The Los Angeles Lakers 2016-17 campaign started off with promising results but ultimately led to a 26-56 finish. While the progression of Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, and Larry Nance Jr. was pleasant to see, the new front office combination of Rob Pelinka and Magic Johnson are deeming the 2017-18 campaign a Laker year.
Part of that alteration involves a change in mentality, especially following the previous season with the lottery sweepstakes deemed as a win. With no first-round draft picks following this season, the Lakers are attempting to push into the playoff contention in a competitive and packed Western Conference.
During Lakers Media Day on Monday, Pelinka was able to address the Western conference, which continues to improve each and every season. The Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, and Houston Rockets have all improved their chances at an NBA Finals berth, while the mid-tier teams are budding for playoff positions. Pelinka stated that he embraces the challenge in the Western Conference, which he feels will only help the development of the young core:
“I love and relish the fact that the west has gotten so strong at the top… I think it’s the perfect way for our young, scrappy guys to get better… playing in the Western Conference, which is such a power conference, now is actually a great opportunity for our guys.”
Pelinka addressed the Lakers as a young and scrappy group, ready to break out this upcoming season. With Lonzo Ball and Ingram hopefully turning into the premiere franchise pillars, the Lakers will go as far as their young core can take them.
While fans can expect consistent production from Brook Lopez and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the emergence of the young core will be the true stepping-stone for the Lakers. While the Lakers expect to compete and defeat the likes of the possible playoff teams like the Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans and Dallas Mavericks, the true test of their progression will come when facing the elite teams atop the Western Conference.