The Los Angeles Lakers are miles ahead of where they were just one season ago. Despite their improvement however, Luke Walton’s team remains well out of playoff contention in the extremely competitive Western Conference.
They currently 6.5 games back of the Utah Jazz for the eight-seed. This summer will be a huge one for the Lakers as they will be looking to add one or two superstars in free agency, but Walton doesn’t believe the Lakers need anyone to contend for the playoffs next season.
According to Bill Oram of the Southern California News Group, Walton believes this Lakers team, as currently constructed, would compete for the playoffs next season:
“I think if things worked out and we were able to stay healthy with this group, we’d definitely be one of those teams competing (for a playoff spot),” Walton said. “There’s 10 of them right now, we’d be on that list.”
It’s easy to see why Walton has that belief. After Sunday night’s win over the Cleveland Cavaliers the Lakers are 7-2 since the All-Star break and 19-9 since that awful nine-game losing streak earlier this season.
Stretched out over a full season, the Lakers would be around 55 wins at that pace, undoubtedly good enough for a playoff spot.
More importantly for this Lakers team, however, would be the development from within. Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram have taken major steps towards becoming legit stars this season while rookies Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart have all had moments of greatness.
Additionally, Brook Lopez has been playing his best basketball as of late and finally seems comfortable within the offense, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been great ever since moving past his legal issues, and Isaiah Thomas would have a full season with the team while also getting more time to recover from his hip problems.
Obviously if the Lakers can sign someone like a LeBron James or Paul George, they want to do it. But if the worst-case scenario is bringing back this same core that has seemingly found a groove and could be a playoff team, there are definitely worst things that could happen.
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