The 2015-2016 season was a difficult one for Lakers fans, with star guard Kobe Bryant retiring after two decades and the team winning a franchise-low 17 games. However, the offseason brought in a swell of optimism, with Luke Walton replacing embattled Head Coach Byron Scott, and the team landing exciting young prospects Brandon Ingram and Ivica Zubac in the NBA Draft.
No one expects the Lakers to be title contenders next season, but there is a strong sentiment that they will be better than last year’s incarnation, and infinitely more watchable thanks to a more free-flowing offense.
However, the folks at ESPN say not so fast. According to their Real Plus-Minus stat, next year’s Lakers are likely to win the fewest amount of games in the league:
Despite their offseason additions of No. 2 pick Brandon Ingram and veterans Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov, RPM has the Lakers with the league’s fewest projected wins.
This isn’t the first ESPN projection that doesn’t look kindly on the young Lakers, but the team is reportedly using these predictions as motivation. The NBA season can also be notoriously difficult to predict, so this projection doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily time to panic for fans.
That said, the Lakers do have an extremely young roster and they will hit their share of speed bumps as they learn how to play together. As Walton said earlier this summer, this team won’t necessarily be judged on wins and losses, but rather on the way they play together.
Should the Lakers struggle again next season, fans will again have to hold their breath during the draft lottery. Next year’s draft is loaded with talented players, but the Lakers will only keep their pick if it falls in the top three. Even if they have the worst record in the league, the odds of that happening are just 64.3 percent.
Of course, it’s far too early to start worrying about ping pong balls at this point. Walton is correct that wins and losses don’t matter all that much, and for now fans will have to find enjoyment in the rebuilding process by watching the young players progress on their path to NBA success.