The Los Angeles Lakers kicked off the preseason on Saturday night as they fell to the Minnesota Timberwolves 108-99. Preseason results obviously don’t matter in the big picture and there were plenty of positives for the Lakers coming out of the game, as well as lots of things to work on.
Lonzo Ball got his first taste of NBA basketball, Brandon Ingram looked much more aggressive and confident, and Kyle Kuzma keeps on impressing. The Lakers also struggled offensively from deep, and committed far too many fouls on defense.
Nonetheless it is the first game down in the preseason so here are the three biggest takeaways from the first night.
1. Lonzo Ball’s Impact is Already Evident
In his first real NBA action, Lonzo Ball had an up-and-down night. He finished with five points, eight assists, seven rebounds, and two steals, but shot only 2-9 from the field and had three turnovers. Numbers aside, it is clear that his style of play is already changing the Lakers for the better.
Every player was running the floor at full speed looking to push in transition. In half court situations, players were constantly looking to make the extra pass, sometimes to a fault as it resulted in a few turnovers. Even when Ball was on the bench players like Tyler Ennis and Alex Caruso were pushing the ball forward relentlessly.
As the team develops more chemistry, and Luke Walton installs more half-court offensive sets, things will get less sloppy for the Lakers, but the mindset of a fast-paced, unselfish team is already seeping in and that is in large part to Ball. He still has plenty of room for improvement, but the first game showed flashes his overall impact.
2. Brandon Ingram’s Confidence, Aggression is a Welcome Sight
Brandon Ingram only made four of his 15 shots, but going against one of the NBA’s best young wings, he had the feel of a lead scorer. Ingram was not shy and did not hesitate in going head-up with Andrew Wiggins, and he and the Lakers will ultimately be better for it.
Ingram had an excellent start with nine early points. A drive on Taj Gibson in the first quarter was proof of his physical and mental growth as he saw a mismatch and immediately attacked Gibson off the dribble. Ingram powered through the contact from Gibson, a player known for his physicality and strength, and finished the tough layup with the left hand.
His jumper looked smooth and fluid and he flashed some post moves as well as staying active on defense. Averaging 20 points this season may be tough to ask for from the second-year forward, but he looks prepared to take on the role and once the Lakers have more time to put in their offense, he should shine even more.
3. The Power Forward Battle will be an Ongoing One
Coming into the season the Lakers’ deepest position looked to be power forward with Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr., and Kyle Kuzma all fighting for minutes. This game showed that battle won’t be ending anytime soon as all three showed why they deserve to be on the court.
Kuzma was probably the best overall player on the team, leading the Lakers with 19 points on 75 percent shooting and adding five rebounds. He showed off his offensive arsenal, and played (and guarded) both forward positions. He was not nervous or intimidated in any way and Luke Walton will have to find minutes for him if he keeps this up.
Nance Jr. was his normal self, doing all the little things that has made him a fan favorite. He struggled offensively, with only three points, but led the Lakers with nine rebounds, and made multiple defensive plays, drawing charges, altering shots, and fighting for loose balls.
Randle’s numbers looked great as he finished with 15 points and seven rebounds, but he had some tough moments as well. His jumper still looks shaky and he forced some shots as well, although he wasn’t helped by facing off against the always tough Karl-Anthony Towns.
All three players will be in the rotation this season, but it will be interesting to see who starts and finishes games as the Lakers have three very good, but very different options.