Last season the Los Angeles Lakers improved on their worst season in franchise history, as they jumped from 17 wins in 2015-16 to 26 wins in 2016-17.
They will look to improve on that number even more this upcoming season, after quietly enjoying a successful offseason.
In part due to the additions that president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka made this summer, ESPN’s Kevin Pelton is projecting the Lakers to improve once again this season. Using ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus statistic, they have the Lakers winning 33 games, which would place 13th in the loaded Western Conference:
Baby steps for the Lakers, as they move back toward competitiveness after the worst four-year stretch in franchise history. With the additions of No. 2 pick Lonzo Ball, guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and center Brook Lopez, RPM projects the Lakers to improve nearly to league average on offense. They still look like one of the NBA’s worst defenses (28th).
The Lakers front office’s first big offseason move came when they dealt D’Angelo Russell, attaching him to the bad contract of Timofey Mozgov, trading them to the Brooklyn Nets for former All-Star center Brook Lopez and the 27th pick in the draft, which was used on Utah forward Kyle Kuzma.
With the second overall pick they drafted UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball, who demonstrated at the NBA Summer League what he is capable of, earning MVP honors and leading the team to their first Summer League Championship.
Kuzma also impressed in the Summer League, earning Second Team All-Summer League honors in addition to being named the MVP of the championship game.
The trade of Russell and Mozgov freed up a lot of cap space in 2018, which is when the team plans to go after the big name free agents like Paul George, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and DeMarcus Cousins.
The signing of shooting guard Kentavius Caldwell-Pope to a one-year, $18 million deal was also another solid move by the Lakers front office this summer, as he will start along side Ball in the backcourt and take a lot of pressure off the rookie defensively.
After the successful offseason the Lakers have playoff aspirations in the upcoming season, but with so many Western Conference teams also improving the Lakers still may be one year away from returning to the postseason.