The rebuilding process for the Los Angeles Lakers hasn’t been as smooth as many anticipated, as the NBA is quickly showing how inconsistent an 82-game season can truly be. Although Luke Walton and the Lakers demonstrated strong signs of success early on, the NBA has quickly adjusted to the young roster.
Since their 10-10 start to the season, the Lakers are 6-22 since, suffering losses in winnable games and gaining experience from their mistakes. However, the step back from the perceived success early this season has truly grounded this team, as Walton stated their natural feeling has been to relax after successful periods.
With the sudden streak of losses, those around the NBA have now taken a look towards the next season and the implications the 2016-17 season could possibly have on it. The Lakers currently are in the midst of a tricky situation regarding their future draft picks, which has resulted in some people once again throwing out the notion of tanking.
However, Walton recently stated that he is heavily opposed to any notion of tanking, stating it can backfire on the roster in the long run, via Tania Ganguli of the L.A. Times:
Luke Walton doesn't believe in tanking. "When you start losing on purpose I think the basketball gods come back to get you in the long run."
— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) January 24, 2017
At times, the young core has demonstrated a strong potential, as Walton has stated that they can keep up with any team on any given night. General manager Mitch Kupchak is ecstatic at the potential of the roster, believing in what the future has in store.
However, Walton is left in a difficult situation when examining his young roster. At this point in the season, the younger players definitely need growth and consistency, which comes with a steady place in the rotation. Depending on the contest, Walton has elected to go with youth or with the best lineup that night.
As the Lakers continue to trend downward in the standings, the situation regarding their draft pick only seems more relevant.
Although Walton is heavily against tanking, the Lakers 2017 first-round draft pick is protected if the Lakers were to obtain one of the three top picks. If the Lakers were to fall outside of the top-3, not only would they lose this pick to the Philadelphia 76ers, they would also forfeit their 2019 first-round pick to the Orlando Magic as part of the 2012 Dwight Howard trade.
However, if they were to land in the top-3 this year and keep the pick, then the 2019 first-round pick owed to Orlando would turn into two second-round picks (in 2017 and 2018) and the Lakers would keep their 2019 first-rounder while forfeiting their 2018 first round pick to Philadelphia.
Walton recently reaffirmed his confidence in the culture the Lakers are establishing, as the young core is still in their first full season leading the charge.
Although the multiple injuries to the starting lineup have changed the production, the Lakers cannot allow the losing to phase their outlook on the season. With Walton’s tenure comes patience, as the players must be focused on growing their game and building that necessary chemistry for the future.