Once you get past the draft, free agency, and summer league, the NBA summer becomes, well…barren. We get caught up discussing what the addition of a player in the 15th or 16th roster spot might mean, wondering what might happen with an undrafted free agent big man, or discussing how interesting the season might end up being. There’s value in these conversations, for sure, but on the larger scale of what happens in-season, these musings are just not as important.
This leads me to ESPN’s Summer Forecast. This is the exercise where ESPN crowd sources many (and I do mean many) of their various basketball experts and analysts on what record each NBA team will finish the season with. (Full disclosure: I am one of the people who was asked to participate. I did not this year, but have in the past.)
The exercise, while seemingly random, works under the theory of “The Wisdom of Crowds” where, in this case, the opinions of the many — especially when informed — can be aggregated to produce very accurate predictions on any given topic. And I do mean accurate. In seasons past, ESPN’s panels have out performed Las Vegas’ sportsbooks on win totals for each team. In other words, they have consistently beaten the people who rake in cash from the betting public.
So, here we are. ESPN’s basketball experts have predicted a record for the Lakers for this upcoming season. The results? A 26 win season, good for 14th out of 15 in the conference. Further, when taking this against the entire league, the Lakers would have the 4th worst record. Not good. Not good at all.
Does this doom the Lakers? Of course not. It’s the middle of August and the regular season will not start for another nine weeks (welp). Claiming anything about the upcoming season as concrete — especially something as fluid as wins and losses — this early would not be wise. There are always, always variables which could change the fortune of any team and, by domino effect, change the direction of other teams as well.
But, the forecast results do speak to a general sense of how the team is viewed. With a slew of young players, an aged (and oft-injured) Kobe, and a coach who is not held in the highest of regards, it’s not a surprise the projection is as low as it is. Whether the team can defy the projections and “shock the world” remains to be seen, but it will surely be something fans and, more than likely, the players themselves will speak on.
It’s not like there’s a bunch else to talk about. It is August, after all.
I’d probably project we win a couple more games than that, but I don’t think we’ll win over 30.
the other Stephen says
Disregard expectations. Acquire rookie talent.
We needed a rim protector. Got one. We needed a pure PG. Got one. We needed Kobe and Randle to be healthy. Got them. We even have a decent bench. Now if the problem with getting to the playoffs is the coach than I understand. Scott needs to use the offense he used with the Nets and the Hornets. The Princeton offense DOES NOT WORK! I also understand that it takes a while for D’Angelo Russell to get great. Nobody can be another Magic Johnson. I guarantee that we will be better than Dallas and possibly New Orleans (all they have is A.D.).
From the, “When it rains it pours.” department. Bradford Doolittle adds salt the Lakers fans wounds:
Worse than forecast: Teams projected to finish more than two wins below their summer forecast.
Los Angeles Lakers | 26 wins
The summer forecast gives the Lakers a couple more wins than their statistical projection, which is what lands them in this group. If your hope was that the numbers would offer reasons for optimism that the voting did not, the evidence just isn’t there. The Lakers are headed in the right direction, but the turnaround isn’t coming this season.
I usually take projections with a +/- of 5 games. So Bradford Doolittle’s statistical analysis forecasts the Lakers to win 24 games. A +- of 5 games gives the Lakers a range of 19 to 29 games.
Either scenario is a disaster. But, if the Lakers set another franchise record for losses heads will have to roll right?
Jim bet the farm on Nash/Howard, etc.expecting that the Lakers would not to miss the picks because we could always rebuild on the fly with elite free agents. Well Jim blew both parts of that equation.
I think things will become really uncomfortable for Lakers management should the team lose south of 30 games this season. If the Lakers lose their draft pick coupled with the slim free agent market (summer of 2016) there does not appear to be much hope that next year will be any better — yikes. So yeah, the temperature will be rising.
As I’ve stated several times before, this coming season (2015-16) is not about wins and losses. The priority this year is to develop our younger talent and build the best possible team for the future. Wins and losses will become relevant, probably, in 2017-18 (and even then the Lakers will not be competing for a championship at that time). By my own measure, the Lakers are entering the 2nd year of a 5-year re-building plan. Now is NOT the time to become obsessed with wins and losses. But now is the time to do the following:
1) give D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and Jordan Clarkson the opportunity to grow and develop as true NBA ball players; they could, after all, be the core to the future Lakers team;
2) give those 3 (and others) the opportunity to play together extensively and develop a real chemistry that will pay dividends in the future;
3) develop any other young players (Tarik Black, Jabari Brown, Larry Nance, Jr., Anthony Brown, Robert Upshaw, any others) in the hopes that the Lakers will be able to surround the possible core of Russell / Randle / Clarkson with some solid role players who can contribute on a consistent basis in the future.
Wins and losses this year are almost beside the point. Wins and losses will be relevant again in 2-3 years…but not this year. It’s just too early.
Finally, as an example of how long it takes to build a team primarily through organic growth, let’s take the Golden State Warriors. Below are the win/loss records for Golden State over the last 4 years:
2011-12 — 23 wins, 43 losses, .348 win percentage
2012-13 — 47 wins, 35 losses, .573 win percentage
2013-14 — 51 wins, 31 losses, .622 win percentage
2014 -15 — 67 wins, 15 losses, .817 win percentage
Key players on that team have been (among others) Klay Thompson who was 21 in 2011 and is now 25, Stephen Curry who was 23 and is now 27, and Draymond Green who was 21 (still in college) and is now 25.
In 2011-12 Thompson averaged 12.5 ppg (to use just one measure), Curry averaged 14.5 ppg, and Green averaged 2.9 in 2012-13. This last year, 2014-15, Thompson improved to 21.7 ppg, Curry to 23.8 (in an MVP season), and Green to 11.7 (in addition to many other contributions including outstanding defense).
The point is, organic growth (growing your own talent through the draft and other signings of young players), takes time. The Lakers are, hopefully, where Golden State was 4 years ago. If we are patient — and a little bit lucky — we will be where Golden State is now in another 4 years. Then we can worry about win / loss records.
But we must be patient. There is no other way. (Just ask Golden State.)
Robert Webb says
I think we should play our young players they are our future.
The Warriors changed ownership, their FO and coaches during that time frame. Plus the new ownership had enough common sense to open up their management team to a consultant like Jerry West.
None of the above will happen with the Lakers. Jim Buss is hubris personified and Jeanie shows zero leadership initiative. So, if losses bring enough pressure to change the way the Buss kids manage the franchise then, yes, they do matter.
I’m curious. How do you know that the Lakers will not change coaches in the next 4 years? Or that Jim Buss will not step aside during that time? Or that other significant, strategic FO changes will not occur?
I’d be a bit more careful, if I were you, with absolute statements such as the following: “None of the above will happen with the Lakers.”
Four years is a long time. Anything can happen. Anything.
So ESPN is predicting 26 wins? So if we get 27 or more, that would mean two things: 1) Byron is a genius (or at least not a total idiot) 2) We will be “better than expected”.
Anon @ 7:16: Great post!
Patrick Lanigan says
I’ll take the over, but if the team is going to be that bad I hope they end up with a bottom 3 record, not bottom 4. Don’t want to rely on beating the odds in the lottery again to retain the pick.
If refs can somehow be tamed and sympathized ,we will be all right.
They should be trying to lose every single game in order to keep that Top 3 pick.
Craig W. says
I seem to remember in 2007/08 ESPN picked us for 10th in the West. And they listed their top analysts. That permanently soured me. Glad for the update. I still don’t trust individual analysts. The crowd theory may help, but the Laker franchise is such a beacon for opinion and controversy that including them with other clubs doesn’t measure things correctly. I.e. writers find it hard to measure two clubs objectively, their home team and the Lakers.
How in the world can anyone look at last year’s roster and compare it to this year’s roster, see what happened to Dallas and Portland and still say the Lakers will only win a few more games than last year?! You can talk about statistics all you want, but I would think at some point common sense has to come into play.
I’m a Lakers fan. I get that I’m biased. I get that I’ll always lean toward being optimistic about the Lakers. But, it doesnt take an expert to look at this roster and see that its LIGHT YEARS better than last year. FAR better than 5 more wins. There were games were we were rolling with a roster full of D-leaguers last year and this ‘expert’ wants to say the Lakers will be marginaly better?!
So many hypotheticals. The last couple of years we’ve lead the league in games missed due to injuries. Will that be the case this season as well? Doubt it. Portland and Dallas losing ground during the free agency hunt has to be taken into account. For the stat watchers, with Kobe on the court, our efficiency was down on both ends of the court. Will that be the case this coming season? Doubt that too.
They should be trying to lose every single game in order to keep that Top 3 pick.
NIce posts Mid & Loklok; there certainly is a light at the end of this tunnel
Baylor Fan says
Thanks for the explanation of how the rankings work. The prediction for the Lakers record is lower than I was thinking but I would not be a fan if I did not feel that way. Most fans of other teams must feel the same way about their teams.
Doolittle makes an interesting point that even future all stars net contribution their first season is neutral. This season is more about developing players for the future than wins and losses. If Clarkson builds on his improvements at the end of last season, and two of the new players show they belong as starters, this season will be a wild success.
Robert Fisher says
I agree with most of the posts here. The team on paper this year is a significant improvement over last year, and last year the injuries haunted them terribly. D-Leaguers R Us!
This year we have plugged a big hole at the rim, and loaded up on young talent that needs to be developed. In fact, leaving out Kelly and Sacre, we only have 5 veterans who happen to play the 5 positions – Williams, Kobe, Young, Bass, and Hibbert. The rest are pups.
There are enough youngsters to fill out two complete units if say Upshaw, Holmes, and Frazier make the team. So start the vets. Then put in the 2nd unit of youngsters, followed by the third unit of youngsters.
Example – Russell, Clarkson, Anthony Brown, Randle, Upshaw
Then – Jabari Brown, Frazier, Holmes, Nance, Black
Of course this leaves out Kelly and Sacre, but haven’t we been calling for this?
One of the things that keeps bothering me is Holmes is referred to as a SF at 6’9 242 lbs, while Nance is referred to as a PF at 6’9 235 lbs. Why can’t Nance play SF?
Now if Upshaw simply isn’t anywhere close to ready and Holmes doesn’t make the team, then.
Russell, Clarkson, Anthony Brown, Randle, Black
Jabari Brown, Frazier, Nance, Kelly, Sacre
As mentioned in other posts, play the kids together to develop chemistry, and let them fight it out for a spot on the 2nd unit, considering it the starting unit for the pups.
Another plus to this idea is all of the known ball hogs are on the veteran starting unit, so they won’t take away from the kids. Further, with Williams, Kobe, and Young all on the first unit, that might be fun to watch in and of itself. One shoots and the other two frown!
I seem to remember in 2007/08 ESPN picked us for 10th in the West.
Most people missed on the 2008 Lakers, and remember: Pau wasn’t on that team in preseason.
Darius Soriano says
But even without Pau, the Lakers were near the top of the West with a 25-11 record before Bynum got hurt. As is typical with when the projections are off, a team usually has a breakout performance or two which greatly impacts the trajectory of a team. For that Lakers’ team, it was Bynum. For the Suns team a couple of years ago, it was the combination of adding Bledsoe and Dragic really taking hold as a top level PG in Hornacek’s first season.
The times that the predictions always miss biggest are when a team makes a leap. Analytics will say that players will improve or decline by X and then they figure out the wins. But if guys have big leaps (like Bynum or how Bledsoe made the Suns so much better two years ago) the computers miss big time. So really it is on Randle, Clarkson, and Russell to make the leap sooner and greater than the computer picks to get us in the 30-40 range (or for Kobe to recover more than the computers project, which had him low in PER last year). I also think we make a bigger trade this upcoming year that projection won’t see coming. Clearly Young and Lou do similar things. And while neither player is a star, finding a solid piece could change the teams projections by quite a bit. Lastly health is the biggest factor in success and failure.If the Lakers lose no game to injury (rare that teams do this) it will far exceed what the computer most like predicts.
But even without Pau, the Lakers were near the top of the West with a 25-11 record before Bynum got hurt
Yeah, but that kind of of sudden unexpected team emergence is usually pretty rare in the NBA and usually, as your examples suggest, involves young guys–but not rookies–who have big breakout years. Unless Clarkson turns into John Wall immediately, I don’t see the Lakers as having that type of team. And, ESPN et al have been pretty much right about the Lakers each of the last two years.
Darius Soriano says
I did not point out their playing well in 2007-08 as any sort of evidence about this year’s team — that would be silly. I pointed it out simply as a reference and counter to your comment about “and remember: Pau wasn’t on that team in the preseason”. As I noted myself, teams typically outperform their projections because a player makes a leap or several players perform above expectations. Pau was a huge reason the Lakers finished that season where they did, but even before he arrived, the Lakers were on pace to blow away what many (including ESPN) projected them to do.
T. Rogers says
The Lakers won’t win many games this season. I have accepted that. I’m just looking for positive development from the young guns. I want to see them get as much burn as possible. They are the future. Hopefully the vets will be teaching them in practice and instructing them during games. If the Lakers can break the 30 win mark that would at least be progress.
Pau was a huge reason the Lakers finished that season where they did, but even before he arrived, the Lakers were on pace to blow away what many (including ESPN) projected them to do.
Sure, but if the argument is, “they were picked 9th-10th and then made the Finals” then Pau is part of that. Also, since Bynum went down, as usual, take Pau away and they probably don’t stay on that pace.
So, another reason that projections are sometimes off is that they obviously cannot account for mid-season deals.