The Lakers Shouldn’t Speed Up the Process

They have exceeded almost everyone’s expectations this season, but the Lakers have a long way to go

There is a stark difference between this year’s Lakers team and last year’s team. Last year’s team barely looked like a professional basketball team. No one made an effort defensively and everyone was too busy trying to get the ball to Kobe and getting out of his way. This year, however, the shadow of Kobe has now been lifted and new coach, Luke Walton has done enough to create a new culture for this team and his young stars are buying into it.

Coach Walton has finally done what the Lakers couldn’t do last year. He gave the young players more opportunities to learn on the court, allowing them to embrace the skillset and talent they have. Young guys like Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell, and Larry Nance Jr. benefited the most from these opportunities and they have been having a better season compared to last year. He also did a good job of balancing the young players and veteran leaders stemming from the contributions by Luol Deng, Lou Williams, and, surprisingly, Nick Young.

With a great way of handling the mix of players in the team along with the implementation of an offense which has focused more on ball movement and player movement, the Lakers have actually looked pretty decent over the course of the season so far. Their improvement on the offensive end has been the primary cause of their surprising development this year. Last year they used to average a league-worst 97.3 points per game. Now they developed a competent offense, scoring 104.3 PPG and having the best bench unit in the NBA in terms of scoring. At times they have actually looked really, really good with wins over potential playoff teams like the Hawks, the Rockets and the Warriors. They have been quite a positive revelation now that they are entertaining and fun to watch this season.

This new identity for the team has led to more positive results this season compared to last season. Last season’s team had a franchise-worst 15 wins and 67 losses while this season’s team already has 12 wins in just 34 games so far. While their current record isn’t great, it’s still a vast improvement from last year’s team. Now, they are on the way to win around 30 games this season which would double their wins from the previous year.

The team actually started out a lot better than what everyone expected. Optimism for this team was at an all-time high when they started out with an even record of 10–10. People around the league were wondering if this young team could win more than 40 games this season and probably sneak into the playoff picture in the Western Conference. Some players actually took note of that and thought that getting to the playoffs was a realistic goal for the team because of their good start. However, the team has only been able to win two of their last fourteen games since then. This could be mainly due to injuries to multiple rotation players but this could also be because the players pressured themselves too much and focused too much in getting results instead of playing carefree basketball like they did during the start of the season. The reason they played so well at the beginning was that no one gave them high expectations heading into this season and they also knew that rebuilding this franchise into a contender would be a process that would take some time.

That initial goal of a playoff appearance at the start of the season looks unattainable now but that should not make it seem like this could become another disappointing season for the team and for the fans. Take note, this is still a young team that’s still learning a new system with a first-time head coach in Luke Walton. They have taken a lot of important steps this year but they are still a few seasons away from being a legitimate contender in the Western Conference.

The team’s road to relevance looks like it will be a long and tough journey ahead. It will be full of trials, challenges, and especially, losses. It’s going to be up to the players to learn throughout this arduous process what it takes to win together. The good thing, though, is it looks like they are already on their way.

Originally published at averydayy.com on December 26, 2016.

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