The Los Angeles Lakers have been one of the NBA’s biggest early-season surprises. Despite an extremely difficult opening schedule with all six games coming against likely playoff teams including four on the road, the Lakers find themselves at an even 3-3 after Friday night’s upset of the Golden State Warriors.
The best thing the Lakers have going for them is that everything is a complete team effort. They have nine players averaging between 18 and 28 minutes and five players are currently averaging double-figures in points. Any player can have a big game on any day and it makes the Lakers dangerous.
Even though there is plenty of deserved optimism, everything hasn’t been perfect for the Lakers. They have continually struggled with turnovers as well as fouls. As a whole their defense hasn’t been great and still needs plenty of work though that will come with time.
Six games in and there have been plenty to be impressed and disappointed about when it comes to the Lakers. So we asked our panel of experts which player has impressed them the most, and which player has disappointed them the most. This is what they had to say:
Ryan Ward (@RyanWardLA): It’s tough to pick one player that has stood out among the rest so far. There are a few legitimate candidates to choose from, but if I were to go with one, it would be Nick Young.
After all that has transpired in the Russell-Young saga over the last half year or so, the veteran has been able to survive and thrive. The Lakers swingman went from the one player on the team that was expected to be a traded or waived and ended up becoming a starter. Young has gotten it done on both ends of the floor this season while repairing his image and quickly turning into one of Luke Walton’s best weapons.
The real question for Young is whether he can sustain his level of play on both ends of the floor while playing in a starting role.
As for a player I’ve been disappointed in, I’d have to go with D’Angelo Russell. Although Russell has shown some flashes of his potential to be an All-Star-caliber player for the Lakers, the second-year guard lacks consistency. One night he plays like Kobe Bryant’s successor with a bright future ahead of him in purple and gold, the next he struggles to make an impact offensively and is a non-factor in the game.
If Russell can buck this Jekyll and Hyde trend, the Ohio State product could take a giant leap forward this season. If not, questions will continue to surface about his ceiling and whether the Lakers have a star in the making.
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH): It’s tough to pick any single player who has impressed me most as plenty of players have stepped it up, but I’d have to go with Julius Randle.
It’s sort of been forgotten now, but there was a lot of noise being made about Randle losing his starting spot in the off-season and he has quieted all of that. He has shown confidence in his jumper (and even made a couple of threes), he has been more in control when handling the ball and he has stepped it up on defense.
He has shown off an impressive all-around game that has reminded people why he was so highly regarded coming out of college.
Choosing one player who has disappointed me is even more difficult because I don’t believe there has been anyone who’s been a flat out disappointment, but after thinking about it I’d lean towards Jordan Clarkson.
He hasn’t been bad, but I believed he could potentially lead the Lakers in scoring and it hasn’t been working since that opening night outburst. His three-point shooting is way down from a year ago, and his turnovers are up.
In fairness, Clarkson has improved his defense and has affected the game in other ways, but as someone who looked ready to make a big leap, it could be argued he has taken a slight step back.
Daniel Starkand (@DStarkand): So far I think I have been most impressed by the play of Larry Nance Jr. He played four years of college so he has more experience than most of the team’s other young players, and it really shows when he’s out there on the court.
He is not the most gifted scorer or most physically gifted, but he always finds ways to affect the game on both sides of the floor. Whether it be with steals, blocks or things that don’t show up in the stat sheet, he is always hustling when he’s on the court. I think he is going to be a very solid NBA player for a very long time.
No one on the Lakers has really disappointed me so far, but if I had to choose someone it would be D’Angelo Russell. He is averaging 16.6 points per game, but is shooting just 36.7 percent from the field which obviously needs to improve.
He has also been a bit of a liability at the defensive end as he is not quick enough to guard the elite NBA point guards. I still think Russell is a gifted basketball player and will play in multiple All-Star games in his career, but he has a ways to go before he gets there.
Eric Avakian (@AvakEric): Offensively, the production of Julius Randle has stood out tremendously. While I felt his ball handling abilities were limited and vulnerable entering the season, he is averaging only 2.2 turnovers per game. For a power forward who needs the ball in his hands to create his shot, he has made smarter decisions more times than not.
Another area Randle has excelled in is field goal percentage. With a current mark at .610 (prior to Friday’s contest Vs. Warriors), he ranks fourth in the NBA.
Randle has gone continually to the rim, to create easy opportunities in the paint. While his jump shot has yet to find any consistency, it will only develop in game as the season progresses. Randle continues to emerge as the second primary scoring option behind D’Angelo Russell and should only develop a strong confidence as the season progresses.
I wouldn’t say it is a disappointment, but the fact that the Lakers have been winning games and keeping the losses close has actually hindered the growth of Brandon Ingram.
While it is only six games into the season, Ingram hasn’t seen the floor as much because the starters have needed to be on the floor. While Ingram is getting a good run with the second unit, this lack of minutes may actually translate to him mentally learning the game before experiencing it on the court.
He still needs to continue to work on his shot and tack on a few pounds, but I will say that his defensive awareness has been strong and has made up for a few bad shots during the game.