By Jason Gandhi:
Western Conference Finals. That’s what the Los Angeles Lakers front office is hoping for or at least Jim Buss. He made a bold statement back in April of 2014, when he stated that he would step down if the Lakers do not make it there in three-four years. This is the year that will define his career. The only problem is that the current Lakers roster is not exactly looking like a contender right now. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some D’Angelo Russell and his “ice in his veins” but at this stage in his career he is not going to be able to carry the Lakers to the Western Conference Finals barring any sudden growth by the team. The expectations for the 2016-2017 Los Angeles Lakers are truly all over the place.
How is this team different than last year’s? Well, the Lakers core is pretty similar to the 2015-2016 Lakers. The difference in their core is Brandon Ingram. The #2 pick in this year’s draft who finally brings some shooting to this team will be a major improvement at the SF position over the aged Kobe Bryant and Nick Young. He will, if nothing else, bring a long lanky body to take up space on the perimeter with his stunning 7’3” wingspan to a Lakers team that was atrocious on defense last year under Byron Scott. Byron was supposed to be a “defensive coach” but that obviously did not go well to say the least. Besides Brandon Ingram, the Lakers bring in the already fan-favorite Ivica Zubac, aka IVTHREECA ZUBLOCKA, to the squad. He has already won the hearts of the fans at summer league as the “Zu” chants arose during the games.
Two other key additions were made to bolster the young Lakers team. The signing of Timofey Mozgov came as a bit of a shock to most fans as he was reportedly the Lakers number one target when the free agency period. I personally would not mind the signing if it was a two year deal, but the fact that the Lakers are paying a center who is over thirty sixteen million a year for four years upsets me. The four-year sixty-four million dollar contract was too steep of a price for Timofey Mozgov when there were lots of better viable options. The other signing that was made was the acquisition of Luol Deng. I personally loved the signing, as he has been one of the most consistent small forwards in the league the past decade. He is the perfect mentor for Brandon Ingram as he tries to make his mark on the NBA. My favorite move they made in free agency was letting the AWFUL Ryan Kelly walk. The caveman is finally gone, and the games will be a little easier on the eyes of Laker fans.
Now for the big question, what is a “successful” season for the Lakers? Everyone you talk to will tell you a different answer. Kobe would say championship or bust, and some analysts would tell you winning eighteen games is successful. So here is what I consider a successful season: If the Lakers win 25-30 games at least, I am happy. The winning aspect is not huge this year. It is all about the development of D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Julius Randle, and Brandon Ingram. If they all progress like the coaching staff hopes but we lose games, I am satisfied with the year.
The front office is a mess. There is no denying it. That is a huge reason top-tier free agents such as Kevin Durant, Hassan Whiteside and others won’t even consider the Lakers. The silver-lining that the front office has is that their scouting and talent finding has been amazing. Finding Zubac at #32 and Nance at #27 last year have been crucial. All in all, Jim Buss will and should be out of the Lakers front office next year, assuming he keeps his word. But you never know with Jim Buss.