To think that we’re only three weeks away from the start of the playoffs; the special time of year where all of the “It’s only the regular season talk” stifles and the “Win or go home” mantra begins. While 16 teams prepare their final rosters and create the lineups they believe will lead them to a title, the other 14 plan for the draft, as they wait to see where the ping-pong balls bounce this year.
Fortunately for the unfortunate, they’re going to be immersed in more draft talent than any draft we’ve seen since 2008. Notable names are strewn throughout both rounds, with the top picks being more significant than ever, as the potential of as many as ten players could be franchise-jarring.
Although certain teams are closer to figuring things out than others, the effects of drafting a player, no matter how talented they may be, will likely require more than a season to reach its expected potential. The teams that are expected to be within the top three this year will definitely need a few more drafts, as well as a few wise moves in the free agency market, to fully rebuild. There have been quite a few teams out there that have openly made their regular season intentions known, shedding contracts for nothing and sending out lineups that would struggle to win in Sioux Falls.
Those teams will soon reap the rewards. But does the season-long futility linger when the player that every team in the NBA wanted is donning your team’s jersey? Well, only when the player turns out not to be who you expected, but that’s unlikely to happen with some of this summer’s NBA-ready talent.
Five teams, all of which find themselves in the lottery, are within closing distance of making a playoff push, but need that extra boost from a talented athlete that’s ready to begin contributing.
With a few more free agents, possibly as a result of the development of the rookies, these teams could very well be contending sooner than we expect.
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LOS ANGELES LAKERS
The Lakers’ most redeeming value is their history.
It wouldn’t take a lot of convincing to entice a free agent to join the Lakers franchise. The yellow and gold has played a heavy role in the development and growth of the NBA, dating as far back as the 1950s, and to this day continues to draw attention. Even if the product is horrific, as it has been this year.
With Kobe Bryant sitting on the bench, and throwing not-so-subtle jabs at his would-be teammates and head coach, with Dwight Howard in Houston and Steve Nash also on the bench, the Lakers have been trotting out D-League-caliber lineups. The most used starting lineup this season, one that’s been used 11 times and has gone 3-8, features D-League call-up Kendall Marshall at point guard, Jodie Meeks at shooting guard, Minnesota castoff Wesley Johnson at small forward, rookie Ryan Kelly at power forward, and Pau Gasol at center.
Their most recently used lineup, coming in a surprising 16-point win over Phoenix, featured the likes of Marshall, Meeks, Kent Bazemore, Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman. Off the bench that night was Kelly, Johnson, Nick Young and Robert Sacre. Your 2013-14 Los Angeles Lakers! As scrappy as ever!
No, it hasn’t been an enjoyable year for the 25-48 Lakers, who are going to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2005, the year after Shaquille O’Neal‘s departure. But they have the benefit of being the Los Angeles Lakers. Any player they draft will be an improvement, unless they’re truly committed to Kendall Marshall, who has played surprisingly well. However, he’ll likely play behind Nash next year, as Steve has his own reasons to stick around for another year.
If they had to select a certain player in particular, though, it would be Joel Embiid. The Lakers can no longer attempt to disguise the loss of Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum, and the gradually disappearing Pau Gasol, with the likes of Kaman, Hill and Sacre. In fact, all three of those players could be gone by next year.
The Lakers will have ten players listed as unrestricted free agents this offseason.
Also, even if the Lakers were to sign Kevin Love in two years, he will do little to quell the team’s problems of defending the interior. No team in the league allows more points in the paint than the Lakers, giving up nearly 49 paint points per night. They allow 13 more points in the painted area than the first-place Indiana Pacers.
Overall, the Lakers rank 28th in defensive efficiency. Embiid, who averaged 2.6 blocks to go along with 11.4 points and 8.1 rebounds, is the best available option when it comes to a defensive deterrent a franchise could build around.
Once the Lakers sign a high-profile lottery pick, whether it be Embiid or even a wing to learn under Kobe Bryant, they should be able to attract some attention from free agents such as Love.