Kobe Bryant had his farewell tour and capped it off with a 60-point game for the ages. The end of Bryant’s career ended a remarkable era for the Los Angeles Lakers. Now, it is time to start over for this franchise. We all knew they were eventually going to reach this point. With the start of a new era in Los Angeles, there are reasons to be optimistic about the young core going forward.
The Los Angeles Lakers Future is Bright
The young core of the future for the Lakers will revolve around D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Julius Randle, and Brandon Ingram. All of these players except for Randle and Clarkson are currently playing in the summer league. When watching them play, there is a sense of swagger that they are starting to show. Nance Jr. and Russell now have a full season under their belt, and their play in summer league has boosted their confidence.
Confidence has arguably been the biggest improvement for Russell. He has always been confident, but he is starting to turn that into production on the court. Should he be playing in summer league? Probably not considering the fact he was one of the better rookies last season. At the same time, it makes sense that he decided to play. Russell is looking to find chemistry with some of the young core. He is expected to dominate these games, and that is exactly what he is doing. In the Lakers’ game against the Pelicans last Friday, Russell finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 assists. In the next game against the Sixers, he finished with 22 points and the game-winning bucket. Russell has started to show flashes of his all around game and his ability to score at ease. His jump shot has improved, and it is obvious that Kobe has taught Russell some of his moves. He is ready to move on from his hectic rookie season and become the point guard of the future for the Lakers.
Nance Jr. has also added some elements to his game. At the end of the season, he said that he was going to work on improving his perimeter shot. He is showing in the summer league that he has indeed been working on his three-point shot. Although the jumper still needs some work, there is definitely improvement considering that Nance Jr. was not much of a shooter last season. We know that he can jump out of the gym with his athleticism. If he can continue to improve his jumper, he will have a great impact going forward.
Of course, the big talk for the Lakers is Brandon Ingram, the #2 overall pick in this year’s draft. He has been off to a rocky start in the summer league, but he is still showing flashes of his potential. He had 12 points in his first game and 7 in the next game. Something that really stood out to me was Ingram’s calmness on the court. You wouldn’t really expect that from an 18 year old who was the #2 pick in the draft. He has shown flashes of his ability to use his length as an advantage and be a nice finisher around the rim. He is arguably the biggest factor for the Lakers going forward, and he looks like he will be just fine.
Clarkson and Randle did not need to participate in summer league this year. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that they are key to the growth of this young Lakers team. Clarkson signed a 4-year, $50 million extension this offseason, which is huge for the franchise. He has improved his game the past two seasons and is only looking to grow. Last season was really Randle’s rookie season even though it was his 2nd year. After suffering a broken leg during the first game of his rookie season, Randle has bounced back well and produced. With him being undersized for his position, it is vital that Randle improves his jump shot. His rebounding and explosion are already polished areas of his game. The jumper is really holding him back from playing to his full potential.
Luke Walton seems to be the perfect fit for this young core. After a few seasons as an assistant with the Golden State Warriors, he will be able to bring his lessons from Steve Kerr. It is going to be Walton’s first year as a full-time head coach. He is going to grow with the team as well. It is kind of like everyone is starting from scratch, which could be a good thing for the Lakers. The young core seems ready to contend for a playoff spot sooner rather than later, and there is great hope for the Lakers franchise going forward.