Laker luck: The return of the Lake Show
The Los Angeles Lakers return to glory days, or at least the playoffs, may have started on Tuesday night at the NBA Draft Lottery. The Lakers drew the 2nd pick in this years draft which will be held on June 25th. There are clearly two prizes in this years draft that are more coveted than the others, Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor. One of them will be wearing Laker purple & gold come this fall.
Byron Scott and his tenure as Lakers head coach has been marred in bad luck. But that all changed on Tuesday night as he had the number two pick in the draft fall into his lap as the Lakers representative at the 2015 NBA Draft Lottery. The Lakers needed this. After having the 7th overall pick in last years draft, Julius Randle, go down with a broken leg just 14 minutes into his rookie year. Then having your superstar Hall-of-Famer Kobe Bryant go down for the season with a torn rotator cuff after playing only 35 games. That makes only 41 games that Kobe has played in the last two seasons. Coincidentally, the Lakers are 48-116 the last two years combined and have missed the playoffs both years. That two year absence from the playoffs is only the second time the Lakers failed to make the playoffs two straight years and the first time it’s happened since 1976. By the way, if the Lakers miss the playoffs this coming year, it will be the first time in franchise history they failed to make the playoffs three straight years.
So needless to say, the Lakers needed some things to go their way Tuesday night, and it did. You don’t get to be a legendary franchise with that sort of playoff track record without some luck along the way. Let’s start in 1960…it was a cold January day as the Minneapolis Lakers were flying through a blizzard in Iowa when their plane had an electrical failure that sent them crashing into a corn field. Elgin Baylor and the rest of his teammates walked away from the crash unharmed. The franchise still exists today because of a little luck on that day. Skip ahead to June 25th, 1979, coincidentally the same date of this years draft, when the number one pick in the draft came down to a coin flip. The New Orleans Jazz won the coin flip over the Chicago Bulls for the number one pick but had to relinquish that pick to L.A from a previous deal. The Lakers drafted Magic Johnson with the number one pick and Showtime was born. All on the flip of a coin.
So one of these two guys will hope to help the Lakers swing the franchise back to prominence, or least be the biggest show in their own arena again. Laker fans have reasons to be optimistic. The fact is they have a pretty good draft history. More often than not, they draft solid guys. Of course you have the legends of West, Magic, Worthy and Bryant. But you also have those second tier All-Star type guys that the Lakers have drafted a ton of as well. Guys like Vlade Divac, Nick Van Exel, Eddie Jones and Derek Fisher. There is no reason to be pessimistic and think that one of these guys will not be a star in Laker purple & gold. Everyone’s luck eventually turns around.
So now let’s make some assumptions, play GM, and take a look at what the 2015-2016 version of the Los Angeles Lakers might look like. First, let’s assume that everyone comes back healthy and ready to go. That gives you a Hall-of-Famer Kobe Bryant and lottery pick, one year removed, Julius Randle. Add in some returning guys that can contribute in Wesley Johnson, Nick Young, Carlos Boozer, Jordan Hill, Ed Davis, Wayne Ellington and Jeremy Lin. Minus one or two departures since all of those guys except Nick Young are free agents. I think the absolute first move you make is to acquire free agent point guard Rajon Rondo. I am of the belief that Rondo is still a Top 5 point guard in the league. He is temperamental and if the situation is not to his liking, it won’t work. The situation in Dallas was not suited for Rondo. He had no issues under Doc Rivers in Boston and was a Top 5 point guard. That was only two years ago and I think he would once again be that floor leader and All-Star caliber guy in L.A. under Byron Scott.
So now let’s assume you have your point guard in Rondo, you have your shooting guard in Kobe, you have your frontcourt of Julius Randle and Towns/Okafor. I know this assumes a lot, depends on health and for your bigs to turn into really good pros. As of now, there is as much reason to believe that Randle, Towns and Okafor will be the truth as there is to doubt they will. So we’re being as optimistic as possible here. At any rate, they are projected to be really good pros so we’ll settle for that. So now you need a scoring guard/forward to help carry the load and potentially take over for Kobe once his playing days are done. Not to mention help carry the team through stretches that Kobe may miss time due to injury. So who are the candidates? The biggest free agent name on the Lakers board, not to mention just about every other teams board, is Chicago guard Jimmy Butler. Butler definitely fits the mold of what the Lakers need to help move the franchise forward in the future. But again, just about every team is after Butler, including his current team the Bulls, so that might be a hard sell.
There are other big names the Lakers will likely pursue such as Marc Gasol and Dwayne Wade. Both will be unrestricted free agents and let’s face it, the Lakers are always an attractive team to free agents. You always listen when the Lakers call. There are guys out there this year that can really help the Lakers even if they don’t land the big name free agent. I expect they will go after at least one of these guys and would not be surprised one bit to see one of these guys in a Laker uniform next season: Arron Afflalo, Eric Gordon, Jason Terry, Marco Belinelli, Danny Green, J.R. Smith and even Paul Pierce. These guys have scoring capability and could be solid pieces to a playoff team, as all of them were this year. So I am going to be very optimistic, but still realistic at the same time, and give you the Los Angeles Lakers starting lineup going into next year. You’re welcome!
PG- Rajon Rondo
SG- Kobe Bryant
SF- Jimmy Butler
PF- Julius Randle
C- Jahlil Okafor
Assuming that actually comes to fruition, I ask you, is that not a playoff team next year? No matter what version of the Lakers we see in 2015-2016, I have to believe they will be better. No one is expecting a title from them in the next couple of years, except Kobe Bryant. They will no doubt have to be healthier than last year. They will go out and be active in the free agent market, they always are. I also have to believe that Kobe is ready to turn over a new leaf as an older, facilitating Kobe Bryant. Regardless of how he chooses to play while on the floor, his leadership, knowledge and no-nonsense attitude will help the Lakers gel next season. I feel like the Lakers are heading in the right direction, especially after a big win last night in the lottery, and will be hungry next year to not make franchise history and be the first Lakers squad ever to miss the playoffs three straight years. The future is bright, and it all started with a lucky bounce one Tuesday night.
Do you think the Lakers will make the playoffs next year after acquiring the #2 pick in the draft? What other moves should the Lakers make this off-season? We want to hear from you. Leave your comments below.
Brandon covers the NBA for MyFantasySportsTalk.com, you can follow him on Twitter @New_Breid
He is from Memphis and graduated from Arkansas State University with a degree in broadcast journalism. He loves the Memphis Tigers, Grizzlies, Titans, and Arkansas State Red Wolves.
“I promise to bring information, insight, and strong opinion. Let the debate begin.”
You can follow Brandon on Twitter @New_Breid