May 27, 2019, 12:50 am
“If they manage to sign Paul George and either LeBron James or DeMarcus Cousins then they can start to think about homecourt advantage for at least one postseason round.”
Those were some of the last words I wrote last year as I wrapped up the 2017-2018 Lakers Post-Mortem. So much optimism, I basically predicted the Lakers getting a top-4 seed in the playoffs this season and I couldn’t have been more wrong.
In my defense, I don’t think that anyone could’ve predicted the absolute dumpster fire that was the Los Angeles Lakers this season. The Lakers became the first team since 2005 to not reach the postseason with LeBron James, suffered so many injuries that Rajon Rondo became their starting point guard and had their President of Basketball Operations step down without telling anyone minutes before the last game of the season and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Without further ado, let’s get into what exactly happened to the Lakers this season including the good, the bad, the ugly and everything in between. This should be fun.
2017-2018 Record: 35-47
2018-2019 Record: 37-45
Despite adding LeBron James to their roster, the Lakers only managed to get two more wins than they did last season which fits with the theme of their season: disappointment.
In order to truly explain why this season was such a disappointment for La La Land we’ve got to start from the beginning of last summer. LA had the 25th pick in the the draft and rumors that they had promised Mitchell Robinson had been swirling around.
However, instead of taking Robinson, the Lakers selected Moritz Wagner, a 22-year-old out of Michigan who profiles as a stretch big. Wagner didn’t receive a single vote for an All-Rookie team and ended up playing 10.4 minutes per game while shooting 28.6 percent from behind the arc.
Now of course Wagner can develop into a serviceable stretch big but there’s plenty of those already out there. The Lakers could’ve signed a guy who could do the same thing that they drafted Wagner to do, but do it better.
When people talk about the Lakers’ young core, they don’t even mention Wagner but when the Knicks’ young core is discussed, Robinson is their best piece by far. Imagine a team with Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma and Mitchell Robinson. The fact that the Lakers totally bombed in last year’s draft has been forgotten by most fans because they’ve done plenty more messing up since then, starting with free agency.
The Lakers’ best and worst moves ironically happened during the free agency period.
When July 1 finally came, things didn’t look great for the Lakers at all. Paul George, the man who grew up in LA, and even had a little mini-series which was clearly a rip-off of “The Decision,” decided that it would be best for him to stay in Oklahoma City with Russell Westbrook. Chris Paul, the subject of a vetoed Lakers trade back in 2011, was also gaining some traction amongst Lakers fans. However, that ship sank too and the Rockets locked up Paul soon after the clock struck 12 A.M.
Just like that, the Lakers had whiffed on two of the three best free agents last summer had to offer and it was starting to look like every other offseason the Lakers had experienced as of late.
Then on July 1, 2018 at 8:05 PM, Klutch Sports tweeted out a press release proclaiming that LeBron James, the four time MVP and 14-time All Star, was joining the Los Angeles Lakers. It was as if all of the sins of the Lakers were washed away in that one tweet. They drafted Mo Wagner, shipped D’Angelo Russell off to Brooklyn to become an All-Star and whiffed on almost every major free agent in the past five years…but who cares, they got LeBron.
That’s really where the problem started for the Lakers, as they saw the admiration that they were getting from fans and figured that they could no longer do any wrong in their eyes. The Lakers thought that no matter what mistake they made, they could cover anything and everything up with the fact that they had inked one of the best players in NBA history. Not only that, but they had him for four years which is something that shocked almost everyone.
A team with LeBron James has to surround him with shooters right? It’s a no-brainer.
Obviously not, because the Lakers did just the opposite of that and decided that they’d surround James with “playmakers.” They wanted to take the ball out of his hands and let others create so that he could work more off the ball and preserve some energy. Now, that doesn’t sound like a bad idea in all honesty but the way in which it was executed was some of the most horrific team building in the NBA.
The Lakers already had Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, the two most valuable pieces of their young core and two players who had already shown that they could handle the ball for long stretches of time.
Instead, the Lakers went ahead and signed Rajon Rondo, Michael Beasley, Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee all to one-year deals so that they’d have cap space in the summer of 2019 for another max free agent to pair LeBron with. It doesn’t take an analytics fiend to figure out that team comprised of those players, none of which can really shoot, didn’t work out too well. Instead of surrounding James with shooters to space the floor and play 5-out at times, the Lakers tried to re-invent the wheel and it ended up blowing up in their face.
The only two notable players the Lakers had entering free agency were Julius Randle and Brook Lopez. Randle had been the only guy on the Lakers who had been around for Kobe Bryant’s last game and found himself as the longest-tenured Laker at 23 years old. He was coming off of the best season of his career and was the Lakers’ best player in 2018 as he averaged 16.1 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists on 55.8 percent shooting in 26.7 minutes.
He wanted a two-year deal and the Lakers could’ve matched anything that was offered to him so when the Pelicans offered him a two-year, $17.7 million contract it seemed like a a steal for the Lakers. However, the Lakers decided let Randle walk and he went on to average 21.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists for the Pelicans. Let’s also just mention that Randle was known to be a playmaker as well, a big who would and could bring the ball up the court and initiate offensive sets multiple times per game for the Lakers. However, they were so focused on having enough cap space for the 2019 offseason that they refused to match.
Then there’s Brook Lopez, who signed a one-year, $3.38 million deal with the Milwaukee Bucks. Now there’s a shot that Lopez would’ve signed with the Bucks regardless, but L.A. didn’t even try. Instead of drafting Wagner, the Lakers could’ve selected Robinson to lock up their defensive presence and re-signed Lopez to be that stretch big that was surely missed all throughout the season. Instead, they were extremely short-sighted and figured they’d let Lopez walk.
Sure the Lakers signed LeBron James, but they also flashed the makings of an incompetent front office almost every step of the way. They were foreshadowing their eventual downfall and they didn’t even know it yet. With what we know now, looking back on last summer should’ve told fans everything that they needed to know.
The regular season for the Lakers was actually going pretty well up until Christmas Day. On a day that’s supposed to be filled with gifts, laughter and joy, Father Time decided that it was finally time to show LeBron James that not even he could escape. The Lakers absolutely destroyed the Warriors that day but not without a terrible cost. James suffered a strained left groin mid-way through the third quarter and never returned to the game. Up to that point, James had played in every single game and was coming off the first season in his career that he played a full 82 games.
When LeBron James went down, it’s hard not to think that the Lakers season went along with him.
James went on to miss 18 of the Lakers next 19 games and by the time he returned the Lakers were fighting for the eighth seed. When he went down, the Lakers were the fourth seed in the West and one game back of being the one seed. Things were honestly looking good. For all of the mistakes, all of the missteps and all of the problems the Lakers had, they were winning. However, when James went down and the Lakers truly became in jeopardy of not making the playoffs, they hit the panic button.
The Lakers season was a catastrophe for a multitude of reasons, but this is what put the nail in the coffin. 10 days before the trade deadline, Anthony Davis came out and requested that he’d like to be traded away from the Pelicans. It shocked the world and just like when any other superstar demands a trade, the Lakers were immediately brought up as one of the top suitors.
However, with LeBron and the Lakers risking missing the playoffs, the front office was pressured into making a deal and everyone knew they were desperate. The Pelicans smelled blood in the water and they tried to attack. Can you blame them? Everyone in the league knew that the Lakers needed Anthony Davis to try and salvage this dumpster-fire of a season and that was absolutely working against them.
If this would’ve just been a regular trade negotiation that went awry then fine but with the Lakers’ entire young core being the center of trade rumors, whatever team chemistry they had flew right out of the window. The Lakers were so desperate for a lifeline that they risked everything they had built with their young players over the past two years and ended up ruining it.
Not only that, but the young core also lost trust in LeBron because they felt as though he and Rich Paul were allowing Magic to throw their names out with absolutely no remorse.
The whole Anthony Davis debacle ended the Lakers’ season. The front office, Magic Johnson in particular, so badly wanted to prove that signing LeBron James wasn’t a fluke that he ruined the entire team just to do so and ended up failing anyway.
After that, the Lakers were basically a wasteland, losing games that they shouldn’t while also dealing with injuries to Ball and Ingram that demoralized the fan base. It was so bad that the Lakers’ biggest win of the season after that whole trade fiasco was Rajon Rondo hitting a game-winning buzzer beater on the Celtics.
Everyone just wanted the season to be over, especially Magic Johnson. Johnson decided that just minutes before the last game of the season he’d step down as the Lakers’ President of Basketball Operations without telling a single soul. He didn’t let James know, he didn’t let the players know, he didn’t let GM Rob Pelinka know and he didn’t even let Jeanie Buss, the operating owner of the team and someone he’s called his “sister” on multiple occasions, know.
The man that had criticized the Lakers’ young core for their lack of maturity flashed the same traits that he seemed to despise. He had created this mess, he’d been the one that offered the entire team with reckless abandon. However, he didn’t want to be the one to have to clean it up. He didn’t want to have to think of what might be said about his legacy if the Lakers were to strike out in this offseason, so he left. He said that, “He wasn’t having fun anymore” and that’s just the problem.
Magic never really wanted to run the Lakers, he just wanted all of the credit that came along with doing so.
“Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka have gone out on record saying that they have supreme confidence in Luke and it seems as though he’ll be coaching these Lakers for a long, long time.”
Yet again, those are some of the words that I wrote last year when talking about the Lakers’ coaching and yet again, I was wrong. Luke Walton is not at all a bad coach, which can be seen by the fact that he was unemployed for less than 24 hours before getting another head coaching job with the Sacramento Kings. He just wasn’t the coach for the Lakers — not for this iteration of them anyway.
In his defense, he had to deal with a ton of things that most coaches don’t but that’s what comes along with coaching the Lakers. Walton was an incredible players’ coach and not even he could reel the team back in following the Anthony Davis trade rumors. He wasn’t the person responsible for losing the team, but the fact that he also couldn’t help them find themselves again all but ensured he’d be fired.
Again though, he wasn’t a bad coach.
Ingram took incredible strides towards becoming the player that the Lakers drafted with the number two pick back in 2016 and Walton’s willingness to give him more freedom with the ball enabled that. Although Ball got injured and missed the majority of the second half of the season, it seemed as though he had also taken a step in the right direction and Walton was playing him more than ever before.
Walton’s defensive prowess as a coach also gets overlooked far too often — the Lakers were the 13th-best team in defensive rating this season with a 108.9. That’s pretty impressive considering Walton had to deal with so many injuries and lineup changes all throughout the season. He was able to keep up the defensive mindset regardless of what five guys he had out on the floor.
He also emphasized a team-first play style as shown by the Lakers finishing in the top half of the league in assist percentage at 60.0 percent and assist-ratio at 17.8. Walton also managed to take advantage of the fact that the Lakers are a young team and had them operating with the fourth-fastest pace in the league at 103.63.
However, it wasn’t all good for Walton and at times it seemed as though he didn’t know how to control the team and it certainly didn’t look like he knew how to coach LeBron James. His rotations still weren’t as polished as they should’ve been, his playbook isn’t too great and he leaves much to be desired when it comes to creating an actual NBA-style effective offense. That was Walton’s biggest problem, as it really did seem like at times he didn’t know what he was doing.
Some of the Lakers’ offensive sets are outright disgusting and they were the sixth-worst team in the league in offensive rating at 107.4.
All things considered, Walton did the best that he could with the hand that he was dealt and he’s not much to blame for this disastrous season. He needs work, but he’s still an extremely young coach at 39-years old and now he’ll get another chance to polish up his offense with a Sacramento Kings team on the rise.
ADP: 4/5 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 49/65 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 16/24 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 55
2018-2019 Averages: 55 G | 35.2 MP | 27.4 PTS | 2.0 3PM | 8.4 REB | 8.3 AST | 1.3 STL | 0.6 BLK | 3.6 TOV | 51.0 FG% | 66.5 FT%
James’ first season with the Lakers didn’t go so great in terms of both fantasy and the regular NBA. He found himself facing the most serious injury of his career and the 34-year-old got his first taste of basketball mortality. The 55 games were a career-low for James and that obviously impacted his fantasy value. After leading the NBA in minutes for each of the past two seasons he dropped down to 35.2. That is still incredible so there’s no question that the Lakers plan on running him into the ground for the next three seasons.
James finished with his lowest field goal percentage since the 2014-2015 season but 51.0 percent from the field is still great, especially for a guy with as high a usage rate as James. Although he only made the All-NBA Third team this year, James still had a monster season in only 55 games.
Imagine what his assist numbers would’ve looked like if the Lakers actually build a team full of shooters around him. He was able to finish with 8.3 assists while passing the ball to guys like Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson.
His turnovers were down compared to the past two years in Cleveland but he shot a career-low from the free throw line and it definitely hurt his fantasy owners. There’s no shot that the King allows his horrible free throw reputation to haunt him yet again and he’ll likely spend countless hours in the gym this offseason working on his shot from the charity stripe.
Although James’ season didn’t go as well as his owners or he expected, it was still a season worthy of garnering a top-10 pick next season.
He’ll be on a revenge tour, the Lakers will likely build a better team around him and he’ll have the most throughout the offseason in 13 years. The King shall return.
ADP: 135/109 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 57/45 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 64/52 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 75
2018-2019 Averages: 75 G | 22.3 MP | 12.0 PTS | 0.0 3PM | 7.6 REB | 0.7 AST | 0.6 STL | 2.0 BLK | 1.4 TOV | 62.4 FG% | 63.2 FT%
McGee was the best signing the Lakers made last offseason, which says a lot about the kind of offseason that they had.
No disrespect to McGee though, he managed to have somewhat of a resurgent season and was even a top-10 (seriously) fantasy player at times. Although he only played 22.3 minutes, it was the most minutes he’d played since the 2011-2012 season and he was the Lakers’ best option on both offense and defense when it came to centers. He was by far their second best fantasy player throughout the entire season and was a steal for owners who took him at or behind his ADP because he blew it out of the water.
The 12.0 points were a career-high for McGee and his lack of turnovers made him an extremely valuable big man to own this season. He scored a good amount, got some rebounds, blocked the ball and shot it at an efficient clip while also limiting his turnovers so it’s safe to say McGee earned himself some money this season. He showed the rest of the league that his memorable moments on the Warriors weren’t flukes and he capitalized on the opportunity he had in LA.
We’ll have to see where he lands next season to really predict his value but if it’s someplace without a proper solution at big man, McGee should be on everyone’s fantasy radar.
ADP: 55/68 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 185/200 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 103/132 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 47
2018-2019 Averages: 47 G | 30.3 MP | 9.9 PTS | 1.6 3PM | 5.3 REB | 5.4 AST | 1.5 STL | 0.4 BLK | 2.2 TOV | 40.6 FG% | 41.7 FT%
Ball had a forgettable sophomore season due to the fact that he was injured for most of it — a Grade 3 left ankle sprain ended his year after he dealt with knee problems that fed into opening night. When he was playing though, he looked as though he had actually improved and taken the next step over the offseason. Ball went through a ton of off-court drama as well this season with his trusted financial advisor reportedly stealing money from his personal account and Big Baller Brand as a whole.
The biggest problem with Ball continues to be his durability and hopefully with the Lakers now re-hiring Judy Seto as their Director of Sports Performance he’ll be able to finally play more than 52 games. Ball’s passing ability is extremely special and the basketball IQ is undoubtedly there, he just needs to be able to stay on the court so that he can show it. Outside of the durability issues, his free throw problems absolutely need to be corrected. If he wants to be on the court late in games, he’ll have to get his free throw percentage at least in the high 60s so that teams don’t employ the “Hack-A-Lonzo” on the Lakers.
He did shoot the ball better from behind the arc this season, increasing his 3-point percentage to 32.9 from the 30.5 he was at last season. Not only that, but he gained more confidence in his shot this season and that’s what it’s all about for Ball, confidence. He’s a very capable scorer when he wants to put the ball in the basket and that’s what makes him so scary.
With the Lakers still in the Anthony Davis trade market, his spot on the team isn’t exactly secured for next season and the Lakers could also end up signing someone like Kyrie Irving or even drafting Darius Garland, both of whom would give Ball a new competitor in the backcourt. Regardless of where he is, if he can stay healthy he’ll be a problem in this league and should be off of draft boards before the 75th pick rolls around if you think he’ll be relatively healthy.
ADP: 61/75 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 116/127 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 113/135 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 70
2018-2019 Averages: 70 G | 33.1 MP | 18.7 PTS | 1.8 3PM | 5.5 REB | 2.5 AST | 0.6 STL | 0.4 BLK | 1.9 TOV | 45.6 FG% | 75.2 FT%
Kuzma seems to be the most polished of the Lakers’ young core and served as their primary scorer for in the 17 games that LeBron missed with his groin injury.
Unfortunately for his fantasy owners, he couldn’t finish as a top-100 player this season but he’s still only 23 and the sky’s the limit for a guy with his ability to put the ball in the basket. He’s an absolutely prolific scorer and although he has the ball in his hands a ton he’s been able to keep his turnovers to a respectable number.
Kuzma could look to improve his rebounding and defense though and Frank Vogel will likely key in on the defensive aspect of his game this season. It could lead to more steals and blocks.
Of course he has flaws in his game, such as his tendency to shoot the ball rather than pass it to the open man at times, but he’s also one of the Lakers’ biggest successes. His 3-point percentage this season dropped from 36.6 percent to 30.3 percent which is massive and he’ll need to work on settling somewhere in between those two in his junior season.
The entire young core for the Lakers is tough to project because they might not be in the purple and gold come the beginning of next season but Kuzma will certainly look to improve his shooting and defensive skills this offseason. He was just outside of the top-100 this season but something tells me he can just scoot inside of it next season.
ADP: 52/78 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 204/252 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 161/222 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 52
2018-2019 Averages: 52 G | 33.9 MP | 18.3 PTS | 0.6 3PM | 5.2 REB | 3.0 AST | 0.5 STL | 0.6 BLK | 2.5 TOV | 49.7 FG% | 67.5 FT%
Ingram might be the most valued of the Lakers’ young core and it’s for good reason. From Dec. 21 to Mar. 2, Ingram averaged 20.2 points on 51.0 percent shooting and posted 27.8 points per game over a six-contest stretch after the All-Star break. There’s times where he looks as though he can’t be stopped and that those KD comparisons might just be spot on, but then there’s times where he can’t seem to get a bucket no matter how hard he tries.
A huge concern with Ingram right now is his health as deep vein thrombosis in his right arm ended his season. In simpler terms, Ingram had blood clots in his right arm and although it’s been treated and he should have a full recovery it’s hard not to think of Chris Bosh and how blood clots ended his career.
With all that taken into account though, Ingram is still the Lakers most promising young star at only 21 years old. He improved his field goal percentage and an increase in scoring followed and it wouldn’t be hard to see him averaging at least 20 points per game next year.
Not only is he a great offensive weapon but his length allows him to switch onto almost any player and provides extreme versatility for the Lakers. There’s no doubt that Vogel will pull out all the stops to turn Ingram into a defensive monster and he has all the tools one would need. If he’s able to put it all together next season he could be scary good, but until the free throws and defensive stats catch up to his scoring game he’ll have a hard time delivering for fantasy owners at his crazy ADP.
ADP: 138/131 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 181/175 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 200/186 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 67
2018-2019 Averages: 67 G | 25.6 MP | 7.8 PTS | 1.4 3PM | 3.7 REB | 1.4 AST | 1.0 STL | 0.6 BLK | 0.9 TOV | 40.7 FG% | 68.8 FT%
Things were really looking good for Josh Hart in the first half of the season, and especially in the offseason. He had won Summer League MVP and looked like a man amongst boys while playing in Vegas. All he really had for competition at the shooting guard spot was Kentavious-Caldwell Pope and almost everyone believed that he should start.
Well, Hart came off of the bench for the first half of the season and thrived in his role. His shot was falling, he was playing great defense and he looked like the Josh Hart Lakers fans saw in summer.
Shortly after the New Year, something switched and Hart just couldn’t get things going again. He never recovered and ended up making that beginning of the season flurry look like more a fluke than actual improvement.
When LeBron went down, Hart seemed to struggle and that’s because the shots he began taking got much harder. With LeBron on the court so much attention is on him that Hart can sneak around the 3-point line while his defender is preoccupied. With LeBron not there, defenders are keyed onto Hart and he’s not the best at creating his own shot.
This was a disappointing sophomore season for Hart, who saw his points, field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and rebounds all drop even though he was playing more minutes. With the Lakers having the opportunity to either draft or sign another guard, his position could be even more up in the air than it is now. He’d be best left for the later rounds of everyone’s drafts.
ADP: 127/128 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 183/214 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 100/150 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 46
2018-2019 Averages: 46 G | 29.8 MP | 9.2 PTS | 1.1 3PM | 5.3 REB | 8.0 AST | 1.2 STL | 0.2 BLK | 2.8 TOV | 40.5 FG% | 63.9 FT%
Who would’ve ever thought that Rajon Rondo would be the Lakers primary point guard when the season came to a close? Absolutely no one, that’s who. He only got the nod because of Ball’s knee issues to open the year but he made the most of it until dealing with his own right hand issues — first a fracture and then a finger sprain that required surgery.
Rondo actually finished in the top-100 of 8-cat leagues so owners that drafted him in the 130 range got a steal. With Ball and LeBron out, Rondo truly ran the offense which is why he finished the season averaging 8.0 assists. Not only that, but the 29.8 minutes per game were the most he played since the 2014-2015 season and he actually managed to knock down 1.1 triples per game. For years Rondo has been known as a point guard who can’t at all shoot but this year he knocked the 3-ball down 35.9 percent of the time.
He adjusted his game to fit the Lakers and it just so happened that his role got a much bigger increase than anyone expected. Rondo definitely won’t be a Laker again next season so his role on another team might be diminished but he earned himself a look in the deeper rounds of next year’s 8-cat drafts if he lands in a decent spot.
ADP: 139/102 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 121/109 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 174/151 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 82
2018-2019 Averages: 82 G | 24.8 MP | 11.4 PTS | 1.8 3PM | 2.9 REB | 1.3 AST | 0.9 STL | 0.2 BLK | 0.8 TOV | 42.9 FG% | 86.7 FT%
KCP was the only Laker to play in all 82 games this season and also finished as their best free throw shooter, which doesn’t say very much. He had a no-trade clause this season or else he might’ve been shipped out at the deadline and he was only really signed as a favor to Rich Paul in order to ensure LeBron signed. The 24.8 minutes per game were the least he’s played since his rookie year after playing at least 31.5 minutes in each of his other seasons.
He saw his role severely diminish this season, especially when the Lakers brought in Reggie Bullock at the trade deadline. Caldwell-Pope provided owners with points and threes while shooting a great percentage from the charity stripe but didn’t really have the ball in his hands enough to do much else.
His time on the Lakers has likely come to an end unless they decide to appease to Rich Paul’s needs once again but that’s unlikely. No matter where he is, he’ll continue to be the same player and won’t ever really give owners much in the assist or rebounds category. KCP does just enough to warrant owning every year and will likely be taken in the later rounds of the draft.
ADP: N/A/143 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 184/180 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 184/174 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 63
2018-2019 Averages: 63 G | 29.8 MP | 11.3 PTS | 2.3 3PM | 2.7 REB | 2.0 AST | 0.6 STL | 0.2 BLK | 1.0 TOV | 41.2 FG% | 85.9 FT%
Bullock came over from the Pistons at the trade deadline because he was a known shooter and the Lakers were trying to spread the floor in an attempt to make the playoffs.
He averaged 9.3 points for the Lakers and shot 34.3 percent from behind the arc so he did what they needed him to do but it was just too late to try and correct a problem that never should’ve arisen in the first place. Due to the Lakers’ front office deciding that they didn’t want to surround LeBron with shooters, they needed to try and adjust the entire makeup of the team more than halfway through the season.
Obviously it didn’t work.
Bullock was on a one-year deal and he’s set to be a free agent this offseason. The Lakers will likely try to bring him back in attempt to bolster the shooting on the roster yet again but he’s going to be one of the best shooters in this free agent class so his phone will be ringing . Regardless of where he goes, you know you’re getting a great 3-point shooter who can get a couple of rebounds and assists while limiting turnovers and knocking down free throws.
ADP: 138/131 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 242/258 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 282/314 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 68
2018-2019 Averages: 68 G | 16.5 MP | 7.2 PTS | 1.1 3PM | 3.2 REB | 2.1 AST | 0.6 STL | 0.1 BLK | 1.3 TOV | 42.6 FG% | 68.5 FT%
Stephenson was the Lakers’ most polarizing sign last offseason. The man who’s most known for blowing into LeBron James’ ear is now going to be playing on a team with LeBron James? What could go wrong?
Stephenson just didn’t fit the Lakers. He never seemed like the right guy to be donning the purple and gold. However, things weren’t all bad. He was one of the team’s best shot creators and he was a guy who could get the ball when nothing was working and get his own shot up. Lance was relegated to only playing in small stretches or when the Lakers were getting blown out and that’s probably for the best.
He really wasn’t worth owning in leagues this year and unless he goes to a team where he can get minutes in the mid-20s that’ll be the case yet again. When he’s getting playing time he can stuff the stat sheet but most teams just don’t have a spot for him in their rotation.
ADP: N/A (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 326/329 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 175/203(8/9-cat) | Games Played: 25
2018-2019 Averages: 25 G | 21.2 MP | 9.2 PTS | 1.0 3PM | 2.7 REB | 3.1 AST | 1.0 STL | 0.4 BLK | 1.7 TOV | 44.5 FG% | 79.7 FT%
Caruso really took over as the primary point guard down the stretch of the season when Rondo couldn’t suit up. He spent a lot of his time this season in the G-League and was on a 2-way contract coming into the year. Outside of Rondo, Caruso was really the only point guard the Lakers had to back up Ball so he had to step up amidst injuries.
He improved his points and field goal percentage while becoming a drastically better 3-point shooter, going from the 30.2 percent from behind the arc he shot last year all the way up to 48.0 percent. He only started four games this season but he’s shown promise in each of them and with Rondo leaving this offseason the Lakers have a competent backup point guard in his place.
Caruso is good for a couple of points, rebounds and assists while also shooting pretty well from the charity stripe and while he likely won’t be drafted in leagues, keep him in the back of your mind, especially with Ball’s injury issues.
ADP: N/A (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 229/210 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 243/229(8/9-cat) | Games Played: 64
2018-2019 Averages: 64 G | 20.4 MP | 7.0 PTS | 1.4 3PM | 3.8 REB | 1.2 AST | 0.3 STL | 0.6 BLK | 0.8 TOV | 40.2 FG% | 82.4 FT%
Muscala came over in a deadline deal that sent Ivica Zubac to the Clippers and only played in 17 games for the Lakers. In those 17 games he only averaged 5.9 points and 1.2 triples on 36.8 percent shooting in 15.6 minutes.
Like Bullock, Muscala was acquired as a means to fix a lack of shooting halfway through the season. As for fantasy, Muscala doesn’t provide much outside of being a 3-point specialist so he’s really only useful if your team needs threes and the occasionaly block. Even on the Sixers, where he played 22.1 minutes he only averaged 7.4 points and 4.3 rebounds with 1.4 triples. He won’t be on the Lakers next season but no matter where he goes he shouldn’t be drafted in fantasy leagues.
ADP: N/A (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 313/314 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 345/359(8/9-cat) | Games Played: 55
2018-2019 Averages: 55 G | 15.9 MP | 3.1 PTS | 0.0 3PM | 5.6 REB | 0.7 AST | 0.4 STL | 0.5 BLK | 0.8 TOV | 61.6 FG% | 58.6 FT%
Chandler was a pickup that the Lakers made midway through the season and at first he seemed as though he would be a valuable piece and pick up a ton of minutes. However, one the hype died down Chandler really didn’t play much down the stretch. He played 16.4 minutes in his 48 games with the Lakers and was really just there to be a defensive presence in the paint and on the glass.
On the offensive end of things he hindered the Lakers, especially with LeBron on the court, because Chandler wasn’t a threat outside of the paint so his defender could linger out to whoever had the ball. Since that was the case, he was only really subbed in when the Lakers needed to make a big defensive play or get a stop. He’s unlikely to be drafted in any leagues next year and doesn’t provide much for fantasy owners outside of boards.
ADP: N/A (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 363/382 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 403/431(8/9-cat) | Games Played: 43
2018-2019 Averages: 43 G | 10.4 MP | 4.8 PTS | 0.5 3PM | 2.0 REB | 0.6 AST | 0.2 STL | 0.3 BLK | 0.9 TOV | 41.5 FG% | 81.1 FT%
Wagner has been discussed a ton already, probably more than he should be. He had a lackluster rookie season for the Lakers and was also dealing with injuries for a bit of the season so that likely explains some of it.
He’s got potential, he just needs to capitalize upon it and he’ll need the opportunity to do so. If the Lakers don’t sign a center this offseason it’s not hard to envision Wagner being one of their primary fives. He can space the floor and the Lakers will likely put an emphasis on that going into this offseason in order to maximize LeBron James’ talents.
Wagner will get a full offseason of NBA training under his belt and start his sophomore year in Summer League. The Lakers have had the Summer League MVP two straight years now with Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart so maybe a little bit of that magic will rub off on Wagner.
As for right now though, he shouldn’t be drafted in any leagues unless the hype surrounding him picks up when the season draws near.
ADP: N/A (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 456/453(8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 496/488(8/9-cat) | Games Played: 22
2018-2019 Averages: 22 G | 5.9 MP | 0.9 PTS | 0.0 3PM | 1.1 REB | 0.7 AST | 0.4 STL | 0.2 BLK | 0.3 TOV | 15.2 FG% | 60.0 FT%
No, that’s not a typo. Bonga really shot 15.2 percent from the field for the Lakers this season as he attempted 33 shots and only made five of them while also going 0-of-8 from the 3-point line.
This was his rookie season and he’s not yet ready for NBA action but he did have a much better showing in the G-League. The 6’8″ point guard averaged 11.9 points, 2.5 assists, 6.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks on 43.8 percent shooting in 28 minutes. Bonga also managed to knock down 1.1 triples per game while shooting 34.4 percent.
The only problem that arises when looking at Bonga’s G-League play are his turnovers as he averaged 2.9 turnovers per game compared to only 2.5 assists which just simply can’t happen in the NBA. He’s still only 19 years old and he’s a project that the Lakers seem happy to take on.
He’s far from being in the mix for fantasy owners but one day maybe he might be. An extremely tall point guard who can get to the basket, rebound, block shots and play some defense? Sounds like he could be something special if developed correctly.
ADP: N/A (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 395/397(8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 380/378(8/9-cat) | Games Played: 24
2018-2019 Averages: 24 G | 15.5 MP | 6.5 PTS | 0.0 3PM | 4.1 REB | 0.5 AST | 0.3 STL | 0.3 BLK | 0.7 TOV | 59.1 FG% | 56.3 FT%
Like Bonga, Williams was another guy who made his impact in the G-League. However, he did have a couple games that proved he could be worthy of a spot on a true NBA team.
In the G-League, Williams put up 15.3 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.9 blocks and 2.1 turnovers on 54.8 percent shooting in 27.3 minutes. He brings an aggressive nature to the game that the Lakers were definitely lacking and he gives so much effort on the court. He’s willing to bang down low in the paint and battle for both offensive and defensive rebounds with any big in the league.
If Williams could add a 3-point shot to his arsenal he’d be much more likely to get a spot on the Lakers team as they’re searching for floor spacers and stretch bigs in particular. As for fantasy, he’s not worth owning anywhere but the potential is there.
The Lakers need a ton of things, but the one core value they’re missing is togetherness. Their front office needs to be firing on all cylinders with a clear plan. That hasn’t been the case though, since Magic Johnson has stepped down the Lakers have been an absolute mess.
Jeanie Buss needs to take control of her team, if she even can. She’s refused to hire anyone outside of her family and that’s become an absolute detriment to the team. When Johnson stepped down, Buss should’ve reached out to people like Bob Myers, Masai Ujiri, David Griffin and Sam Presti. Instead, she opted to remove Magic’s position all together and let Rob Pelinka take the reins. Even if she did reach out to those other successful execs, what would the Lakers really have to offer?
Not only has she refused to look outside the family, but she’s also letting Kurt and Linda Rambis have a say in all organizational matters.
In their search for a proper coach they took too long to offer Monty Williams a deal and gave Tyronn Lue such a lowball offer that he walked away from it all together. The Lakers finally hired coach Frank Vogel and I do believe that there is hope. Along with Vogel came Jason Kidd as an assistant coach and although I don’t agree with the hire, I do think that he can help Lonzo Ball develop and reach his potential.
The LakeShow was lucky enough to get blessed with the fourth pick in this year’s NBA draft. The first option will obviously be to trade it, try and get Anthony Davis or Bradley Beal without giving up the entire young core and get LeBron another superstar next to him.
However, it’s not the end of the world if they can’t trade it. The Lakers would be better off taking Jarrett Culver or Darius Garland than they would be trading the pick for a glorified role player because Culver and Garland bring longevity. Sure, the Lakers want to win a championship with LeBron but they shouldn’t, under any circumstances, risk everything they’ve built since Kobe retired to do so. There will be a life after LeBron and the Lakers need to make sure they’re set up nicely when that time comes as well.
When it comes to free agency, go all out. Try and sign KD first of course, then Kawhi, then Kyrie, then Klay Thompson, then Jimmy Butler and so on. The Lakers have done everything they can to secure a max slot in the hopes of signing another free agent so make those hopes a reality.
If they strike out, then it’s not the end of the world.
Those 16 banners in the rafters are from teams that had chemistry, teams that were built correctly and teams that had incredible front office management. The Lakers need to stop relying on those championships in a way that hinders them, but learn what each team did right and try to emulate it to the best of their ability. Although this was a disastrous season to say the least, things are looking up for the LakeShow and I wouldn’t be surprised if they came out and shocked the entire league next season, but this time in a good way.
Also, I pray I’m not copy pasting those words into next year’s Post Mortem saying how wrong I was yet again.
Cheers to an incredible offseason, #LakeShow.
May 31, 2020, 8:10 pmKz OkpalaF, Miami Heat
Kz Okpala's offensive game has come a long way since January according to Heat Vice President and Assistant GM, Adam Simon.
Okpala is already viewed as an NBA-ready defender, and once his offensive game is up to speed the Heat will have a hard time not getting him into the rotation. He spent 20 games in the G League and five with the Heat before the suspension slowed down his progression in 2020. Okpala got off to a slow start due to injuries, and a trade on draft day took away his chance to play in summer league. While this season is unlikely to amount to anything, Okpala is someone to watch in deeper leagues next year.
Source: Miami Herald
May 31, 2020, 8:03 pmGabe VincentPG, Miami Heat
Heat Vice President and Assistant GM, Adam Simon, stated that Gabe Vincent's knee is "good to go".
It sounds like Vincent would have no problem being NBA ready if the Heat decided to call up the two-way guard when play hopefully resumes July 31. Vincent is a strong 3-point shooter with the ability to attack a closeout, but it is still unlikely the Heat will need to put him on the floor for the remainder of the 2019-20 season.
Source: Miami Herald
May 31, 2020, 7:51 pmShake MiltonSG, Philadelphia Sixers
According to projections by Mike O'Connor and Derek Bodner of The Athletic, Shake Milton will be a starter for the Sixers whenever play relaunches.
Milton was thriving for the Sixers when the season was suspended due to COVID-19, and some risk remains that Ben Simmons will bump him from the rotation when the stoppage in play is lifted. In 16 starts with the Sixers, Milton averaged 14.1 points, 2.2 3-pointers, 3.6 assists, 3 rebounds and 1.1 steals. As a 3-pointer specialist along, Milton has earned a slot in 12-team formats, but things are going to be more difficult when he is forced to play off-ball in a fully healthy lineup in Philadelphia
Source: The Athletic
May 31, 2020, 7:42 pmKevin DurantSF, Brooklyn Nets
On a recent ESPN podcast featuring Adrian Wojnarowski and his colleague Zach Lowe, Wojnarowski stated that Kevin Durant (torn Achilles) would not play for the Nets this year.
Wojnarowski went onto say that he had no source that had relayed that information to him. The Nets have largely been deferring to Durant and the medical staff when it comes to his prospects for playing this year. While the organization may get hopeful that KD will lace it up for a playoff run, all signs are still pointing to him waiting until 2020-21.
Source: Anthony Puccio on Twitter
May 29, 2020, 7:43 pmEric GordonSG, Houston Rockets
Rockets guard Eric Gordon has improved his diet, focused on sprints, and has apparently shed 12 pounds in the process, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic.
Gordon has battled knee ailments for essentially his whole career and has dealt with his fair share of nagging injuries this season as well. Losing weight to create a lighter frame would seem sensible, especially with the knee issues. The Rockets, remember, fully adopted the "small ball" lineup and move fast so Gordon is smart to keep his endurance and fitness at high levels. He's going to have to play well and make shots for the Rockets when the NBA returns to action, otherwise coach Mike D'Antoni won't be able to justify giving Gordon minutes. We don't anticipate much fantasy value out of him if and when the league starts back up.
Source: The Athletic
May 29, 2020, 6:03 pmLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN is reporting that the NBA is planning for a Board of Governors vote on Thursday, during which they are expected to approve Adam Silver's proposal for re-starting the season in Orlando.
The trend lines are all moving in this direction, and this adds another bullet point on the schedule as the league prepares for launching games on July 31. Adam Silver has been able to bridge any divides between ownership and the players, and has been taking into account all his key constituent's views as we approach approval of a plan for moving forward. We still have plenty of items to resolve before we see game action, but the NBA is gaining momentum as these details come into place.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
May 29, 2020, 4:44 pmBradley BealSG, Washington Wizards
On Friday, the Wizards resumed holding voluntary workouts at their practice facilities.
The Wizards have joined a chorus of teams that are returning in limited capacities to their facilities at this point. The NBA as a whole is continuing its march towards the resumption of play with a target date of July 31 now established. The District of Columbia also entered phase one of reopening today, and it makes sense for the team to proceed on a similar trajectory.
Source: Candace Buckner on Twitter
May 29, 2020, 4:03 pmJulius RandlePF, New York Knicks
Part of the Knicks' off-season thinking is to shape the roster around RJ Barrett, and it unclear where Julius Randle will fit in those plans.
Barrett and Randle have similar offensive styles, as they typically have an advantage relying upon their strength to attack the basket, but neither has a component deep ball at this stage in their careers. As Barrett is the younger option it makes sense that the Knicks want to sign shooters to give him more space to operate with. Randle's lousy percentages and turnovers has made for a disappointing season with the Knicks thus far, and Barrett will also need to make some strides in the shooting department to become a 12-team asset. Randle is under contract for next season is owed at least $4,000,000 in 2021-22.
May 29, 2020, 3:46 pmJayson TatumSF, Boston Celtics
On Friday, the Celtics' announced that their practice facilities would reopen on June 1.
That leaves us with four NBA teams without access to their facilities. Things are beginning to accelerate throughout the league as teams ramp up activities in hopes of resuming competition in Orlando on July 31. So far so good, but the NBA still has many hurdles to overcome on the path to resuming the season.
Source: Celtics PR on Twitter
May 29, 2020, 3:40 pmRJ BarrettSF, New York Knicks
The Knicks reopened their practice facility for voluntary workouts on Friday.
Another step in the right direction for the NBA's return to action at the end of July. It's still unclear if the Knicks will even be involved in whatever plan is agreed upon, but it is good to learn that the players can now access their facilities in New York. Only five team facilities have not opened up in some capacity at this point.
Source: Knicks PR on Twitter