By Dan Ferrara, NBA International
From the time they drafted James Worthy No. 1 overall in 1982 to 2013, the Los Angeles Lakers have had two picks in the top 10 Eddie Jones (1994) and Andrew Bynum (2005). Now they had three straight picks in the top 10, including two consecutive seasons with the No. 2 pick in the lottery.
It been a whirlwind of change for the Lakers, who have lost a combined 181 games in the last three seasons after finishing the previous eight seasons, and 18 of19 seasons overall, with a winning record. Losing just isn in the DNA of the franchise, who boasts 16 NBA Championships and 60 playoff appearances in 68 seasons.
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Angeles is much different than before, as the retirement of legend Kobe Bryant has left a gaping void on the roster, even though he was oft injured in his final seasons. It wasn about his stats at the end of his career, but his status. He was still a star that people paid to see; one who was capable of doing something special at any given moment even at age 37 as he proved when he dropped 60 points in his final game.
Now, without a superstar on their roster or a legendary head coach calling the plays, the Lakers must adapt to the modern NBA by facing something that seemingly every other franchise has endured a rebuild.
They say it hard to rebuild in a big market such as Los Angeles, but the Lakers are doing a fine job thus far. Their last two lottery picks, power forward Julius Randle and point guard D Russell, have shown enough in their first season (Randle missed all but 14 minutes of his rookie season due to a broken leg) to suggest that they turn into very productive NBA players in the future.
In fact, Randle proved a lot in his first season, becoming just the fifth player since 2000 to average a points/rebounds double double in his first season, joining Karl Anthony Towns, Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard and Emeka Okafor. Randle 34 double doubles ranked him No. 15 in the league last season and he even added a triple double for good measure.
Russell, though surrounded by an in house social media controversy, picked up his play as the season rolled on. The 20 year old averaged 15.1 points per game and shot a respectable 38.9% from 3 point range after the All Star break. While he has some work to do in terms of running an NBA offense as the point guard, Russell has shown the ability to put the ball in the basket and has impressive passing skills at his young age, giving hope for the future.
Their latest lottery addition, Brandon Ingram, comes to Los Angeles after a brief 36 game stint with Duke. The 19 year old needs to add weight but has drawn comparisons to star Kevin Durant due to size and skill set. If Ingram can develop his game to anything resembling Durant on the basketball court, the Lakers will be in good shape moving forward.
It the dawning of a new day in Los Angeles, as the Lakers are taking a backseat to their rival and Staples Center roommate, the Clippers. Without Bryant on the court, the roster is a blend of veterans and up and coming youngsters searching for their niche and place in the league. New head coach Luke Walton doesn have much pressure on him as the expectations are set low for this team, but the Lakers are certainly building an interesting and dynamic nucleus to build around in the future. There are many scenarios, mostly through a free agency splash, where the Lakers once again become a playoff team sooner rather than later.