We are just two days away from NBA basketball and four days from the start of the Los Angeles Lakers’ 2017-2018 season. After four miserable years in darkness, this is the first time fans can legitimately have hope, be excited about the future, and the upcoming season.
Last year was the first of the rebuild, and this will be the first in the step back to relevance for the franchise. There is a fresh aura surrounding the team, as the roster is very different (and much better), the front office does not have Jim Buss anymore, and the electricity the young players are bringing is energizing.
We all know the hype that Lonzo Ball is bringing, but Kyle Kuzma has been the most riveting rookie so far. Those two are part of a young and exciting core that the Lakers have. The foundation is set, and there is a plan for the future. Things are only looking up.
MVP/Best Player: Brook Lopez
Lonzo Ball is and will continue to get talk of being the Lakers’ most valuable player, but he is not the best player. There is a difference between “most valuable” and “best,” although many like to associate the two together. So, for the sake of this article, we’ll merge them, and that title goes to the Lakers’ offseason trade acquisition Brook Lopez.
For the first time since pre-injuries Kobe Bryant, the Lakers have a go-to scorer in the center. They have struggled in the past few seasons with long scoreless droughts, especially late in games. Lopez is a guy you can give the ball to whenever you need a bucket. He is good for 20 points every night.
He is a career 18.6 points per game scorer and averaged 20.5 points last season on 47.5% shooting. It never hurts to have a seven-footer you can hand the ball to in the post. They are becoming a dying breed in today’s NBA. And last season he showed the ability to space the floor, hitting 34.6% of his long balls, respectable for a big man.
Breakout Player: Kyle Kuzma
He has already generated tons of hype amongst Lakersnation with his play during the Summer League and preseason, but Kuzma has a chance making a name for himself throughout the entire NBA. The Lakers are loaded with frontcourt options so he won’t get as many minutes as he’s shown he’s deserving of. But expect him to make the most of his opportunity and become a vital piece of the rotation.
Luke Walton is still undecided on who will start at power forward, so there is still a chance Kuzma can sneak into the starting five. If that’s the case, then all bets are off. Basketball fans will know his name.
He was an unheralded prospect out of high school and then coming out of Utah. He was considered a “reach” by numerous websites, scouts, etc. so he would be an actual breakout player.
Defensive Player of the Year: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Defense is definitely the Lakers’ weak spot, so Pope was brought in mainly to serve as the perimeter defensive stopper the Lakers have lacked for a long time. He will be the starting shooting guard and will guard the opposition’s best guard, covering for Lonzo Ball.
He has a reputation of being an excellent defender, and his defensive ratings back it up. So he obviously has a good chance of being the Lakers’ best defender. But he wins this one by default because the Lakers don’t have anyone else that’s good.
The West is going to be a slugfest. If the Lakers were in the East, 40 wins would be realistic. The 30-win barriers is a must. They made a nine-win improvement last year, so something similar should be in store. 35 would be another nine and possibly put them in the 10-12 range in the standings, and away from the cellar, where they have spent the last three years.
They will be competitive and will have a win total that represents a team on the rise and on the brink of something special.