When the 2017-18 NBA season begins, the Los Angeles Lakers roster will look very different from the one that ended last season. New additions such as Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Brook Lopez have fans clamoring to see what Coach Luke Walton cooks up. Here is a look at the likely starting five in Los Angeles…
Center: Brook Lopez
— HoopsHabit (@HoopsHabit) August 16, 2017
In an age where centers are becoming extinct for quicker lineups, Brook Lopez has a skill set that should allow him to help the Los Angeles Lakers tremendously. Last season with the New Jersey Nets, Lopez took 387 three point attempts connecting on 134. That’s a respectable 35% from beyond the arc. He’s always been solid 18-20 feet from the basket but he really showed his range last year. Being able to step out and be a threat from deep will immediately help Julius Randle who most think will be the starting power forward. Randle loves to put his head down and drive to the basket, but last season he usually ran into help defense because the Lakers didn’t have floor space. Lopez should also be a good option running the pick and pop with Lonzo Ball. At 7’0, 268 pounds he’s a load in the post. He has an excellent post game and can pass out of the double team. While not known for his defense he posted a respectable 1.7 blocks per game last year and can make it difficult for players to score just by raising his arms. He’s certainly an upgrade for the Lakers and will look good in Walton’s offense.
Power Forward: Julius Randle
— Josh Lloyd (@redrock_bball) August 30, 2017
With all due respect to Kyle Kuzma and Larry Nance, the starting four spot is Julius Randle’s to start the season. Randle’s greatest strengths are his ball handling and rebounding. He’ll have more room inside with Lopez out of the paint and he should be able to use his power and quickness against small-ball forwards. He’s averaging 9.6 rebounds per game for his career and could average double digits this season as he’ll have to make up for Lopez’ lack of production in that category. Last season Randle loved getting a rebound and pushing the ball up to initiate the offense. We’ll see less of that with Lonzo running the show but it still gives the Lakers an advantage in potential. The biggest question is whether he can he shoot from 18 feet out. The pressure is on because it’s a contract year and he’ll face competition from Nance and Kuzma. As of now he fits nicely next to Lopez.
Small Forward: Brandan Ingram
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) August 28, 2017
Brandon Ingram is one of the cornerstones of the Lakers’ future and fans are hoping he makes a leap this year. At 6’9 with a 7’0 wingspan he has the tools to be a terror on defense and get a shot against almost anyone. His rookie season was a disappointment to some but he showed promise in his lone summer league game. As he gets stronger he’ll be able to play through contact and draw fouls. This is something he’s worked on during the summer as he’s looked to get stronger and add weight. He’ll need to shoot more confidently from deep and will most likely be the Laker’s primary scorer on offense. He’s younger than many players in this current draft class and have some marking comparisons to Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo. If he shows even the slightest ability these players have, the Lakers have found their small forward for the next ten years.
Shooting Guard: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Los Angeles Lakers: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope looking forward to playing with Lonzo Ball – Lake Show Life https://t.co/aRKnPUp6s6
— Laker update (@Lakerupdate) August 20, 2017
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope looks to be a perfect fit in between Ball and Ingram. At 6’5 he can guard anyone from point guards to wings. He’ll likely draw the toughest backcourt match-ups on defense to take pressure off of Lonzo. He’s active, moves well, and likes to take chances on defense. He’s a career 40% the point shooter and will give Lonzo an excellent target to throw those full court passes to. The Lakers are happy to have an athletic player at shooting guard. Pope’s stock will rise as a Laker.
Point Guard: Lonzo Ball
Lonzo Ball’s fellow rookies voted him first in the “best career” and “best playmaker” categories. https://t.co/l10FBVXL3t
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) August 22, 2017
From the moment Adam Silver called his name as the number two pick in the draft he was the face of the Lakers. Magic Johnson has given him the keys and he’ll look to make everything go when the season tips off. Lonzo’s vision and passing are gifts that were on full display in his lone season at UCLA and during this year’s summer league. The four players mentioned before him will greatly benefit from his passing. His full court passes grabbed everyone’s attention in Las Vegas. He looks to set teammates up but has the ability to score when needed. His shot is unorthodox but his height (6’6) allows him to get it off over smaller players. Lonzo shot 41% from deep at UCLA and the Lakers hope it translates as teams will dare him to shoot. They moved D’Angelo Russell in part because Lonzo came to town and he’ll be the starter from day one of his professional career.
On paper this starting five fits well together but will still have to learn each others strengths and weaknesses. The Lakers open the preseason on September 30th against a new-look Minnesota Timberwolves featuring Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler. This will be our first chance to see how they stack up against another rising team.