You can’t hear people talk about the Lakers without at some point catching one word: excitement. It makes sense, new is exciting. Youth is exciting. Fun is exciting, especially when the humor about the team is not of the ironic type. You know what makes this young core all the more thrilling? Given the franchise’s, history, there’s a great chance most — or even all — these guys will work out.

Before we start, an important note should be made about how rare it is that players taken near the top of the draft don’t pan out. Typically, whoever is taken with early lottery picks has the talent to make it work. It happens (Anthony Bennett and Hasheem Thabeet nod glumly), but on the whole, it is pretty rare.

Furthermore, most of the guys I’ll talk about were drafted into winning situations whereas this current crop of young talent will probably see at least another couple years of losing before things really turn around. That matters greatly, and puts more of the onus on each player to continue to grow individually versus having to catch up to the quality of talent that already exists on a good team.

Now, with that said, take a look at the Lakers’ history of drafting guys in the lottery, especially as you get closer to the top pick overall. There are basically no outright busts whatsoever (damn you, Javaris Crittenton). It’s somewhat incredible.

For one thing, outside of this current stretch, the Lakers have almost never drafted inside the top five historically. Even still, they’ve selected almost innumerable players who went on to have very long, productive careers elsewhere, if not with the Lakers themselves. Before the lottery was instituted in 1985, the Lakers had already drafted seven players who would were/would become Hall of Famers and five other players who played at least one all star game. Since then, the Lakers have only made six lottery picks:

  • George Lynch (12) – At the time, this wasn’t a lottery pick, as the lottery only went to the 11th pick. Still, it’s in the general lottery range, so I’m counting it.
  • Eddie Jones (10)
  • Kobe Bryant (13, in a trade)
  • Andrew Bynum (10)
  • Julius Randle (7)
  • D’Angelo Russell (2)
  • Brandon Ingram (2)

Of those guys who are not still playing, only Lynch “failed” to make an all star team, but even he went on to play for more than a decade and spent most of that time as at least a solid rotation-caliber player. You take that career in that spot anytime you can. Bynum is something of a punchline now, but he made an all star team and was a key part of multiple title teams. Eddie Jones is freakin’ Eddie Jones. Nothing else need be said.

Oh, and Kobe turned out pretty well in his own right.

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If you look only at the cumulative stats, Brandon Ingram is not having a very good preseason. He’s shooting 41% from the field, scoring 8.1 points a night, grabbing a little over 2 rebounds, and dishing almost 2 assists a game. For most of the team’s 7 exhibition contests, he could be seen floating around the perimeter, looking more like a ball moving role player than the 2nd overall pick in his draft.

Over the past couple of games, however, Ingram is starting to find his way. On Saturday, in the 2nd half against the Warriors, coach Luke Walton put the ball in Ingram’s hands to be more of a facilitator. This unlocked his ball handling and shot creation ability (for him and his teammates). But more than that, it engaged him in the process of making the offense work.

In Wednesday night’s loss to the Warriors, Ingram again was more engaged and looking for his offense even when he was mostly playing off the ball. As the game progressed, though, Ingram was again put back in position to facilitate and again he thrived. His fourth quarter was one of efficiency and offensive aggression — he poured in 14 of his 21 points and half of his 4 assists while playing the entire period.

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The Lakers lost their 4th straight preseason game — and 2nd straight to the Warriors — on Tuesday night, but that L doesn’t quite tell the entire story. While several key players did not play as well as one would hope (Russell and, especially, Clarkson), there were some positives displayed from others.

Brandon Ingram had his best game of the preseason, taking over ball handling duties in the 4th quarter and acting as the do-it-all wing the organization (and fans) hope he can develop into. Even when paired with Russell, Ingram initiated the offense while still being aggressive in looking for (and making) his own shot. He finished the night with 21 points on only 10 field goal attempts, 7 rebounds, with 4 assists to 0 turnovers.

Beyond Ingram, Nick Young played another good game starting in place of Luol Deng who got another night off. Nick hit 7 of his 13 shots, including 5-10 from distance, to score 19 points. He also, again, played hard defensively in doing his best to try and slow Kevin Durant. That didn’t happen, but Young played good position defense, fought through picks, and contested shots well. Durant just did what he typically does anyway.

Beyond those guys, though, there was even more to talk about so after the game I joined Danny Leroux of Real GM, the Sporting News, and The Athletic NorCal for his Locked On Warriors Podcast. We covered a wide array of topics, discussing everything from Tuesday’s game action to team building to league-wide trends. Give it a listen after the jump.

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The Lakers have not played since Saturday and, from their last few games, they needed the break in action. After winning two of their first 3 preseason games, they’d lost their last three. And while the final score for two of those contests were close, the circumstances of the game and how the team actually looked tell a different story.

Some of the gains the team had made on both sides of the ball saw regression — especially offensively. Too much standing around, not enough ball or player movement. Some of this was lineup experimentation, some of it was quality of opponent (Portland and Golden State showed much better quality defense than the Nuggets). But a lot of it was simply the team not doing what they had done in previous games, and with less urgency.

The time off, then, hopefully did them some good. As with any team featuring young players while trying to integrate new faces expected to be key contributors, the Lakers need time to install sets and schemes and then drill them in practices. They need to scrimmage to simulate game situations to test them, then drill them some more when players make mistakes. In the last week and a half, they have not had this luxury as they’ve basically played every other day (or so).

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With the NBA season only a week away, we are officially in the “season preview” portion of the year. Everyone is putting on their forecasting hats and trying to figure out exactly what is going to happen with the league.

One of the best preview guys out there is Nate Duncan, who recruits guys who cover each NBA team to come on his Dunc’d On podcast for a season outlook discussion. Nate is one of the smartest guys out there — so you might question why he had me come on to talk about the Lakers — and we had a good discussion on the Lakers — the off-season changes, the progress of the young players, and more.

Thanks to Nate for having me on. You can follow him on twitter here and get all his podcast stylings here. Click through below to listen to our discussion.

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After trimming the roster by 3 last week, the Lakers’ roster currently stands at 17 players. That means they need to make 2 additional cuts before the start of the season — which is rapidly approaching. Who will those final cuts be? If you were hoping Luke Walton would know, well, you would be disappointed:

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After a loss to the Kings on Thursday, the Lakers are now 2-3 in the preseason. Thursday’s game saw a fantastic offensive performance from D’Angelo Russell undone by bad defense across the board. The Lakers couldn’t contain dribble penetration, didn’t tag cutters, had slow rotations back to the 3 point line, and gave up open jumpers all over the floor. Luke Walton said the team just didn’t have good defensive energy which was a nice way of putting things.

That defensive intensity will, of course, be even more tested tonight against the Warriors. I don’t need to go into how good they are on that end, their personnel makes it obvious. Anytime you add Kevin Durant to a team, you are going to thrive on offense. When you add him to a team with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, you are going to demolish teams on that end of the floor.

The Lakers are not going to stop this team tonight. That said, they can do some things to make the Warriors’ lives more difficult. They will need to communicate well, switch when necessary, rotate hard to the 3 point line, and help the helper. The Warriors will still score against these tactics, but what I am looking for is good effort and sticking to the scheme as outlined by the coaches. In other words, the Lakers need to focus on process and try to execute every possession. If the results don’t come, you live with that. The Warriors are going to have a season of gaining their own results regardless of their process, but based on their quality of coaching, they will also have fantastic process.

Tonight, then, I couldn’t care less about a win or a loss. Even if a win would be great for confidence and to reward a team working hard to improve, my focus is still on doing the little things better and having the team make the small, yet important, strides forward which help establish their program and who they want to be over the long haul.

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I have written, on more than one occasion, that Nick Young would not/should not be on this year’s Lakers. The drama from last year mixed with the two pretty bad seasons left little reason to feel good about a Young return this year.

But, to be completely honest, I am mostly indifferent about Young. I know this is pretty rare for Lakers fans, though. There is a large swath of fans who see him as not just a bad player on the court, but a bad influence off it. Then, I know others who see him as — in the right sized role — a useful talent who is just a quirky, mostly harmless dude who likes to have fun on and off the court.

If I had to really self examine my opinions, I’d say I fall somewhere in the middle. Young can be useful and can be a good natured guy who simply enjoys himself (especially enjoying living in Los Angeles while being a Laker). Thing is, Young also can be a severe drag on lineups due to ball-hoggery and low efficiency while exhibiting the type of immaturity off the floor which can be too negative an influence on young (and potentially impressionable) teammates.

For those who have their minds made up about Young, there is no reconciling these differing views. He is one or the other and no amount of explaining is going to change a mind. And, really, I don’t want to go down that route anyway nor do I blame folks for seeing things the way they do. There is enough evidence on both sides to come to a conclusion either way and, to be fair, Young isn’t so good a player where arguing over such things makes sense to me. No offense if you’re reading this, Nick.

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