Though the Lakers hope to draft a franchise anchor with the 2nd overall draft pick in the upcoming draft, Julius Randle’s return is probably just as important to the fate of the franchise as whichever player is selected later this month. After missing his entire rookie season, Randle is still a question mark, but the promise he showed (and the hope it inspired) still looms large.

It is great news, then, to see Randle working out at the Lakers’ practice facility and advancing in his rehab the point that he’s cleared for 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 work in the half court:

(via Lakers.com and TWC Sportsnet)

The most interesting takeway isn’t that he’s healthy, but that he’s lost as much weight as he has and the positive benefits he is attributing to being lighter. A Randle who is quicker off his feet, better able to recover when getting tired, and moving around the floor with more ease is a player even more dangerous. If he’s able to retain his functional strength with the lighter frame, watch out. He will essentially bring quickness and skill of a smaller player to the PF position. If you have been watching the playoffs, you only need to see how the Warriors and Cavs have benefited from Draymond Green and LeBron bringing the skillset of a wing player to the PF spot.

Before you start down that path, I’m not necessarily comparing Randle to either player. LeBron is the starting point in any argument for best player in the league and Draymond was the runner up for Defensive Player of the Year and is boasting the league’s best on/off efficiency numbers for any player in the playoffs. These guys, in some ways (or in LeBron’s case, many ways), have been productive in ways that is not easily replicated.

However, Randle’s skill as a ball handler, passer, and scorer are in the same family tree of what those guys provide. Just as I once compared Randle to Lamar Odom, if you look around the league today, you can see how Randle’s game can take shape by watching film of guys like Green, James, and other PF’s who are asked to play with the ball in his hands and be a playmaker for himself and teammates.

Of course, these are just projections based on skillset, size, and the position Randle is projected to play. In order for us to see if any projection can become a reality, Randle must be on the floor, available to play. Besides the ramping up of his training shown above, Randle insists that he is 100% now and that he “feels great”. Those words, combined with the clips we see above, should be music to every Lakers’ fans ears.

Because while the Lakers hope to add another top piece later this month, a big key to where they want to go as an organization will depend on how last June’s top pick develops. Based on the mental approach he took to his redshirt campaign and the discipline he has shown in managing his rehab physically, the future looks promising for him. We’ll see first hand next month in Las Vegas at Summer League.

Erez Buki is a long time reader and commenter under the handle P. Ami. Heading to live in the Bay Area this summer, Erez has had the pleasure of following the Lakers while growing up during the Showtime era in LA, seeing first hand what great team basketball looks like when played by the greatest players. Having lived around the world he learned the game playing street ball all over Manhattan and Brooklyn, the university courts of Beijing, the indoor games of Portland, Oregon and plenty of stops in between. It turns out you can make out the words Lakers, Kobe, Shaq and Magic in all the language groups on this planet. He is currently working on a his degree in Medical Anthropology waiting for the iconic Laker his young kids will grow up loving. This is his inaugural post on FB&G, but there will be more to come.

At least half of you had your feet off the ground at the same moment I did in June of 2010. We were up in the air feeling love when Lamar “hail maryed” the ball to the other side of the court and Kobe caught up to it. Up we went with him. The other half of you where in the air at the moment I landed. That is the love we all share. Since that time, our team has landed and landed hard. In five years, we’ve seen a lot of landing, some falling and often some clutching.

We don’t know if Kobe will be healthy next season. Don’t know if the Lakers will sign an impact free agent. Until recently we suffered the uncertainty over whether we’re getting one of those top-five picks. We are not used to feeling this kind of uncertainty in late April, but here we are. I don’t want to develop this bad habit. So lets focus on exploring the most imaginative part of the front office’s job, what available players in the draft may contribute to long playoff runs in the future.

It is impossible to know for certain who the Lakers will draft with the 27th and 34th picks in this up coming draft. It is also impossible to know if these players will ever have any impact, but I’m going to talk with you about the players that could be available to us in the late 1st and early 2nd rounds, the team’s more traditional draft position.

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Renato Afonso is a long time reader, commenter, and friend of FB&G.. He is based in Portugal, played semi-pro hoops, and after that coached his alma mater for two years. He now passes his time in a veteran’s league while waiting the arrival of his first born. This is his inaugural post at FB&G. Welcome, Renato!

In today’s NBA there’s a lot of talking about spacing, ball sharing, efficiency and advanced statistics. Teams like the Rockets assume that feeding a big man in the low post is nonsense and the long two is absolutely forbidden, maximizing the number of shots at the rim, three pointers and free throws.

But this new way of thinking can only be applied when you have good three point shooters, guys that are able to get to the rim and good free throw shooters. Obviously, a free throw is always uncontested but one can argue that an open midrange jump shot may be the most effective shot an offense can get at any given moment. Sometimes the defense doesn’t allow you to finish at the rim or simply denies open three point shots and all you’re left with is what the defense gives you. When such thing happens there’s an obligation to convert those midrange jumpshots. With this, the best shot isn’t necessarily a three pointer but actually the available open shot. It goes without saying that long contested twos are obviously worse than long contested threes. This is also assuming average players and not statistical outliers like our own Kobe Bryant.

In the midst of these thoughts, I found myself completely absorbed by the Grizzlies-Warriors series that proved that there are different ways to run an offense, there are different ways to play proper defense and talent can be presented in several ways.

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Is it just me or is the sun a bit brighter today?

Even if it’s not, it sure feels like it after the Lakers not only held on to their top-5 protected draft pick, but moved up to the 2nd slot overall by leapfrogging the Knicks (sorry, Phil) and the 76ers (more on them in a minute) at Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery. No, the Lakers didn’t get all the way to #1, but getting to #2 is a fantastic turn of events for an organization which hasn’t had many things go right in the last two plus seasons.

So, in the wake of all this happiness, below are 10 thoughts in the aftermath of the Lakers lucky lottery:

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Yes, the lead up to this was brutal. Sitting there watching the theatrics and built-in drama of the event was, well, not how I wanted to spend my time. I’d have honestly preferred to have been able to fast-forward this entire day with someone telling me the results just now.

Yet, there I was watching it all unfold. Like a kid reading one of those choose you own adventure novels, I was wondering if when I “turned to page X” it was going to be some unmitigated disaster or if some better, glorious fate awaited.

Turns out, the wait was well worth it. The Lakers not only keep their lottery pick, but they move up to the 2nd spot overall, sitting behind the Timberwolves and leapfrogging the Knicks and the 76ers in the process.

YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

So, now we know. The Lakers will not only keep their pick, but be able to choose from all but one prospect come next month’s draft. Now, the question is, what will the Lakers do with that opportunity? Thrilled to say we get to find out.

Will today be the day that a little bit of luck interjects into the lives of Lakers’ fans? We can only hope.

Really, hope is all we can do. This isn’t like a big game where actual performance of professional athletes will determine the outcome. I remember the lead up to game 7 in the 2010 Finals and being a wreck, wondering if any one of a thousand variables would shift the game towards the Celtics. This is not that.

Tonight’s outcome will be determined by a machine spitting out numbered lottery balls to create a number sequence that determines the winner. That’s it.

No adjustments or pep talks or random role player performance will tilt the result. This doesn’t make it less stressful, but it does make it different. We’d all feel somewhat better if the Lakers’ pick would be theirs for sure, but, alas, we all know that is not the case.

For now, though, let’s detach ourselves from the anxiousness and review some of the key numbers and the odds of where the Lakers’ pick will land:

  • The Lakers have an 82.8% chance of retaining their pick
  • Odds the Lakers stay at #4: 9.9%
  • Odds the Lakers drop to #5: 35.1%
  • Odds the Lakers move up to #3: 13.3%
  • Odds the Lakers move up to #2: 12.6%
  • Odds the Lakers move up to #1: 11.9

Of course, if the Lakers have an 82.8% chance of keeping their pick, they have a 17.2% chance of losing it to the 76ers. Those odds break down like this:

  • Odds the Lakers fall to #6: 16.0%
  • Odds the Lakers fall to #7: 1.2%

Of note from all these numbers: The single most likely individual result is that the Lakers fall to #5. The next likely is that the Lakers fall to #6 (WELP). After that, however, there is a better chance that the Lakers move up to #’s 3, 2, or 1 (YES, PLEASE) than stay at #4.

So, based on the above, if you take comfort in numbers, you are still stressing the hell out. Yeah, I actually think I liked the feeling before the 2010 Game 7 better than this.

We’ll be back later with the results. ‘Til then, don’t mind me, I’ll just be sitting over there in the corner sweating this thing out.

Jordan Clarkson came on strong in the 2nd half of the season when he was inserted into the starting lineup in the 45th game of his rookie campaign. That first start came against the Spurs where Clarkson scored 11 points on 5-9 shooting while chipping in three rebounds and four assists. It wasn’t an eye popping performance and his statline doesn’t necessarily stand out, but that game showed glimmers of a rookie who could play in this league.

Fast forward over the rest of the season and Clarkson did more than show glimmers – he proved to be one of the better players on the team. Post All-Star break, Clarkson started 28 of the team’s 29 games (missing the last game of the year due to injury) and averaged 16.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 5.4 assists while shooting 47.9% from the floor and 84.3% from the FT line.

It was on the strength of those numbers that Clarkson was named to the NBA’s All-Rookie 1st Team. He is joined by Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins, Nerlens Noel, Nikola Mirotic, and Elfrid Payton. Clarkson earned 74 1st team votes and 52 2nd team votes, for a total of 200 points. That was 58 points better than Marcus Smart who headlines the 2nd Team.

It is interesting Clarkson edged out Smart since the latter was a player the Lakers were linked to heavily in the lead up to last June’s draft. The Lakers, of course, ended up selecting Julius Randle with their #7 pick with Smart going one pick earlier to the Celtics at #6. Time will tell who will end up the better player between Randle and Smart, but the fact that Clarkson, the 46th pick in the draft, ended up making the 1st team speaks volumes to his growth and play as the year progressed and the Lakers’ ability to find a gem later in the draft.

Hopefully, Clarkson can build on his success from the second half of last season and carry that over into this Summer and next season. Considering his work ethic and ability to take in what he learns off the court and apply it to game situations, I know we are all thinking he can. So, here’s to more plays like the ones below next season and beyond.

The playoffs are showing each and every fan of the Lakers just how far away the team is from the level needed to play high stakes games in May and June. Look at the remaining five teams (bye, Chicago) and the same formula exists: superstar player (or players) in or approaching their prime, very good (if not elite) coaching, and role players who can perform steadily and/or reach a level where they turn a game in their team’s favor.

Look at the Lakers’ roster and there is no indication they have any of these things right now. While the playoffs offer fantastic entertainment (did you watch the drama of the Clippers’ collapse in game six vs. the Rockets?), they also offer a reminder the Lakers aren’t just at the bottom of the mountain, they are still in the supplies shop roaming the aisles looking for the right equipment to start their journey.

There are glimmers, however. Julius Randle may have missed his entire rookie season with a broken leg, but his season long commitment to his rehab — including weight loss which should help his already established quickness and athleticism — combined with an intriguing skill set is a nice piece to work with. As is Jordan Clarkson, a player who developed very nicely over the course of the season by showing a combination of athleticism, ball skills, and an ability to apply off-court teachings to on-court action. We do not yet know what these players will become, but their ceilings are high enough that envisioning them as contributors to a winning team isn’t far fetched.

The next piece of the puzzle, of course, is what occurs in the upcoming draft. Should the Lakers be able to keep their own pick, the ability to nab another player who has a combination of talent, pedigree, and potential to be able to provide similar impact to Clarkson and Randle is there. The Rockets’ pick (owed from the Jeremy Lin deal) and the Lakers own 2nd rounder offer less potential for immediate impact, but do provide additional avenues to improve the talent base.

Each one of those picks represents a potential step in the right direction. Just as every free agent signee is and every move to add or subtract from the coaching, training, and scouting staffs are. Mitch Kupchak has said many of the right things about not mortgaging the team’s future in the pursuit of quick gains, but that must also play out in strategy employed when managing the entire restoration of an on-court product which has been the worst, results-wise, the organization has ever seen.

The Lakers, even while a vocal sect of their fanbase festers with impatience, must understand they cannot skip steps. There is no such thing as a three-run homer when no one is on base. In order to be great once again, they must first merely be good. Good enough to develop winning habits, good enough to attract better talent, good enough so “making the leap” is realistic and not an endeavor destined to fail.

All of this will require several small — and some big — things going well. A foundation of success must be built and cultivated. And while we are in a time where, after two awful seasons, the desire is to be great again soon, simply being good may not just have to be enough, it may be necessary.