Mitch Kupchak and the rest of the Lakers front office have done an admirable job of putting together a roster with both veteran leadership, and young talent full of potential. The result is that no one knows quite what to expect from the Lakers this season.
Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Carlos Boozer all come into this season with a chip on their shoulder. Each has been questioned this off-season about what they will be able to contribute and all will be looking to prove the doubters wrong.
Nick Young, Wesley Johnson and Jordan Hill headline the list of young returning players from last season. All of these players, including Xavier Henry and Ryan Kelly, will be looking to show the world that they are NBA-caliber players and can make a huge difference.
Jeremy Lin, Ed Davis, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson are the newcomers. Lin and Davis each have had some success, but are looking to show they are more than just role players, while the two rookies have impressed this summer and will need to prove they can hang at the next level.
Who will be that key player — the one who explodes out of nowhere this season to become exactly what the Lakers needed? Someone will rise up to be the X-Factor of this Lakers team.
We asked our panel of experts who will be the X-Factor for this year’s team? This is what they had to say:
Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner): There will be quite a few new faces on the Lakers roster this season with plenty of players that could have a breakout year and ready to be the team’s X-factor next season, but I’m going with the two-time NBA MVP, Steve Nash.
Last season, Nash played in only 15 games bringing his total to just 65 during his time in Los Angeles. Nash was simply unable to stay healthy and that threatened to end his career prematurely.
Even though there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding what Nash can provide in his final season, I believe this will be the one year the team gets what they expected when they traded for him. Nash won’t be playing at the level he did in his last year with the Phoenix Suns, but he’ll be a productive floor general if he’s truly healthy as has been reported.
Nash, much like Kobe Bryant, has been impressive in games at the practice facility as of late. He’s received high praise from the media and coaching staff as a result. That alone makes me believe there may be something left in the tank.
It’s a stretch. Nash could be the same old banged up veteran next season, but I’ve got a feeling he’ll bounce back with a vengeance knowing this will be his last season.
If he continues to impress at the Lakers practice facility and that carries over to the preseason, the veteran will be the starter ahead of Jeremy Lin and ready to put on a show in his farewell season.
Russell Valenzuela (@RussVal4): This year’s X-Factor is Wesley Johnson.
He has all the tools to be an effective player and when used properly could be one of the surprises for the team. In his first year with the team, Johnson wasn’t completely horrible but he had a tendency to disappear in the system.
Last year, he was a starter but was primarily used as a stretch four under Mike D’Antoni. The Lakers won’t be needing him in that capacity this year and a role change could be beneficial for Johnson.
It looks like Byron Scott will be using him in his more natural role as a small forward, and put him in a better position to shine. Johnson has the length to be an effective perimeter defender and since Scott said there would be a bigger emphasis on that side of the ball, he will be seen as a key part of the defensive system.
As for his offensive game, any team could use someone who is athletic and could hit a three every now and then which is something Johnson could do. He won’t shoot the lights out, but he could be an option who can score from outside and at the rim.
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH): Byron Scott has said a number of times that the Lakers will be focused on defense this season. In order to have a great defense, someone must be protecting the rim.
And that is why Ed Davis will be the X-Factor for this Lakers team.
Davis has never had a chance to truly shine, especially being stuck behind Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in Memphis the last couple of years. But he combines excellent athleticism, length, and speed and has the ability to block and alter shots unlike anyone else on the roster.
Last season, opponents shot only 43.8 percent at the rim when Davis was down low, better than noted defensive stalwarts like Joakim Noah, Serge Ibaka, and Andrew Bogut. Davis obviously played far less than those guys did, but the potential is obviously there.
If he is able to rebound at the same rate, and keep his defensive numbers high, Davis could be what the team was missing last season. And that will be the key to the Lakers turning things around and shocking teams this season.
Kevin Chan (@Kevin_Cruiser): If Julius Randle can provide an instant impact in his rookie season – he can be the undisputed X-Factor for this team.
With the loss of Pau Gasol to free agency in the off-season the Lakers have a gaping hole at power forward. They were able to pick-up Carlos Boozer for a cool $3.2 million which was a shrewd move. He will provide veteran leadership and will be able to mentor the young Julius Randle.
The hope is that Randle will develop and eventually blossom into an all-star level player. But there’s no telling how long that will take.
During Randle’s draft interview he sounded like he had a chip on his shoulder and is looking forward to proving his worth immediately. While he was in high school he was touted with Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins as one of the top three players of his class. In the draft he went at number seven to the Lakers and he’s eager to prove that he deserved to be picked earlier.
The Lakers don’t really have a reliable post scorer on their roster, but Randle could be that guy. Randle could also provide reliable rebounding for the team. If he can add a three-point shot to his arsenal then he could even play some time at small forward. At the moment Randle’s upside is virtually limitless and if he can contribute early on he will be the key difference maker on this roster.[divide]
Lakers GM Kupchak Expects Byron Scott To ‘Hold Players Accountable’