The Los Angeles Lakers won 35 games in their second year under head coach Luke Walton, the team’s highest victory total since the 2012-13 season. And though that’s a notable achievement, the Lakers made progress in more than just the games won department.
L.A. became the 12th-best defense in the NBA during the 2017-18 season, a massive improvement over from when they ranked either second-to-last or dead last in that area since the aforementioned 2012-13 season.
That and more measurements of progress, including the Lakers’ win total, leave Walton feeling like his young squad is heading in the right direction.
“It’s nice for the players to feel the wins and it’s nice for them to be able to see that the path we’re on is working,” Walton explained after his team routed the Clippers.
“For me, the coaching staff, if you take the wins and losses out of it, I think we could tell you just off the way our guys play and compete, that we already know we’re on the right path to where we’re trying to get to.
“Having 35 wins is a nice improvement and something that’s solid we can have the players hold onto as they continue to trust us and work as hard as they all work.”
The Lakers limped into the offseason after injuries ravaged their roster, but the team’s progress this season is understandably leaving the organization confident about its future. And with promising young players like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart, among others, who will still get better, it’s hard to argue with that optimism.
The Lakers have work to do to reach their full potential, but 35 wins and an above-average defense are a huge step in the right direction after the worst extended stretch of seasons in franchise history.
How the team works this summer (and who they potentially sign in free agency) will determine how much further they can progress.