What Lakers Fans Have To Feel Thankful For On Thanksgiving Day
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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers 2015-2016 season isn’t off to a great start.

With a 2-12 record and coming off a brutal route that saw the Golden State Warriors improve to an NBA-best 16-0 (better than any team in history), things are bleak in Los Angeles.

The team has played terrible, aging star Kobe Bryant has been a shell of his former self, and head coach Byron Scott has appeared out of touch.

And yet, this Thanksgiving, there is still much for Lakers supporters to feel thankful for. As we celebrate the holiday with food and family, let’s step back and reflect on everything that fans of the purple and gold can appreciate.

Health

Over the past three seasons, the Lakers have lost more games to injury than any other franchise. From Dwight Howard’s back, Steve Nash’s luggage, Kobe Bryant’s everything, and of course Julius Randle’s leg, the injury bug has been particularly ravenous when it comes to Lakers players. Two years ago, they had to rely on a little-known rule that allowed Robert Sacre to continue playing after a sixth foul because they ran out of healthy bodies. Last season concluded with two D-League call ups, Vander Blue and Jabari Brown, having to play all 48 minutes because they were the only guards on the team still standing.

Fortunately, that hasn’t been the case this season (knock on wood). Sure, Kobe has missed a number of games with various ailments, but that comes with the territory when a body has that many miles on it. Marcelo Huertas lost a few games in the preseason to a hamstring injury, but otherwise the injury report has been surprisingly clean.

There is still a long ways to go, but the fact that the bench hasn’t been littered with tall guys in suits is a good thing.

Youth Is Developing

Lakers coach Byron Scott has received a mountain of criticism from the passionate fan base, and some of it deservedly so. The blame for the team’s failures has to fall somewhere, and with his odd lineups and antiquated notions (better defense simply requires “manning up”), Scott is as good of a target as any.

Scott has also taken quite a bit of flak for his handling of rookie D’Angelo Russell, and again from the outside, some of it does appear warranted. However, regardless of how you view Scott’s strategy with tutelage of the young talent adorning the roster, the fact of the matter is that development is happening.

Jordan Clarkson, who barely saw the floor until January last season after being selected with the 46th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, has now become the most consistent scorer and is locked into the starting lineup. Furthermore, Clarkson’s biggest weakness last season — three point shooting — has become a strength.

Julius Randle was a question mark coming into the season, with concerns regarding his ability to overcome injury, his jump shot, defense, and ability to adapt to the pro game. While many of those areas still need work, Randle has quieted any doubts of whether or not he can hack it as a pro. His athleticism is far beyond what anyone expected, and his ability to handle the ball in transition has been a major weapon. Julius Randle is for real, and he has a very bright future in the league.

Meanwhile, D’Angelo Russell hasn’t lived up to expectations as the No. 2 pick, but he has steadily improved game by game and is now starting to show flashes of why he was taken so high. Coach Scott has been stingy with Russell’s minutes, but the young guard has steadily improved and is looking more comfortable with every outing.

Even role players like Larry Nance Jr. have exceeded expectations with his agility and defensive capabilities, while Anthony Brown has the potential to develop into the three-and-D wing of the future.

It may not be happening as fast as fans would like, but the youth are forging the path forward.

Cap Space Awaits

How does a $65 million spending spree sound? Based on their current contracts, that’s roughly how much money the Lakers will have at their disposal to chase free agents next summer, which is the most of any team in the league. Of course, that’s before they have to shell out some cash to re-sign Clarkson and potentially Roy Hibbert, but it’s still an impressive chunk of change to work with.

Unfortunately, the 2016 free agency crop isn’t looking particularly strong aside from veterans who will be looking to win now, like Kevin Durant, Al Horford, and Mike Conley. There are a few players that would fit well with the Lakers young core, with Hassan Whiteside and Nicolas Batum being the most notable, but competition for them will be fierce.

The good news is that cap space can be used in ways beyond just signing players, and we should see LA active on the trade market as they look to add talent or absorb salaries in exchange for assets.

Cap space means flexibility and the ability to buy change, and given the struggles, change is a good thing.

Draft Pick Just Might Stay in L.A.

The 2016 draft pick will be conveyed to the Philadelphia 76ers unless it falls in the top three spots. Here are the odds of the Lakers keeping the pick in based on where they finish in league standings:

30- 64.2%
29- 55.8%
28- 42.6%
27- 42.4%
26- 29.1%
25- 21.5%
24- 15%
23- 9.9%
22- 4.3%

The Lakers currently sit at 29th in the league, which means that their chances are slightly better than a coin flip to keep their pick. Not great, but if the team can get a little lottery luck, then the rebuild could get a major shot in the arm.

It’s still very early in the season, and tanking shouldn’t be part of the discussion (yet), but if there is any silver lining to the abysmal start to the season, it’s that there is still a real chance of the Lakers landing a top talent in the draft to add to their young core of D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Julius Randle.

Specifically, there is this kid named Ben Simmons at LSU that is already looking good in purple and gold…

Happy Thanksgiving, Lakers Nation!

things we are NOT thankful for……… BYRON SCOTT!

  • Dear Lakers brass, this year, I am not going to pardon the organization’s turkey, i.e., Kobe Bryant and Byron Scott.

  • I am thankful for being a Laker Fan Period! The team will always grow change win and loose its the heart of champion that always brings you through, I know the Lakers as a team and organization has and will always exhibit that heart! Is my prayer!

  • What a joke! The organization is definitely THANKFUL for everybody’s financial support/contributions and the TWC deal. Thank you stupid Lakers fans! Continue and support ownerships stupid decisions and for giving you the best bang for your buck by putting a garbage product out on the floor. They should have taken Okafor at #2!!!

  • I’d like to say I’m thankful that it couldn’t get any worse and things can only get better. But, the dream wrecking duo of Kobe and Scott will probably ruin it for me.

  • IM THANKFUL FOR 20 SEASONS AND THE MOST MEMORABLE AND INSPIRING SPORTS MOMENTS OF MY LIFE!

    THANK YOU KOBE!

  • Kobe Bryant medicine for dismal performance all he have to do is saying this words before given games: ” i will support Rodrigo DUTERTE 2016 FEDERALISM ” without doubt JUST say it 10 times and wonders woks for Kobe “BLACK MAMBA” Bryant. take it…

  • If we stay at 29th that means Randle, Russell, A.Brown, Nance, Kelly, Black (all but Clarkson who’s already on the right track)… did not level up. Hence we won’t attract any top tier FA. The rooks development will be greatly compromised. Scott will have destroyed this team. The one year contracts vets will leave.
    I truly, honestly, don’t want this pick. Because if we get it we’re doomed beyond imagination for Mitch knows how many years.
    This team will come together gradually provided they stop listening to their coach, play their own basketball and basically self-manage themselves. Won’t be great but if the youths can survive this and gain some momentum by the end of the season that could bode well for the future.

  • I’m thankful that Wes Johnson is a Clipper, the Clippers are still irrelevant, that Robert Sacre has only played 4 minutes all season. Lastly I’m thankful that the 2 week ALL-STAR has taken his circus act elsewhere.

  • Should’ve gone with a 13 man roster. Didn’t see enough games to be sure Huertas would’ve ended up being a big contributor in pre-season. If Sacre’s resigned for next season at least we’d know where FO’s vision stands. Best make a trade or two happen once everyone’s available to possibly be traded.

  • Pass the Turkey, Hope everyone in here has a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving. Here’s to all the comments , bad , good , absurd. We are all from the same cut. Lakers Fans we are! Ok on to Byron ….. kidding.

  • i’m thankful for the lakers as a whole. 82-0 or 0-82, i am a laker fan for life. NBA success is cyclical.. be patient, laker fans. we’ll be back on top.

  • Nance Jr. may be a diamond in the rough. A good find as was Jordan Clarkson a year ago. So when you’re talking about the Laker Youth lQQking promising, don’t forget to add in Nance Jr. as well as Robert Upshaw from the D-Fenders.

  • I’m just thankful the Lakers don’t play tonight. That 1-14 performance was hard to watch. I can’t get used to anyone missing so many shots each game.

  • Fans like you are like parents who can never say no to their kids. No, sir, when the FO makes dumb calls like hiring and keep hiring BS, we should voice out, not asking for patience. I have patience for the team to get through tough times but no patience for dumb and wrong team management calls.

  • Happy thanksgiving to you too laker lifer. Now stop toasting people who don’t express the same sentiment with yours about Kobe or Byron Scott. They’re just expressing their opinion which is their right. If you wanted to comment, then do it in the context of basketball and not call names. If you can’t handle the truth, then get out of this site or you are going to get it soon!

  • im thankful Kobe for 20 years of your blood sweat and tears.
    Im also thankful for those 5 NBA championships.
    I am also thankful for the #7 pick Randle and #2 pick Dangelo Russell.
    Oh and the #46 a steal….really a top 10 pick in disguise.
    A freakin gem….
    Thank you Lakers and fans on lakernation for making it fun!
    Happy Holidays! 🙂

  • i changed my name again so i dont look like your twin.
    it looked alot like i copied you. 🙂

  • Guys since it’s Thanksgiving today I wanted to give back something to you Faker fans.
    Some of you guys are missing the proper avatar so here it is!!!

  • My rebuilding plan to create a championship team:

    Trade Hibbert + Randle + Clarkson for Cousins.

    Then, BS makes sure that Kobe and Booie jack up crazy shots so we keep on losing.

    Once we’re sure to get a top three pick, we make the following trade happen: DLO and Boogie for Davis.

    We possibly end up with Simmons and Davis in the same lineup, thus putting us in position to dominate for years to come!

  • One sure thing: we should never trade for Boogie without considering him as an even bigger trade asset.

  • Thinks we will be Thankful for…. A top 3 Draft pick in 2016!!! Also resign Hibbert and Clarkson now..

  • So? Let’s argue the point. Dont get the personal. Guess you are not capable of reasons.

  • It would be in there best interest to resign them after possibly adding Durant or Derozan so they can use that cap space more efficiently.

  • Well said. We’ll get back to our winning ways, we’ve already loaded up for the long trip.

  • Thanks for a column that is NOT full of negativity. It is refreshing to hear that life will not end, because coach Scott is losing some games, while developing his team.

  • Thanks for Jim Buss and 2 of the worst players to ever play in the nba: Roy Hibbert and Nick Young.

  • roy hibbert?
    dude……
    do you know hes 1 of the best rim protectors in the NBA?
    without him we would suck so bad it aint even funny.
    hes the only guy helping out….
    and he cant do it all by himself.
    so get over yourself dude.

  • ball movement less ego perimeter 3 point shots passing technical gods at work entire season of healthy settled players offence brand new domination in the paint loyal fans no trashing my lakers and coaches

  • From the way The Lakers are playing they might just have a shot to draft Ben Simmons.!

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