still. The more interesting question will be how rookie Russell and sophomore Clarkson develop. Watching Russell turn the ball over 20 times in his first 3 Summer League games there is obviously work to be done, but there is also a talent who’ll get better with experience.

The more pressing question might be whether Julius Randle will be a bust. Personally I’m not sold he’s more than a potentially decent bench player. He enters the season basically a rookie after playing only a few minutes of one game last season prior to breaking his leg.His Summer League didn’t do anything to change my opinion with poor field goal shooting and lack of rebounding. And, he won’t get much opportunity with Williams, Kobe, Clarkson and Russell likely taking the majority of the shots in a shoot first, guard heavy line-up. Preseason his teammates were trying to pump him up after one decent game, but I’m still cold on  him.

Feels like Kobe deserves better to finish his career, but next summer we’ll see if the Lakers can attract the type of free agents they were unable to this summer. They have shooters capable of winning games versus teams who take them for granted, but they’ll be selecting one of the top 5 picks next summer.

Games versus the Houston Rockets

  • December 12th at Toyota Center in Houston
  • December 17th at Staples Center in Los Angeles
  • January 17th at Staples Center in Los Angeles
  • April 10th at Toyota Center in Houston

Fansided Affiliate Site:  Lake Show Life

Make sure you catch up on our entire Team Preview Series, our Houston Rockets Player Profile Series as well as our SCS Round Table Sessions to help you get through the early season. Start your morning with SCS Rocket Science Daily and visit us throughout the day to keep abreast of all your Houston Rockets news and updates.

Next: Rockets Preview

Next: SCS Complete Round Table Sessions

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