A regular season full of injuries, miscues and insufferable losses will conclude on Wednesday night as the Los Angeles Lakers play the Sacramento Kings in consecutive contests. The 2014-15 campaign was certainly an ugly one, with endless tirades aimed toward Kobe Bryant, constant criticism of the front office and the tanking blueprints, which fans were quick to embrace. The storied Lakers are now a full-fledged mockery, with the only resolution being to score big this summer. Los Angeles will finish up with the fourth worst record, which means it possesses a favorable 82.8 percent chance of retaining the pick. Mitch Kupchak and Co. could be looking beyond the draft itself, as a total overhaul of the roster appears likely with rumors surfacing of Nick Young’s potential departure via trade.
At center is an underrated Jason Thompson who is somehow managed to remain in Sacramento for an astounding seven years. Sacramento isn’t exactly a stable environment, so this is a truly remarkable feat Thompson has accomplished. In all seriousness though, despite his jarringly low numbers and a miniscule 10.15 PER, Thompson is a nice rotation player who makes his living on the defensive end. Can he be the starting power forward or center on a championship team? Probably not. But when the cap skyrockets, Thompson contract, worth about $13.2 million over the next two years, won’t look like such an idiotic move.
A career bench forward Carl Landry will start for the second straight game to provide some much-needed offense. Throughout his eight-year career, Landry has served as the linchpin to the second unit, with his sole task being to provide some instant offense and rebounding. Defense is definitely not Landry’s strong suit, but similar to Thompson, Landry could be a coveted piece for a championship contender. His contract is a reasonable price, $6.5 million per year, originally earning this deal after a wildly successfully season with the Golden State Warriors two years ago. Like Thompson, Sacramento will likely explore trades for Landry this offseason.
In his second stint with the Kings, Omri Casspi has rejuvenated an otherwise shaky career by providing several offensive outbursts throughout the season to catapult Sacramento to victory. Though April has been a tough month in terms of wins for the Kings, Casspi has stood out averaging nearly 20 points per game, six rebounds and three assists in eight games. The market was bleak for the sixth year man from Israel, but this impressive stretch could potentially earn him a new contract this summer.
Sacramento whiffed two straight years by drafting Nik Stauskas with the No. 8 overall pick in 2014 and Ben McLemore with the No. 7 overall pick in 2013, neither of whom have proven to be worthy of the starting shooting guard position. For two “shooters” in college, neither player has amounted to much other than a liability, with both shooting under 36 percent from deep on the season. McLemore, who is the better all-around player, has won the starting gig by default after the Kings shopped Stauskas around at the trade deadline. It will be an interesting subplot headed into this summer as Sacramento is the set to pick sixth this year. Do they go two-guard for the third consecutive year or look elsewhere? Either way, a trade involving either of the two would not be shocking.
Perhaps the only starter who will suit up with the Kings next year is former second-round pick Ray MaCallum. The second-year player from Detroit has earned his stripes thus far as a serviceable backup, displaying glimpses of excellence followed by disappointment. Through April, the point guard is averaging a steady 11.9 points in addition to 4.6 rebounds and four assists per game. At just under $1 million next, MaCallum is certainly worth retaining whether he rides the bench or develops into an everyday role player.
Keys To Victory:
Size Up Front: The Lakers boast a surprisingly big frontcourt with the tandem of Tarik Black and Jordan Hill. Facing a defensively challenged Landry and a natural power forward in Thompson, the Black-Hill combo should do some damage. Byron Scott should look for these two early and often.
Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown: The Missourri duo is undoubtedly Los Angeles’ most dangerous offensive threat, pouring in 41 of the team’s 92 points on Monday night. With Jeremy Lin and Wayne Ellington both pronounced out for the final game, these two are the only players remaining who could create offense for themselves.
Los Angeles Lakers (21-60) vs. Sacramento Kings (28-53)
7:00 PM PST, April 15, 2015
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Kings Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Ray McCallum
SG: Ben McLemore
SF: Omri Casspi
PF: Carl Landry
C: Jason Thompson
Key Reserves: PG: Andre Miller SG: Nik Stauskas PF: Derrick Williams
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Jabari Brown
SG: Vander Blue
SF: Ryan Kelly
PF: Tarik Black
C: Jordan Hill