The Los Angeles Lakers are in a full rebuild mode. Their rebuild was supposed to start since last year but the retirement of Kobe Bryant delayed that. Instead of focusing on getting minutes for its young players, the Lakers organization instead had to go through Bryant’s farewell tour in every arena they played in. This resulted in a 17-65 record which is the worst in Lakers history. The Lakers were really awful last season and were difficult to watch.
With Bryant finally gone, the Lakers can now move forward. They were desperate enough to sign forward Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov to huge contracts to fill up their roster spots and get veteran experience after failing to get marquee stars in the offseason.
Deng is a two-time All-Star but is past his prime. At 31 years old, he was signed to a 4-year, $72 million contract that pays him until he is 35. Don’t get me wrong; Deng is a solid player who can play multiple positions. He will be good for this young team but the money he is getting will stifle the team’s prospects over the medium-term.
Another surprise signing was the 4-year, $64 million contract of center Timofey Mozgov. Like Deng, Mozgov is on the wrong side of his prime and only averaged 6.3 points and 4.4 rebounds as the Cavaliers’ starting center last season. For a team doing a complete rebuild, they don’t need another heavily paid big man on the roster with little to contribute. This deal makes no sense.
Recently, it was reported that the Lakers were pursuing another big man former NBA player from China Yi Jianlian. Yi was the sixth overall pick by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2007 draft and also had stints with the Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards and Dallas Mavericks in parts of five seasons. Unfortunately, he was labeled as “soft” and couldn’t make it in the NBA. He left the Mavericks in 2012 and has been playing in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) since. Among the “big” signings by the Lakers, this one has the least risk since this is only a one-year, $8 million contract. Yi is now bigger and better, having regained his mojo as a superstar in the CBA. He is also the cornerstone of the Chinese national team.
The Lakers has a young core composed of D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, and No. 2 draft pick Brandon Ingram. Among this young crop, Ingram is the most intriguing due to his potential. Ingram stands 6-9 but has a 7-3 wingspan which means he can shoot over most of his defenders and block shots on the other end. What’s scary about this kid is his range and speed. He easily blows by heavier defenders and has great range from the outside extending to the three-point range.
Another major offseason move was to bring in Luke Walton as the head coach. In Walton’s second season as Golden State Warriors assistant coach, he took over the reins at the start of the season in Steve Kerr’s absence. He led the Warriors to the best start in NBA history (24-0) including a 39-4 record as interim coach. He had a fruitful NBA career including two championships with the Lakers (2009-2010).
True the Lakers have much to look forward to but this isn’t the season they actually make the playoffs. They are still lost and it will take at least one season for them to be competitive again.