With the Lakers poised to have slightly over $60 million in cap space burning a hole in their pocket, they have several paths they can take to try to reshape their roster. With all that cap space, they have been linked to nearly every top FA in some way shape for form, even if only from the standpoint they would be “interested” in signing him.

One name where there was supposedly mutual interest, though, was with Toronto Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan. Whispers around the league were that the Compton native and former USC Trojan would love to play for the franchise while it was long believed the Lakers would be willing to shell out the max in order to lure DeRozan back to his native Los Angeles. The thought was that the Lakers need a huge infusion of talent and DeRozan offered a player who could step into the rotation spot Kobe Bryant vacated after retiring.

Well, it seems like that position has changed, and from both sides.

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Jordan Clarkson is a gym rat. Earlier this season, he actually showed up to the Lakers’ practice facility to get a workout in only to discover there was a D-Fenders game going on. Dude just lives in the gym. We got another glimpse of that this week when he took some time after an off-season session to talk about his continued efforts to improve his game and his future with the Lakers. From TWC Sportsnet:

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Welcome to a new series for FB&G for the 2016 off-season. This series will focus on team building and various paths the Lakers have open to them for the upcoming off-season. We will try to cover a variety of scenarios the Lakers could feasibly take and what moves might be involved with that specific approach. This installment will focus on finding the middle ground towards building a winner.

The Lakers are in one of the more unique situations in the history of the organization. With no established star on the roster, there is no singular player to “sell” to fans. They are also coming off three of their worst seasons in franchise history and have just said goodbye to one of (if not the) greatest players in franchise history. Viewed through this prism, the Lakers are in a really rough spot.

On the other hand, they have just hired a young coach who fans are excited about. They just found out they would retain their lottery pick — the 2nd overall selection in a draft which many analysts say has two very strong prospects. They also have two additional former lottery picks already on the roster as well as a former 1st and 2nd round pick — all of whom have games which offer a fair amount of flair and excitement. Add to this an abundance of cap space (projections say around $60 million) on July 1st and it’s easy to see the Lakers as a team on the rise.

This makes the next steps the franchise takes crucial. The path they take to try and turn a doormat into a contender is worth discussing, then. We have already looked at the slow and steady approach and what a potential rapid race back to the top might look like. And while both of those paths have merit (one more than the other, in my opinion), I think the most realistic approach is one which lies in the middle.

The Lakers are tasked with building a winner, but that’s a long term goal. In the short term, they are seeking incremental improvements which come from strategic roster upgrades and the organic development of their young players. Here is what going about building a team that way might entail…

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Welcome to a new series for FB&G for the 2016 off-season. This series will focus on team building and various paths the Lakers have open to them for the upcoming off-season. We will try to cover a variety of scenarios the Lakers could feasibly take and what moves might be involved with that specific approach. This installment will focus on trying to become a contender as quickly as possible.

The past few seasons have seen the Lakers deal with a variety of structural roster issues which have hindered their potential to compete. Whether it was the large amount of money committed to Kobe Bryant, their lack of young players who were ready to contribute to a highly competitive team, or their lack of secure draft picks, the team simply did not have the type of resources available to them to foster a winning team.

The Lakers were also intent on trying to chase big fish in free agency, but with limited capital to sign more than one “max” level player, they eventually struck out on every star they chased. Rather than panic spend on players a tier below, the team tried to roll over their cap space for future seasons while also taking chances on short term veterans who might help bolster the win column. Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer, Jordan Hill, Ed Davis, Roy Hibbert, etc all took turns as key rotation pieces.

These acquisitions did not hamper future spending potential nor did they lead to many wins. The result, then, was a bunch of losses which helped the Lakers keep their lottery picks and a boatload of cap space heading into a summer where the cap will go up by roughly $25 million.

As it stands the Lakers now have a roster with three first round picks (Russell, Randle, Nance), a 2nd round pick who has outperformed his draft slot (Clarkson), an incoming lottery pick (#2 overall), and upwards of $60 million in cap space to spend on free agents. In other words, the Lakers now have some tools to try and construct a roster which can make the suffering of the past three seasons a distant memory.

The question, of course, is how to best go about that. We have already discussed a slow and steady approach, but an alternative to that method is to go all-in on the idea of building a contender as quickly as possible. How would they go about executing such a plan?

I’m glad you asked…

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Welcome to a new series for FB&G for the 2016 off-season. This series will focus on team building and various paths the Lakers have open to them for the upcoming off-season. We will try to cover a variety of scenarios the Lakers could feasibly take and what moves might be involved with that specific approach. Our first installment will focuses on taking a slow and steady approach. 

It’s funny how the perception of a team’s potential trajectory can be impacted in such a short amount of time. A month ago, on April 23rd, Byron Scott was still the Lakers’ head coach, Luke Walton was probably stressing out about Steph Curry’s knee injury and thinking about the Dubs losing game 3 to the Rockets, and the Lakers (and their fans) were still sweating about whether the team would keep their top-3 protected lottery pick.

Of course, a month later, things are entirely different and the general perception around the team is that they are a team on a major upswing. They now have a charismatic and young new head coach, they have the 2nd pick in June’s draft and the ability to draft one of two players considered to be in the upper tier of prospects, and still have all that cap space staring at them in the face waiting to be spent on July 1st.

It’s good to be a Lakers fan right now.

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After Luke Walton was named Lakers’ head coach, the first name to surface as a candidate to join his staff as lead assistant was Brian Shaw. Since then, it has been reported that Walton wanted Shaw to serve as his proxy in draft workouts, but that Shaw was considering other options, including waiting to see if an opening with the Warriors in Shaw’s hometown of Oakland would become a possibility.

It seems Shaw’s now close to making a decision and that the Lakers look to be his choice. From Broderick Turner of the LA Times:

Brian Shaw and the Lakers are close to an agreement on a deal for him to become Luke Walton’s lead assistant coach, the Los Angeles Times learned Saturday.

Shaw’s experience as a head coach, an assistant coach and as a championship player were the primary reasons why Walton wanted him on his staff, according to several NBA officials who are not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

As I’ve written, I would fully support Shaw’s hiring should he, as is being reported, agree to a deal.

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I’m here to eat some crow. Yes, one of the Lakers’ toughest critics is here to admit it that I might have been too hard on the organization. This isn’t to say they never made mistakes, but for the most part, the Lakers’ offseason thus far is off to quite literally the best possible start.

The lesson: While it’s easy to see each mistake and show immediate concern in the moment, the bigger picture must remain in focus.

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With all the excitement about looking forward to the upcoming summer and season — with a new draft pick and head coach to help usher forward a new era — it’s easy to forget about last season. Some of that, of course, is wanting to forget a 17 win season. But there are some redeemable things from last year.

One of which was announced on Thursday when D’Angelo Russell was named to the NBA All-Rookie 2nd Team. From the Lakers’ press release:

Los Angeles Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell has been named to the NBA’s All-Rookie Second Team, it was announced today. Russell is the second consecutive Laker to be honored with an All-Rookie team selection, joining Jordan Clarkson who was selected to the First Team last season, and is the fourth Laker in team history (Kobe Bryant and Travis Knight in 1996-97 and Nick Van Exel in 1993-94) to be awarded Second Team honors.

The second overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft played in 80 games (48 starts) in 2015-16, averaging 13.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.16 steals in 28.2 minutes per game. He finished the year ranked 4th among rookies in assists and steals, and 5th in points and three-point field goal percentage, and was one of 10 American rookie and sophomore players selected by the league’s assistant coaches to participate in the Rising Stars Challenge at NBA All-Star 2016.

The Lakers went on to name other highlights of Russell’s season, mostly tying back to accomplishments he achieved contrasted against his age. Russell spent over half the season as a 19 year old, so his ability to contribute at a reasonably high level and reach some of the benchmarks he did is worth reflecting positively on. I, for one, congratulate Russell on this achievement.

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