What a difference a season makes.
The Los Angeles Lakers were entertainment repellent in 2015-16, as then-coach Byron Scott’s loathsome squad were boring, bad and skippable on League Pass. Kobe Bryant’s farewell tour and off-court drama between D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young personified L.A.’s seemingly hopeless team which won just 17 games.
This offseason the Lakers shifted gears, bringing in Warriors assistant Luke Walton as head coach, drafting Brandon Ingram and making a flurry of veteran signings to right the ship. It’s early, but Los Angeles is actually entertaining in 2016-17. And they’re actually winning games.
Last season, the Lakers didn’t get their 4th win until December 15.
So far, they’re 4-3 — and fun to watch: https://t.co/sJefzAlfDX
— ESPN (@espn) November 7, 2016
The surprisingly early-season resiliency of the Lakers is impressive. After starting 1-3, Los Angeles rattled off three straight wins, including a 20 point victory against Golden State. The high-energy, consistently hard-working team is a complete 180 from last season’s broken mess.
Walton’s brought out the best in multiple Lakers-holdovers. Third-year power forward Julius Randle has perfectly fit-in as a Draymond-Green light big. The 21-year-old is an excellent passer with a surprisingly decent handle, who’s at his most effective when in transition or close to the basket. Randle’s averaging 14.4 points per game, 7.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists.
Julius Randle making’ it happen on both ends!
— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) November 5, 2016
Russell’s rookie season was one to forget, but early season returns showed why the Lakers took him second overall in 2015. The 20-year-old is sharing the rock more than ever and doing an adequate job running Walton’s offense. His shooting numbers could be better (35 percent from the field) but Russell is being aggressive helping him post improved numbers across the board. He’s still a work in progress, but positive signs are showing. Russell’s adversary Nick Young has looked competent on both sides of the ball which is something Swaggy P has never done. Fellow guard Jordan Clarkson has taken a sixth-man role continuing to be a solid volume scorer.
The Lakers’ new additions have also solidified the team’s play. Timofey Mozgov signed the offseason’s most laughable contract at four-year, $64 million. But, while he’s drastically overpaid, Mozgov has been a consistent force in a small starting role for Los Angeles. Averaging 8.7 points per game and 6.7 rebounds, Mozgov’s energy on the glass has helped tremendously. Meanwhile, the Lakers other big free agent acquisition, Luol Deng, has performed admirably in a lesser role. Both vets have helped anchor Los Angeles’ once-porous defense.
Brandon Ingram needs to pack on muscle, but he’s shown flashes to why he was selected second overall. The 19-year-old has ridiculous length and can guard positions 1-4. Shots haven’t fallen for him, but being brought along slowly isn’t the worst strategy for Walton or Ingram.
Gotta get those passes a little higher when Brandon Ingram is around https://t.co/NZ5GhGXa00
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) November 5, 2016
The Lakers aren’t contenders, but with Walton in charge, they’re not pretenders either. Los Angeles has the young pieces in place that fans can see light at the end of the tunnel. The Lakers posting 30+ wins will come as a surprise, but with this group, the possibility exists. And the Lakers are once again fun to watch.