The Los Angeles Lakers, to the delight of the fan base, showed a lot of promise and poise during the final stretch of the NBA regular season, bookending the 2016-17 campaign with solid performances to build upon.
Although the Lakers had a difficult stretch during the middle of the season, head coach Luke Walton’s decision to play the young core a significant amount of minutes truly paid off in the long run. Players like D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram and Larry Nance Jr. have had opportunities to mature and learn from their mistakes while in late-game situations.
During this time, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka have had an opportunity to evaluate the roster. With a proper time to assess the roster, the Lakers have a clearer direction and projection of what their players are capable.
While many were concerned over the impending draft pick situation and upcoming 2017 NBA Draft, the Lakers finished the season with some momentum and optimism. In fact, Nance Jr. believed that their five-game winning streak earned some respect around the NBA, via Serena Winters of LakersNation.com:
Larry on finishing the season strong: "I feel really good about the season right now b/c we showed what we can do & what we will become."
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) April 14, 2017
The Lakers five-game winning streak came against a variety of teams in the NBA, each at different levels of the NBA’s pecking order. Walton’s team got two victories over playoff teams, during their 108-103 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies and 102-95 win against the San Antonio Spurs.
With a sense of comfort under their belt, Nance Jr. and the Lakers came together for a few more victories during their final three games at Staples Center. Their following wins over the Sacramento Kings, Minnesota Timberwolves and New Orleans Pelicans then solidified a belief that they can compete against any team in the NBA, something Walton believed early on this season.
Just like most of his teammates, Nance Jr. also saw a production rise during the the last stretch of the season. After averaging 6.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists during the first two months, Nance Jr. saw his numbers sky rocket with more opportunities and his insertion into the starting lineup.
He posted 10.3 points, 9.6 assists and 2.3 assists during the final month of the season, while also not including the defensive impact and hustle plays that aren’t shown on the stat sheet. After a season full of growing pains, the Lakers head into a franchise-altering offseason, ready to compete heading into the next NBA season.