For the fifth consecutive year, the Lakers are once again watching the playoffs from home. But do not fret, Lakers fans. There is a good chance this will be the last time you experience this feeling for many years.Stream Live Soccer Games. Anytime. Anywhere. 7 Day Free Trial Sponsored by fuboTV
Let’s take a look at what went well for the 2017-18 Lakers, what went wrong and what to expect this offseason.
What worked for the Lakers
Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka had one heck of a first draft together.
For a front office that had almost no experience selecting players, the Lakers sure came away with one phenomenal draft class. And for a franchise that has spent the past five seasons searching for its future, these rookies added some excitement the team desperately needed.
Lonzo Ball (No. 2 overall), Kyle Kuzma (No. 27) and Josh Hart (No. 30) all became major contributors in their first years, Kuzma and Hart doing so after entering the season with little to no fanfare.
Kuzma was the surprise of the draft and quickly became a fan favorite. He averaged the second-most points of any rookie in the league (16.1) behind only Donovan Mitchell (20.5) while also contributing 6.3 rebounds per game. He displayed a swagger and knowledge of the game that went far beyond his rookie status.
Taking everything into consideration, Ball had a very productive campaign. The hype around Ball as he entered the league was unprecedented. His brutal shooting start — through 15 games, Ball was shooting 30.3 percent from the field and 23 percent from 3-point range — coupled with his father’s incessant boasting caused the "bust" talks to begin prematurely. Ball averaged the second-most assists (7.2) by any rookie not named Ben Simmons (8.2) and chipped in 10.2 points while grabbing 6.9 rebounds per game. Those numbers match up well with Jason Kidd’s rookie season (11.7-7.7-5.4).
Ball’s work on the defensive end might have been the most impressive (and overlooked) aspect of his game. According to ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus-Minus, which estimates a player's impact on a team's defensive performance, Ball finished the season third among point guards with a plus-2.25 rating.© (Getty Images) 2017-18 Los Angeles Lakers
Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle showed major growth.
NBA players are quickly judged right out of the gate, often being cast aside in favor of the next big thing. Ingram and Randle are prime examples of why some players simply need time to mature.
After a disappointing rookie season in which he averaged 9.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists while shooting 40 percent from the floor, Ingram was able to quiet the doubters with a strong sophomore run. He improved in every statistical category with 16.1 points on 47 percent shooting and 39.0 percent on 3-pointers (up from 29.4 percent in his rookie year).
More importantly, Ingram showed a willingness to be the go-to option in his second season. He became a more reliable scorer and playmaker while realizing he could use his length to his advantage.
In the early part of the season, Randle’s time in LA seemed to be coming to a close. He started the year on the bench and, at times, did not seem happy with his role.
But career trajectories can change throughout an NBA season. Randle took a huge leap in his fourth year, leading the team in points per game (16.1, tied with Kuzma and Ingram) and rebounds (8.0). He was also durable, playing in all 82 games and starting more than half the season.
“We did not agree on things early in the year,” Walton said when asked about Randle’s overall performance. “When you have players with the type of potential Julius has and some of our others have, they have to be pushed to be great. He earned everything he got this year, and I’m happy and excited for how his offseason’s gonna turn out.”
Randle is set to become a restricted free agent this summer, so LA will have to make a decision on his future. After the year Randle had, it will be tough for the front office to allow him to walk away.
Luke Walton is the coach of the future for the Lakers.
There were early rumblings that Walton may not be the best option to lead the young Lakers squad moving forward. Those rumblings have been put to rest.
Walton came into the year knowing that the main area of improvement had to be on the defensive end. The Lakers finished dead last in defensive rating last season (110.6) and 28th in points against (111.5). Walton was able to instill the importance of defense in his second season in LA.
The Lakers jumped from last to No. 12 in defensive rating (105.6) and finished in the top 10 in opponent field goal percentage (45.6) and opponent 3-point percentage (34.6). LA didn't always have great flow offensively, but defense has become Walton's calling card, and that should serve the young Lakers well moving forward.
What didn’t work for the Lakers
Considering expectations for the Lakers entering the year, there is not much to be upset about if you are a fan of the team.
However, the young Lakers core will need to focus on using the offseason to build strength in order to withstand the rugged NBA schedule. Ball missed 30 games battling shoulder and knee injuries, and Ingram also missed 23 games. Hart had to sit with a freak hand injury, though that shouldn't a major issue going forward. How these players spend their summers will be crucial for next year.
And, of course, Ball must continue working on his shot. That will remain an obvious talking point as long as his percentages remain low. He doesn't need to transform into Stephen Curry, but he can't shoot below 30 percent from 3-point range and 50 percent on free throws.
What needs to happen for the Lakers
Expect a lot of Lakers talk this offseason. The trade deadline moves by Johnson and Pelinka granted the franchise the ability to sign two max-contract players. With LeBron James and Paul George both on the market, all eyes will be on the Lakers front office as the group attempts to woo both players to Los Angeles.
But the Lakers are not putting all their eggs in the 2017 free agent class.
"We don’t have to sign anybody this summer because we already said that if we don’t feel that we can get somebody in ’18, then we will turn to ’19," Johnson said. "So we feel really good about where we are. I feel really good about the direction of this franchise."
If the Lakers are unable to reel in a big free agent, they will turn their attention to Randle and Isaiah Thomas. Randle has earned himself a new contract, and Thomas could be available for a one-year deal after undergoing surgery to repair his previously injured hip.
Regardless of what happens in the offseason, the Lakers finally have a plan in place for the future of the franchise. They have a young core and a smart coach — this is only the beginning.
Do not expect the Lakers to be watching the playoffs from the couch much longer.
This news has been published by title The Lakers Need The Front Office To Finally Start Stabilizing The Franchise
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