BLOGTABLE: Which non-playoff team has brightest future?
NBA.com Global on Apr 05, 2018 06:21 PM
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 19: Lonzo Ball #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers handles the ball against the Indiana Pacers on March 19, 2018 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)
Which team missing out on the playoffs this season has the brightest future, looking ahead to next season?
Steve Aschburner: Got to go with the Lakers, both for the talent they already have on board and the free agents they’re positioned to woo this summer. Frankly, one of their biggest challenges may be sorting out what they have vs. what they want, because the core of Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Julius Randle and Lonzo Ball could develop nicely on its own merits. But Magic Johnson isn’t going to dawdle.
Tas Melas: The Lakers. Their young core of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, and Julius Randle have been playing well beyond their years. For such a young bunch to rank 12th defensively is very impressive (as my man John Schuhmann details with some stats below). Regardless if a superstar joins them via free agency, I’m most excited about the ceiling of their young players over any other lottery team because three of the guys I mentioned are rookies, and Ingram’s only a second-year guy. They do not look, behave, or play that green.
Shaun Powell: It's the Lakers, and by a landslide if they enjoy the offseason of their dreams. They're just set up to rebound better than the other teams, with money to spend, a dollop of young stars on rookie contracts and a guy in the front office (Magic Johnson) who happens to be a winner in all things basketball. We all know who they're chasing, and if the Lakers do hit bull's-eye this summer in free agency and/or through trades, they'll be a title contender.
John Schuhmann: The Lakers. They already have four good young players on rookie contracts on their roster. Brandon Ingram showed some serious improvement with his offensive game in his second year, Kyle Kuzma is an all-around talent, and while Lonzo Ball can't shoot, he's been the rare rookie guard who makes an impact defensively. If the Lakers lose Julius Randle in free agency, it's probably because they got an upgrade. The Lakers have been the league's most improved defensive team this season (having allowed five fewer points per 100 possessions than they did last season), and have been the league's most improved offensive teams since the All-Star break (having scored 5.8 more points per 100 possessions than they did before the break). They've taken real steps forward already and have something to build on.
Sekou Smith: The Los Angeles Lakers possess the best combination of young, developing talent and salary cap flexibility heading into what could be a wild free-agent summer. The Lakers still have to sort out some internal issues (Isaiah Thomas and his future being the most glaring) and decide which of their young core pieces are keepers (Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson, once thought to be, clearly were not). But we've seen enough from Kyle Kuzma, Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball to know that the Lakers have plenty of talent to work with moving forward. If they make any sort of splash in free agency, go ahead and place the Lakers on your playoff fast track for next season.