The Los Angeles Lakers are in the midst of another losing season, although they have been more competitive this year and could have won more games than their current record shows. The young players are competing hard and showing improvement, and it certainly appears that drafting rookie Kyle Kuzma was the best personnel move the franchise has made in a long time.
This was always going to be a perilous year, with only four players over 25 years old, an unusually heavy reliance on three rookies, and a smattering of others on mostly expiring contracts who know they are unlikely to remain with the team after this season.
Recently, Andrew Bogut commented that the front office’s pronouncements that they plan to make big roster changes next summer are weighing heavily on the minds of some of the players whose future with the team is in doubt.
As 2017 comes to a difficult close for the Lakers, the players may be thinking about making their New Year’s resolutions. Here are some suggestions.
Larry Nance, Jr.: In his third season, Nance is facing the same issue which has impeded his progress since day one. He is still hesitant to take the outside shot when he is open or assert himself on offense.
He has the skill to make those shots but lacks the confidence. Nance’s resolution should be to take, and keep taking, outside shots no matter what. His future with the Lakers may depend on finding that confidence soon.
Julius Randle: Randle must resolve to ignore his present circumstances, that he is no longer a regular starter, his minutes have diminished, and he is constantly the subject of trade rumors no matter how well he plays.
Randle has no choice in the matter so he needs to keep his spirits up despite coming off the bench and playing uneven minutes, keep working hard, and build on his improved play this year. Reducing turnovers and offensive fouls, especially late in games, would help.
To Randle’s credit, he’s responded well to receiving back-to-back starts entering New Year’s Day.
Brandon Ingram: Ingram is much improved but must vow to pass the ball more, cut down on turnovers, stop hurtling into the paint when he keeps getting blocked, and keep working on his outside shot.
If he can master these issues, in two or three years he is likely to become the player Magic Johnson described last summer. Ingram, who turned 20 just before training camp started, is coming along nicely and how he continues to develop is a key to the Lakers future.
Lonzo Ball: Ball needs to keep tuning out the noise, establish an identity separate from this dad, remain aggressive and cut down on the turnovers. After a rough start his shooting was coming on strong before a recent shoulder injury sidelined him.
Ball has done a very good job handling the glare of the overwhelming media attention his every move receives, and though his stats do not always show it, he is clearly the engine that drives the bus.
Kyle Kuzma: Kuzma has catapulted into the spotlight as the best Lakers rookie in decades and a contender for rookie of the year in the NBA. Success brings new perils, however, as the same media that is presently building him up will not hesitate to tear him down if he starts to falter.
His resolution should be to remain humble, keep his head down and play hard, and not take what others are saying about him (good or bad) too seriously.
Jordan Clarkson: Clarkson’s precarious position on the team is nearly identical to that of Randle. The subject of constant trade rumors over the past year, he keeps doing what he has always done.
No matter the role he is given – and his role has changed each and every year – Clarkson says little, plays hard, and is productive. He should resolve to keep doing the same, no matter how disrespected he may feel by the organization. This year he is unexpectedly playing mostly point guard off the bench and until a recent slump was a major contributor and much improved.
Josh Hart: After missing most of Summer League and preseason with injuries, Hart has started to make a big impression with his toughness, great defense and better-than-expected scoring.
His resolution should be to keep learning and stay ready, because Kentavious Caldwell Pope is faltering more and more both on and off the court. Hart has already shown he has a promising future in the NBA, possibly as a starter but more likely as a valuable 3-and-D wing player off the bench.
Ivica Zubac: After a rookie season in which he showed promise and became a fan favorite, Zubac has disappeared. But now Brook Lopez is hurt and Andrew Bogut has been ineffective.
Zubac must vow to practice hard, play well in the G League, and be ready when the time comes to prove that he, and not Thomas Bryant, should be next in line at the center position.
Thomas Bryant: Bryant must stay the course and impress the coaching staff with his work ethic and outside shooting. He must vow to be ready when he gets a chance to play later this season alongside fellow rookies Ball, Kuzma, and Hart.
The Lakers have recently featured three rookies in the starting lineup up, which is quite rare. Can Bryant make it four by the end of the season?
It would also help if he could average more than 4.3 rebounds a game. Lopez must resolve to bounce back in the new year even if it means playing to attract other teams for next season.
Kentavious Caldwell Pope: His New Year’s resolution should be obvious, to stay out of legal trouble. Caldwell-Pope was suspended for the first two games of the season and is now serving a 25-day jail sentence which allows him to leave only to play games in California.
He should also vow to stop jacking up so many contested shots that have no chance of falling, especially late in games. Despite his expiring contract, Caldwell-Pope needs to show he is a team player. At times he gives the impression that he is playing for himself.
Andrew Bogut: Bogut’s resolution should be to make the most of his opportunity to start and play in Lopez’s absence.
Corey Brewer: Brewer should resolve to become more consistent. He has the occasional very good game for the Lakers where he is solid on both ends of the court and the Lakers tend to fare well those game.
But he rarely plays that way in two straight games and more often has too many turnovers, does not score, and is lax on defense.
Luke Walton: The Lakers have played well enough to win three or four more games this season and fans are starting to suspect that the team is underperforming. They speculate that a more experienced head coach would be a better leader for such a young roster.
Walton’s resolution should be to choose the five best players to be on the court at the end of games, stop mixing up the rotations, and figure out who you like best between Randle and Nance and go with it.
After the Lakers lose, he should stop talking about how hard the players competed – isn’t that what an NBA player is supposed to do? Walton needs to figure out how to come out of these close games victorious and start developing a winning culture amongst this young team.
WANT TO PARTICIPATE IN THE DISCUSSION? CHECK OUT THE NEW LAKERSNATION FORUM CLUB