After suffering through the worst season in their history, the Lakers are hoping a combination of young legs and veteran experience can lead them back to the playoffs.
The Lakers youth movement is led by Jordan Clarkson who was on the NBA’s All Rookie First Team last year after a breakout second half of the season. Along with Julius Randle who broke his leg in the first game of last season and this years draft picks D’Angelo Russell, Larry Nance Jr., and Anthony Brown, the Lakers have gotten younger and faster.
Veterans Lou Williams, Roy Hibbert, Brandon Bass, and Marcelo Huertas upgrade a roster that was sorely lacking in talent last year. Combo guard Williams was the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year in 2015, and center Hibbert is a former All Star. Bass is a solid backup big man and Huertas is an experienced point guard and strong leader coming off the bench.
Then there is veteran Metta World Peace. Peace didn’t play last year and could still be cut, but he has been an inspiration to the younger players, especially Randle. His spirited play during the preseason has almost guaranteed the Lakers will keep him.
And of course the Lakers still have Kobe Bryant. Bryant has suffered through a series of injuries over the last few years, and the big question is can he stay healthy and contribute. He is still one of the greatest players of all time, but the clock is ticking on his phenomenal career.
Lakers Coach Byron Scott wants to emphasize defense, and now Scott has players who can actually play defense. The perimeter wing defenders are younger and faster. The front line should be much stronger with the additions of Hibbert and Bass, who are both tough defenders in the low post.
Making the playoffs will be tough. Six teams, Golden State, San Antonio, Houston, Oklahoma City, Memphis and the Clippers are guaranteed locks to make the playoffs barring injuries or a major meltdown.
The New Orleans Pelicans, Utah Jazz, and the Phoenix Suns, are the favorites for the seventh and eighth seeds.
Can the Lakers grab one of the two remaining seeds?
With a healthy Bryant, anything is possible.