After an impressive start to the 2016-17 NBA season, the Los Angeles Lakers have hit a few bumps in the road due to injuries. Nick Young, D’Angelo Russell, Jose Calderon, Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr., and Tarik Black have all missed time as of late due to injury issues which somewhat derailed the promising start to the season.
The Lakers went from being the surprise team in the league with a new progressive and inspiring head coach in Luke Walton to a team that desperately awaits the return of Young and Russell. Although Randle and Nance have been able to get back on the floor, two of the team’s best scorers remain sidelined with seven-game road trip about to get underway on Monday.
As of Sunday, ahead of the matchup with the New York Knicks, the Lakers are sporting a 10-15 record having lost five straight games. Russell may return against the Knicks, and Young could get back on the floor in the second game of a back-to-back against the Sacramento Kings.
Despite the injury issues, the Lakers are headed in the right direction with Walton at the helm. Things trending up with the players seemingly having bought into Walton’s system meaning this season could still have a better than expected finish.
With the Lakers being a better team than anticipated at this point, we asked our expert panel whether their expectations had changed regarding the team’s win total for the season. This is what they had to say:
Trevor Lane (@Trevor_Lane): Despite their current five-game losing streak, the Los Angeles Lakers have indeed gotten off to a better start than anyone expected. They have used resurgent performances from veterans Lou Williams and Nick Young, as well as improvements from youngsters like D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle, to prove those who predicted their demise wrong.
With their current record of 10-15, the Lakers are on pace to win 33 games or so, which I think is actually a little low. It’s strange saying that because at the start of the season most (myself included) would have considered a win total in the twenties to be just fine.
However, we have seen a never-quit attitude from these Lakers, and when they are healthy, they can pick up a win on any given night, as evidenced by victories over the Atlanta Hawks (twice), Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City Thunder, and of course, Golden State Warriors.
That being the case, 33 isn’t far off, but I’m going to be a bit more optimistic and say they hit 35 wins.
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH): At the beginning of the season I believed that the best case scenario for the Lakers was a strong end to the season that would land them at around 30 wins. After the start to the year, that has absolutely changed.
If this team can get healthy, and stay healthy, I honestly believe they can flirt with .500 and challenge for the final playoff spot.
My main reason for this thought is that the Lakers have had one of the toughest schedules so far this season. They have had some rough road trips, with another one set to begin on Monday, and have had multiple games against some of the league’s toughest teams including the Golden State Warriors, Utah Jazz, and Houston Rockets.
Things will lighten up somewhat for the Lakers, and the young core will continue to improve as the season goes on. I believe the Lakers will win upwards of 35 games and challenge for that final spot in the Western Conference.
Daniel Starkand (@DStarkand): Right now I have the Lakers getting to 35 wins. Yes, they’ve lost five straight games, and they have a tough seven-game road trip coming up. But when healthy I still think they are the same team that started off the season strong.
If they can get healthy then I believe that they can compete for the eighth spot in the West, but I think player development should be more of a priority, and even with that I think 35 wins is obtainable.
Ryan Ward (@RyanWardLA): After a forgettable and depressing 17-win season, the Los Angeles Lakers have shown signs of considerable progress under new head coach Luke Walton. This team has shown so much promise thus far that ending the playoff drought is a realistic possibility.
Unfortunately, after looking over the Lakers’ remaining schedule, I think the playoffs will still be out of reach. Although a lot can happen between now and the end of the season with a team like this that is showing so much promise, there will continue to be bumps in the road.
As or right now, I see the Lakers winning a total of 39 games. Coming into this season, I thought 30-35 was possible. Now I think 35-40 is reasonable, but I’ll go with 39-43.
This season continues to be about developing this young squad while implementing Walton’s offense and looking to a bright future rather than an average present.