• The “Baby Lakers” started to mature this season, going from an absolute afterthought in the Western Conference to a hopeful legitimate threat next year. It was clear early on in the season that the Lakers struck gold with Kyle Kuzma, nabbing him with the 27th pick in last year’s draft. However, nobody expected Josh Hart to be as good as he showed us he could be. Another year, another good draft class for the Lakers, whose scouting department might just be among the best in the league. Pair Hart and Kuzma with Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram and the Lakers have themselves a nice little young core, but will they stay together? That’s yet to be seen and frankly a story for another day so let’s just focus on this season and all of the things Los Angeles did right and wrong.

    Editor’s Note: You can check out the rest of our Post-Mortems here.

    Overview

    2016-2017 Record: 26-56

    2017-2018 Record: 35-47

    The 35 wins are the most the team had gotten since the 2012-2013 season with Mike D’Antoni running the show. The Lakers have one of the most polarizing fan bases, and they’re actually pretty ruthless. When the team is playing horribly they’ll be sure to fire off tweets letting the players, coaches, owners and anyone with a Lakers-based profile picture know. On the other hand, when the Lakers are rolling their fans will get on Twitter and swear up and down that they could beat the Warriors in a seven-game series.

    Now I know a lot of fan bases do that, but with the Lakers it seems more prominent than others and I don’t know why. Actually, I might know. The Lakers have 16 NBA Championships, the second most in the entire NBA to only the Celtics. Their last championship was in 2010 which was only eight years ago and Lakers fans aren’t used to losing. They aren’t used to all of these high draft picks, they’re used to dominating the teams that usually have them. So this four or five year stint of mediocrity hasn’t been received well by some Lakers fans. However, they might finally be starting claw their way back up the NBA’s food chain.

    There was no huge controversy with the Lakers this year. There was no Kobe Bryant farewell tour, no D’Angelo Russell vs. Nick Young TMZ disputes, not even any Byron Scott head coaching criticisms. Aside from LaVar Ball being LaVar Ball and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s slight stint in prison, the Lakers were being watched because they were genuinely intriguing. They’re the third-youngest team in the NBA with an average age of 24.9 and while sometimes that did prove to be a problem, it also proved to be a blessing. They were always hungry, always amped up and always ready to prove anybody who thought they were an easy win very wrong.

    Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka got their first full season under their belts and made some big changes, and they were ultimately for the better. Ever since Mitch Kupchak tied the Lakers down with that huge Timofey Mozgov contract people have been wondering how they’d sign any free agents with no cap space. Well, Johnson and Pelinka took care of that a couple of days before last year’s NBA Draft, trading away Russell and Mozgov for Brook Lopez. Lopez only had one year left on his contract and was never really looked at as part of the Lakers’ long team plans, but D’Angelo Russell was thought to be. Just two years ago the Lakers had used the No.2 pick in the draft on Russell, taking him over players like Kristaps Porzingis and Devin Booker. The trade received a ton of backlash from Lakers fans because Russell was a semi-fan favorite, and we’ve yet to see if that trade was entirely worth it. If Russell turns out to be a multi-time All-Star with Kenny Atkinson and the Nets and the Lakers don’t sign any blockbuster free agents with all that money then it’s a clear loss for Johnson and Pelinka. However, if they manage to ink Paul George and possibly LeBron James or DeMarcus Cousins then it was a great move, but we’ll have to wait and see.

    Johnson and Pelinka weren’t done though. They made one of the biggest moves of the NBA trade deadline and finally broke up that original Lakers young core that had been hanging on by a thread. In 2015, the core was considered to be D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr. and Anthony Brown. In 2018, only one of those players remains on the roster in Julius Randle. Anthony Brown has made a career for himself in the G-League, being called up and send back down for different teams almost every week and Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. were shipped off to the Cavaliers midway through the season. Johnson and Pelinka packaged Nance Jr. and Clarkson in order to get Isaiah Thomas and the 25th pick in this year’s NBA Draft.

    The Lakers came into this season without their pick, which meant two things: first, that pick they got from the Cavs was extremely valuable, especially with the success of their recent late round picks and two, there was no point in tanking. They needed to prove something to the NBA if they wanted any free agents to look their way, and they did. They went out every night and competed against every single team, beating the Houston Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics while taking the Golden State Warriors to overtime twice. It became clear that this team could blossom into something special. Kyle Kuzma continued to shock the world, Brandon Ingram took a much larger step than most people expected, Lonzo Ball flashed excellence at times and Julius Randle might’ve been the team’s best player this season.

    For years now it seems like the Lakers have been swimming in a pool of mediocrity, getting young players, but never the right ones. Never the transcendent ones, never the ones that could turn an entire franchise around. So it seems like they stopped trying to find just one. They’ve put together a young core with a bunch of guys that complement each other, that feed off the chemistry they have on and off the court. Perhaps one of the league’s biggest bromances this season has been Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma and the social media clowning that the Lakers’ players do amongst one another makes them all some of the best Twitter and Instagram follows in the league, especially Kuzma. Sure, maybe Lonzo Ball or Brandon Ingram could turn into something really special and if they do then the Lakers will be ecstatic. However, if they don’t then the Lakers have set themselves up very nicely with a pure point guard oozing with potential in Ball, a defensive minded, scrappy shooting guard in Hart, an all-around freak in Ingram and a scoring-oriented power forward in Kuzma.

    The goal for the Lakers was to show free agents that they’ve got something cooking over here in La La Land and they can consider it mission accomplished.

    Coaching

    Luke Walton entered his second year of head coaching this season and it went much, much better than his first. A slight criticism from LaVar Ball might’ve been one of the only blemishes on quite a good season for Walton. In early January, Ball told reporters that Walton had lost the team and that players no longer wanted to play for him. The LakeShow was in the midst of a nine-game losing streak so people actually began to think that maybe LaVar was actually right this time and it didn’t help that Lonzo Ball wouldn’t stick up for his coach when asked about it.

    Well, LaVar was wrong.

    The Lakers went on to win 12 of their next 16 games and all of a sudden Luke Walton was looking like the great coach everyone believed he could be when the Lakers signed him two years ago. He actually did a ton for this Lakers team, on and off the court. Off the court, he was someone the players knew that they could come to for anything, which is essential when you basically have a whole bunch of teenagers or young adults on your roster. He balances being a friend to the players while also being their coach extremely well. He showed that he looked at and cared for not only the players as basketball players, but actual people and therefore the players cared about playing well for him.

    On the court, Walton might’ve changed the culture. The Lakers had a horrible defensive efficiency last season, allowing 1.095 points per possession which would again be the worst in the league this year. However, this year their defensive efficiency was 1.048 which was the 13th-best in the league. Los Angeles went from the worst defensive team in the league to one within its top half in just one season and they had the sixth-best defensive efficiency in the league while at home with a 1.015 mark. They also had the 12th-best defensive rating in the NBA at 105.6, making them one of only two teams with top-15 defensive ratings that didn’t make the playoffs.

    Walton was able to bring the defensive presence out of players who weren’t thought to have one, notably Lonzo Ball. When he was being scouted no one really thought he was a good defender — in fact he was thought to be a below average one with people only seeming to remember Ball’s last college game in which fellow rookie De’Aaron Fox dropped 39 on him, abruptly ending UCLA’s NCAA Title hopes in the Sweet 16. Well, fast forward to the end of his rookie season and Lonzo looks like a great defensive point guard. He was top-3 in both Defensive Box Plus/Minus and Defensive Win Shares on the Lakers this season and his length combined with his basketball IQ and ability to play the passing lanes makes him a real problem for opposing point guards.

    Walton was also able to mix and match different lineups and make them work due to injuries. When Ball was out, Walton converted Brandon Ingram into a point-forward, the same role that some of the league’s true megastars play. When Ingram and Ball were out, he was able to use Kyle Kuzma as a focal point of the offense and he even allowed for Brook Lopez to dominate for a couple of games late in the season while still keeping the young players at the forefront.

    While Walton’s rotational decisions can be frustrating at times, he seems to know what he’s doing. He holds the players accountable for their actions while also helping to fix them. They respect Walton as not only a coach but as a man and as a person, which makes him the definition of a “player’s coach.” 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.

    The Players

    Lonzo Ball 

    ADP: 54/56 (ESPN/Yahoo)Total Value: 132/156(8/9-cat)Per-Game Value: 60/80 (8/9-cat)Games Played: 52

    2017-18 averages: 52 G | 50 GS | 34.2 MP | 10.2 PTS | 1.7 3PM | 6.9 REB | 7.2 AST | 1.7 STL | 0.8 BLK | 2.6 TOV | .360 FG% | .451 FT% |

    Ball had perhaps the most pressure of any rookie in this draft class due to the fact that his father just wouldn’t stop talking. When someone’s father is saying that their son is better than LeBron, Steph Curry and Michael Jordan then opposing players are going to want that son to come out and show them. Ball got his first taste of that against Patrick Beverley in the season opener. He held Ball to three points on 1-of-6 shooting while also banging him around a couple of times, but that’s just Patrick Beverley.

    As the season progressed he began to get better and better, becoming more comfortable with him teammates and within the offense he was running. He even held the record for the youngest player to ever record a triple-double until Markelle Fultz took the title from him late in the season. When looking at Ball’s stat line the things that really stand out are his percentages. It’s not shown up above, but he shot .305 from behind the arc which is one of the worst percentages on the Lakers. Ball’s shot is unorthodox in itself so it’s understandable that it’ll take some time to get it flowing correctly. He’ll come around, as he shot .551 from the field in college to go along with a .412 mark from the 3-point line. Unless he just flat out forgot how to shoot he should be fine.

    Coming into one of the most popular franchises in all of sports on top of having your dad make enemies for you is a very heavy burden to place on a 20-year-old and Ball handled it pretty well. Next year he’ll be a year older, a year wiser and have an entire offseason of NBA training under his belt. On top of that, he might even have one or possibly even a couple of All-Star caliber teammates, which could help his assists in a big way. He averaged 7.2 this season with a team consisting of young, raw talent so imagine what he could do with a polished scorer on his team.

    Yes, the injuries are a problem and Ball himself even acknowledged it. He dealt with a sore and bruised left knee at different times throughout this season that caused him to miss over 20 combined games. He’s said that his main focus this offseason is getting stronger and developing his body so that he can become more durable while also becoming more consistent. Injuries are a weird thing, they can’t be predicted and it’s really something that just sneaks up on you. One minute the player could be fine and the next they could be on the floor writhing in pain — you just never know. I expect Lonzo to be much better next season, to average more assists and points while keeping his rebound numbers in the same range. When he was on the court he was a viable asset for his fantasy owners despite the terrible percentages and I don’t see that changing next season.

    Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

    ADP: 92/95 (ESPN/Yahoo)Total Value: 62/54(8/9-cat)Per-Game Value: 76/64 (8/9-cat)Games Played: 74

    2017-18 averages: 74 G | 74 GS | 33.2 MP | 13.4 PTS | 2.1 3PM | 5.2 REB | 2.2 AST | 1.4 STL | 0.2 BLK | 1.3 TOV | .427 FG% | .789 FT% |

    Caldwell-Pope came into the season as sort of a wildcard for the Lakers. They signed him to a one-year deal and gave him a chance to boost his value for this year’s offseason so he could get a better long term offer. He started almost every game for the Lakers and had some ups and some downs, but that’s what both L.A. and fantasy owners knew that they were getting with KCP.

    He was known as a 3-and-D guy, a player who could play good defense on the perimeter and knock down some shots behind the arc as well. That’s basically the role he served for the Lakers. He was actually kind of a veteran on the team although Caldwell-Pope himself is only 25 years old, but for the Lakers that’s old enough. He didn’t surprise Los Angeles with some breakout season or anything like that, he was just a solid player. He came in every game and did his job. Sometimes he excelled and others he disappointed but overall  he did what was expected of him. KCP posted the best field goal percentage of his career, but also attempted the fewest shots since his rookie year — further evidence that he wasn’t one of the focal points.

    Caldwell-Pope was good for his fantasy owners though. He got them some points, rebounds, 3-pointers and steals while not really committing too many turnovers or delivering category-killing percentages. He’s still only 25 so there is room for improvement but I doubt he takes a massive step anytime soon. What you see is what you get with KCP, he won’t help you too much in any area but he also won’t hurt you too much in any area. He’s a pretty safe guy to draft around the late-middle rounds depending on where he ends up next season. It’s highly unlikely he’ll be in the purple and gold again.

    Brook Lopez

    ADP: 45/40 (ESPN/Yahoo)Total Value: 100/94(8/9-cat)Per-Game Value: 118/108 (8/9-cat)Games Played: 74

    2017-18 averages: 74 G | 72 GS | 23.4 MP | 13.0 PTS | 1.5 3PM | 4.0 REB | 1.7 AST | 0.4 STL | 1.3 BLK | 1.3 TOV | .465 FG% | .703 FT% |

    Like Caldwell-Pope, Lopez was never looked at as a key cog in the future plans of the Lakers. He was a bonus prize in offloading Timofey Mozgov’s awful contract. However, it wasn’t clear at the beginning of the season how little of a role Lopez would play in the Lakers’ rotation, as seen by his top-50 ADP in both ESPN and Yahoo!. He was being drafted as a starting center in a ton of leagues and ended up being far from that. This actually might’ve been the least productive season of his entire career, averaging a career-low in minutes, field goal percentage and free throw attempts while matching his career-low in points. He also doesn’t get as many rebounds as other typical early-round bigs, and those were especially hard to come by on a Lakers team with a rebounding point guard.

    The Lakers ran a lot of small lineups with both Julius Randle and Kyle Kuzma on the court at the same time, limiting their need for Lopez to be out there. He began to improve later in the season after Walton said that he wanted to get him more involved, as it was clear that Lopez was taking the benching harshly. After being the franchise player of an organization since he was about 21 years old, it was hard to adjust to a backseat role. Thankfully for Lopez though, it was only a one-year deal and he can now find a team that will value his talent much more than the Lakers. There were a couple wins where Lopez was essential but in the grand scheme of the Lakers’ season, he was an afterthought and a huge disappointment to fantasy owners.

    He was dropped in a ton of leagues, which is never a good thing to say about someone picked in the top-50 of many drafts. Judging his value for next season is hard to do without knowing where he’ll land this offseason. He could go to a title contending team and play a veteran backup role as he did on the Lakers in which his value would be towards the late rounds of drafts or he could go to a team that has no shot of making the playoffs and he could feast, sort of like how Zach Randolph does but without the incompetency of the Kings staff. Or like Lopez himself used to do in Brooklyn.

    Kyle Kuzma

    ADP: 102/131 (ESPN/Yahoo)Total Value: 79/91(8/9-cat)Per-Game Value: 107/115 (8/9-cat)Games Played: 77

    2017-18 averages: 74 G | 37 GS | 31.2 MP | 16.1 PTS | 2.1 3PM | 6.3 REB | 1.8 AST | 0.6 STL | 0.4 BLK | 1.8 TOV | .450 FG% | .707 FT% |

    Maybe the biggest surprise of this year’s draft, Kyle Kuzma literally shocked the entire NBA world. He came out in the Summer League and put up good performance after good performance but people believed it was Lonzo Ball’s assists and deep passes that allowed him to score. Well, Kuzma dropped 30 points in the Summer League Championship game without Lonzo Ball and secured the game’s MVP.

    Since then, Kuzma has been one of the biggest breakout stars in recent league history and was certainly a treat for his fantasy owners. At Utah he wasn’t known as a great scorer and he really wasn’t known to be great at any one thing but once again this Lakers scouting department has found another diamond in the rough. They’ve found a flexible player who can play both forward positions while also playing some center in small lineups. He’s got a knockdown jumper and a knack for scoring both inside and on the perimeter. He’s amongst great company when you look at the other Lakers rookies to score as much as Kuzma in their rookie years: Elgin Baylor, George Mikan, Jerry West and Magic Johnson. Kuz actually had the second highest field goal percentage of any of those players, right behind Magic’s 53.0 percent.

    He’s an absolutely prolific scorer who is working to add more rebounding and passing to his game this offseason so it’s possible that we see an even better, more mature Kuzma next season. He’s only 22 years old and the sky is the limit for him, he could become the Lakers’ go-to guy in the future or he could just be a key piece to a contending team but either way the Lakers got a steal in the draft. If the Lakers keep his role about the same fantasy owners should be excited about Kuzma’s outlook next season, and he should be a top-100 player with a ton of upside for something much, much better.

    Julius Randle 

    ADP: 69/74 (ESPN/Yahoo)Total Value: 55/89(8/9-cat)Per-Game Value: 92/138 (8/9-cat)Games Played: 82

    2017-18 averages: 82 G | 49 GS | 26.7 MP | 16.1 PTS | 0.1 3PM | 8.0 REB | 2.6 AST | 0.5 STL | 0.5 BLK | 2.6 TOV | .558 FG% | .718 FT% |

    Well, this was definitely a breakout season for Julius Randle and it just so happened to come in his contract year. Is that a coincidence? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t but one thing is for sure, Randle looked like the real deal. Coming into the season everyone was pretty sure he was starting, but about halfway through the year he was benched for Larry Nance Jr. Many believe it was for personality issues, as he was constantly clashing with the coaching staff or pouting on the bench and Nance was always playing good soldier. However, after Nance was traded Randle proved why he should’ve been starting all along.

    Over the last 25 games of the season Randle averaged 19.5 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.6 steals and 0.4 blocks on .556 from the field in 31.8 minutes per game. He was easily the Lakers’ best player down the stretch and actually shot the best field goal percentage on the entire team. There were times where it really didn’t seem like he could be stopped. If nothing else was accomplished, he proved that he could be a dynamic player and that he could play a major role in the Lakers’ plans for the future. While they have a perimeter threat in Kyle Kuzma, the Lakers also have a banger and a bruiser down low in the paint in Randle. Walton also allowed Randle to handle the ball at certain times and initiate the offense, even leading to a triple-double this season.

    He’s proven that he can be a reliable asset for fantasy owners as long as he’s given the right situation. He provides points, rebounds, assists, great field goal percentages and a couple of steals or blocks without costing too much in the draft. The impact his increase in efficiency (.488 to .558) had on his fantasy value can’t be understated. He’s a free agent this offseason but he’s restricted so the Lakers could match whatever offer he’s given as long as they don’t spend all their money before Randle agrees to a contract.

    Brandon Ingram 

    ADP: 94/104 (ESPN/Yahoo)Total Value: 161/195(8/9-cat)Per-Game Value: 119/176 (8/9-cat)Games Played: 59

    2017-18 averages: 59 G | 59 GS | 33.5 MP | 16.1 PTS | 0.7 3PM | 5.3 REB | 3.9 AST | 0.8 STL | 0.7 BLK | 2.5 TOV | .470 FG% | .681 FT% |

    Ingram is perhaps the Lakers’ most valued asset, as shown by their caution whenever he gets a slight injury and their willingness to place the “untouchable” tag on him last offseason. Although no Lakers are “untouchable” now, that doesn’t change the fact that Ingram looks to be their most promising young player. Ingram was one of only five players under the age of 25 to average at least 16 points, five rebounds and three assists along with Nikola Jokic, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo. He seems to be in very, very good company and a player like that isn’t someone the Lakers would just trade away to clear space. They want to see him blossom into the star player they thought he could be when they drafted him.

    He played the most minutes on the team for the second straight season and was their focal point on offense. If they needed a game-winner or a crucial bucket, the ball was going to Ingram. Unfortunately, he missed a ton of time with a strained left hip flexor. His durability was thought to be a problem coming into the league as his skinny frame would make him more susceptible to injuries than other players. However, Ingram played 79 games in his rookie year so he’s proved that he can stay healthy and as he bulks up his body will be able to endure more punishment. For the Lakers, Ingram is one of the keys to really making the franchise a threat in the Western Conference. If he turns out to be the star that they think he is along with Lonzo Ball then the LakeShow will have a one-two punch that will rival the league’s best young duos.

    Ingram only played 59 games but In those 59 games he flashed that superstar potential and the Lakers are hoping that it was enough to get some solidified superstars to come and want to play alongside him. For fantasy owners, Ingram was disappointing because of all the missed games, turnovers and lack of 3-point shooting but he’s still very raw and brimming with so much potential. He took a huge leap this season and it’s possible he takes another next season.

    Isaiah Thomas

    ADP: 68/36 (ESPN/Yahoo)Total Value: 287/333(8/9-cat)Per-Game Value: 166/269 (8/9-cat)Games Played: 32

    2017-18 averages: 32 G | 15 GS | 26.9 MP | 15.2 PTS | 1.7 3PM | 2.1 REB | 4.8 AST | 0.5 STL | 0.1 BLK | 3.0 TOV | .373 FG% | .893 FT% |

    Oh how far they’ve fallen. Isaiah Thomas went from being the star player of a Celtics team on the edge of the NBA Finals to being Lonzo Ball’s backup on a 35-win Lakers team. That Brinks truck is long gone and Thomas won’t be getting paid nearly as much as he would’ve last season. It’s a shame really, Thomas has faced adversity in nearly every situation he’s been in and the Lakers were no different. As soon as he got to town his agent was having an argument through the media with the Lakers about whether or not Thomas would start. He ended up starting in only one game for the Lakers.

    He had some moments in which he looked like the old Isaiah Thomas — the All-Star, the man who almost got the Celtics past LeBron. However, those moments would quickly fade when he’d commit a bad turnover, miss wide on a pull-up jumper he had no business taking or miss a layup he would’ve easily made last season. He only played in 32 games and never quite seemed to get accustomed to playing in a new situation. He only played in 15 games with the Cavs before being shipped to LA and then he got shut down near the end of the season in La La Land as well due to a stiff right hip that eventually needed surgery. IT’s bum hip never let his season get off the ground, as he couldn’t shake off the rust in the win-now environment in Cleveland and wasn’t a high-priority guy in L.A.

    He might be one of this year’s biggest fantasy disappointments. Sure he was drafted in the late 60’s of ESPN leagues but that’s because he was dealing with surgery to his right hip to start the season. If an owner drafted Thomas in one of the late rounds he considered himself to have gotten a steal, when in fact Thomas might’ve been over-drafted if you took him in even the tenth or eleventh round. He was just horrible this season and we’ll have to see where he lands next season in order to truly judge his value. It most likely won’t be with the Lakers, but if he lands on another bad, non-contending team than maybe he’ll have the freedom and opportunity to figure things out again.

    Josh Hart 

    ADP: N/A (ESPN/Yahoo)Total Value: 220/191(8/9-cat)Per-Game Value: 220/196 (8/9-cat)Games Played: 63

    2017-18 averages: 63 G | 23 GS | 23.2 MP | 7.9 PTS | 1.2 3PM | 4.2 REB | 1.3 AST | 0.7 STL | 0.3 BLK | 0.7 TOV | .469 FG% | .702 FT% |

    If Kuzma wasn’t the surprise of this NBA season, Josh Hart would certainly be in the running for that title. He was the last pick of the first round and he seemed like a player that would just sit on the bench this season, maybe even go down to the G-League and play for reps. However, he proved to be a key piece of the rotation, providing some great defense and valuable scoring off of the bench.

    He was a guy that wasn’t drafted in many leagues, if any. Hart wasn’t even very valuable for most of the season but he had stretches in which he looked like a must-own player. Those stretches mostly came due to a slew of left knee injuries to Lonzo Ball and an Achilles injury to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope though, meaning that Hart will likely continue to be a player whose value fluctuates based on what is happening with the guys ahead of him on the depth chart. He might be a key asset for the Lakers team, but for fantasy owners he’ll have trouble holding steady value unless his role truly increases. If the Lakers strike out on any big free agents and don’t re-sign Caldwell-Pope then maybe Hart will become the starting two guard, but we’re a long way from that.

    Ivica Zubac 

    ADP: N/A/36 (ESPN/Yahoo)Total Value: 360/358(8/9-cat)Per-Game Value: 400/399 (8/9-cat)Games Played: 43

    2017-18 averages: 43 G | GS | 9.5 MP | 3.7 PTS | 0.0 3PM | 2.8 REB | 0.6 AST | 0.2 STL | 0.3 BLK | 0.6 TOV | .500 FG% | .765 FT% |

    Zubac was a fan-favorite coming into the season along with fellow big man Larry Nance Jr. However, it became clear that Zubac had actually seemed to regress instead of getting better. Once Nance Jr. was shipped off to Cleveland, Zubac kind of became an afterthought amongst Lakers fans and the organization. He was once looked at as a possible franchise big man and now he’s not looked at as anything more than a backup center in the Lakers’ future plans.

    He looked dominant when he played in the G-League but he could never quite seem to get that dominance to translate to the regular NBA. At times he’s seemed out of shape, he has trouble defending without fouling and he hasn’t expanded his range much, so there’s no apparent need for him to be on the court for the Lakers. With Brook Lopez on his way out and Thomas Bryant still so raw, perhaps the Lakers will rely more on Zubac next season unless they add a center in the draft or free agency. If they don’t do either of those things then Zubac might be their best choice. It’d finally give the big man the opportunity to develop and learn on the fly, which would be great for fantasy owners.

    Tyler Ennis 

    ADP: N/A (ESPN/Yahoo)Total Value: 317/316(8/9-cat)Per-Game Value: 365 (8/9-cat)Games Played: 54

    2017-18 averages: 54 G | 11 GS | 12.7 MP | 4.1 PTS | 0.3 3PM | 1.8 REB | 1.9 AST | 0.6 STL | 0.2 BLK | 0.7 TOV | .420 FG% | .759 FT% |

    Ennis was primarily used as Lonzo Ball’s backup before the Lakers acquired Isaiah Thomas and he was never really tasked with much in the offense. His job was basically to stay in the game and try to hold on to a lead, if they had one, until Ball (or whoever the starting point guard was) had rested enough to check back in. Once the Lakers got Thomas, Ennis barely ever came off of the bench. He wasn’t very useful in fantasy leagues even when Ball was injured and that should be the story next season too. He actually averaged more minutes than he did last season and still finished outside the top-250. Even if the Lakers lose Thomas this offseason, Ennis likely won’t be much more than a flier if Ball misses time.

    Doctor’s Orders

    The Lakers are a team on the right track. They did everything they needed to do this season by showing possible free agent All-Stars that they’ve got some talent already on the roster to work with. The next step for the Lakers is the draft, where they’ll have the 25th pick barring any trade. With the Lakers’ recent success in the scouting department, many people are expecting them to nab up another steal in this year’s draft. It has been rumored that they’ve promised 5-star big man Mitchell Robinson that they’ll take him if he’s available when they pick but that doesn’t seem like a very “Lakers” thing to do.

    If they do take Robinson then it might officially be over for Zubac but if not then I’d just trust that whoever they choose will be a semi-decent player. After the draft comes free agency and this is where the future of the Lakers will truly be decided. It’s no secret that the Lakers are going after Paul George this offseason along with LeBron James or possibly even DeMarcus Cousins. Along with all of those stars, they will have to make the tough decision on whether or not to re-sign Julius Randle. It’ll be make or break time for the Lakers come July 1 as it will finally be time to see if everything they’ve been doing over the last two years has been worth it. If they manage to sign just Paul George then they’ll likely be a mid-low tier playoff team, but 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. If all else fails and they manage to sign none of those stars, then they’ll likely set their sights on the 2019 free agent class filled with Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler and Klay Thompson while giving their young players another season to develop and show the rest of the league that the Lakers are once again worth taking a chance on.

Fantasy News

  • Victor Oladipo
    SG, Indiana Pacers

    Victor Oladipo had little to say about his rehab process (ruptured quad tendon) at his basketball camp in Indiana.

    We weren't expecting earth shattering details while Oladipo was busy overseeing his basketball camp, but more information about the Pacer would be most welcome. It is hard to know what you will get from Oladipo on draft day, but you have to figure someone in your league will be interested in taking a gamble on him. He is still not scrimmaging with other players, and whenever he does return to game action this season, it is unlikely he will resume being a top player in the early going.

    Source: The Athletic

  • Briante Weber
    PG, International

    Briante Weber, after spending the end of last season with the Greek club Olympiacos, is joining the Metropolitians 92, based in Boulogne-Levallois, France.

    Weber attended free agent mini-camps in June with the Raptors and Wolves, and spent time in the G-League last year, but has never been able to catch on long-term with an NBA team. He has had brief stops with several NBA squads over the years, so it is possible he could return to a roster at some point this season. There is nothing to see here in terms of fantasy though.

    Source: BeBasket.com

  • Rui Hachimura
    PF, Washington Wizards

    Rui Hachimura showed off his scoring prowess with 31 points in Japan's comeback victory over Germany on Saturday.

    After a nice string of Summer League performances, Rui Hachimura is continuing his strong play in FIBA World Cup exhibition games for Japan. He can clearly get his own look in the mid-range, and the rookie should get a chance to perform for the Wizards this year. Keep an eye on Hachimura's preseason opportunities, as the competition for the Wizards' power forward minutes isn't fierce. He could be worth a late-round flyer in standard league-drafts.

    Source: Mike Schmitz on Twitter

  • Robert Covington
    SF, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Robert Covington (right knee) is not expected to have any limitations heading into training camp.

    Covington had arthroscopic surgery in April after missing 47 games last season due to a bone bruise on his right knee.

    Source: Chris Hine of the Star Tribune

  • Jeff Teague
    PG, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Jeff Teague (left ankle) is not expected to have any restrictions for training camp.

    Teague had a left ankle debridement procedure in April to help alleviate inflammation. Teague's ankles have given him trouble throughout his career and he only played 42 games last season. With a clean bill of health Teague will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing season.

    Source: Chris Hine of the Star Tribune

  • Derrick White
    PG, San Antonio Spurs

    Derrick White has reportedly passed the first concussion test after taking a nasty fall in Team USA's tuneup game vs. the Australian Boomers on Saturday.

    This is good news. White has worked hard for his Team USA roster spot and should provide some guard depth for them once he clears concussion protocols. He was an eye-opener last season and should still hold some fantasy value despite the return of a now-healthy Dejounte Murray.

    Source: Tom Orsborn on Twitter

  • Kyle Kuzma
    PF, Los Angeles Lakers

    Kyle Kuzma (sore left ankle) will not take part in the FIBA World Cup as Team USA announces its final roster.

    Kuzma sat out Team USA's final tuneup against Australia on Saturday as Marc Stein reports that he is flying back to Los Angeles to get treatment. We should still expect him to be ready for training and congrats to Mason Plumlee for making the team as many speculated that he would be the final cut.

    Source: Marc Stein on Twitter

  • Kemba Walker
    PG, Boston Celtics

    Kemba Walker scored 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting with four rebounds with two assists as USA Basketball had it's 78-game winning streak in tournament and exhibition games snapped on Saturday.

    Walker continues to assert himself as the team's best player but USA losing to Australia was the much bigger story in this one. Harrison Barnes also played well as he chipped in 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting to go with six rebounds. USA will take on Canada on Monday in their last exhibition before taking on the Czech Republic in the first official match of the tournament on September 1.

    Source: USAB.com

  • Derrick White
    PG, San Antonio Spurs

    Derrick White left Saturday’s game after tripping and hitting his head on the floor.

    White left without help but there is no word yet on whether he is dealing with a concussion. He finished with eight points, hitting 6-of-7 three throws in nine minutes with another update sure to come. The third-year guard put up top-125 per-game value, playing 25.8 minutes in his second season. Even with the return of Dejounte Murray, White should still be worth a roster spot in most standard leagues.

    Source: Jeff Garcia on Twitter

  • Marcus Smart
    PG, Boston Celtics

    Marcus Smart, sidelined for almost three weeks with calf tightness, returned to action on Saturday as USA lost to Australia in their exhibition.

    Smart only played nine minutes in this one but still managed to score 7 points with three assists days after being named one of the team’s co-captains. Coming off an NBA All-Defensive First Team selection, he produced top-100 per game fantasy value as it seems he may have finally fixed his shot after shooting under 40 percent from the field in his first four seasons. He also produced a career-high in both steals and triples with 1.8 and 1.6 respectively as his career seems to be on the up and up.

    Source: USAB.com