Last night, the Lakers suffered their worst defeat to the Clippers, losing 123-87. Included amongst the lowlights were the Lakers allowing 70 points by halftime, scoring only 8 points in the 3rd quarter, going 2-20 (!!!) in that third period, shooting 34.5% for the game, and turning the ball over 21 times. The Lakers have now lost 10 out of their last 11 games, putting them at 14-23 after a semi-promising 13-13 start to the season. With the plethora of injuries and lack of veteran presence to right the ship, the Lakers are now 2.5 games ahead of the last place (in the Western Conference) Utah Jazz. This season, and particularly these past 11 games, have been difficult to watch.
So what is there to keep us fans interested? Despite the poor play and general disappointment of Kobe’s new injury, there have been a few silver linings to this season.
1st Silver Lining: Getting a Lottery Pick
The Lakers last trip to the NBA Draft Lottery brought them Andrew Bynum. Bynum helped the team to two straight titles and then was shipped off for Dwight Howard when his value had peaked. When Bynum was drafted he was seen as a total project and anything but a sure thing. This year the draft will be filled with plenty of sure things, including, Jabari Parker (my personal favorite), Andrew Wiggins, Dante Exum, Joel Embiid, Julius Randle, Marcus Smart, and Aaron Gordon. If there was ever a year for the Lakers to be this bad, it would be this year. With Kobe missing so much of the season, it was always going to be difficult to make the playoffs, so why not try and get the highest draft choice possible while he recovers?
2nd Silver Lining: Young Players Development
Over the past 5 games, Kendall Marshall, a former lottery pick of the Suns and D-League signing, is averaging 38 minutes per game, on 46% shooting, 43% three point shooting, 4.8 rebounds, 11.2 assists and 13.6 points per game. Many have been quick to say that Mike D’Antoni’s offense inflates point guards numbers, and this is a valid counterpoint. But averaging a double-double while shooting greater than 40% from beyond the arc is no joke. Keep in mind, Marshall has put up these numbers playing mostly with the likes of Robert Sacre, Wesley Johnson, Jodie Meeks, Ryan Kelly and Nick Young. If Marshall were to play with a better supporting cast, it is feasible his shooting and assist numbers could be even higher. The Lakers also have him signed to a team option for next year for less than $1 million.
Second round pick, Ryan Kelly is also getting a lot of playing time. His development was one of the reasons the Lakers decided to cut ties with Shawne Williams. Williams was inconsistent and at 27 had likely reached his full potential. The Lakers have decided to see if Kelly could be a part of the future and give him the playing time he needs to develop. Jodie Meeks and Robert Sacre have also progressed very nicely this season, and could find themselves as a part of the Lakers long term future. The Lakers have cast a wide net to see who will fit into the future plans, and they seem to have found at least a few pieces.
3rd Silver Lining: Swaggy P
What is not to love about Swaggy P (besides his assist totals)? He has been a joy to watch from a fans perspective and brings enjoyment and fun to the game that the Lakers lacked last season. He’s a player who feels truly comfortable in the spotlight and can give you 25 on any given night. The Lakers had been lacking a scoring presence off the bench and went out and got one of the best at that in the business. Swaggy P certainly deserves consideration for 6th Man of the Year, despite the Lakers poor record. Young is having one of the best seasons of his career, and gives us fans something to look forward to during Lakers games. Plus who doesn’t enjoy seeing Byron Scott and James Worthy give their Swaggy P impersonations?
4th Silver Lining: We’re Still Better Than Boston!
How the mighty have fallen. It seems like just yesterday these two franchises were looking ahead to June when they would be facing each other for an NBA title. Today they both sit in mediocrity, although Boston actually has a chance to make the playoffs due to the pathetic Eastern Conference. Despite this, the Lakers find themselves one game ahead of Boston’s 13-24 record. So if nothing else, the Lakers still have something they can hold over their bitter (well not right now) rivals.