“Never trust the Bucks” sometimes goes well. So far, the road trip had Milwaukee split their first two games, losing to the Los Angeles Clippers and winning last night against the Golden State Warriors. Milwaukee’s chances at a higher seed remain alive instead of dropping to the dreaded 8th seed as they prepare for the Los Angeles Lakers tonight. For a full preview of the game, click here. We continue our question series of the road trip by reaching out to the Lakers SBNation affiliate Silver Screen and Roll. Answering the questions today was site contributor Alex Regla.
1. The Lakers seem to have improved this year, how do you feel about this season?
Before the season began, initial preseason projections predicted the Lakers to finish the season with around 30-33 wins (up from last season’s 26 wins) which the team currently already has with nine games still left to play. Arguably more important than the wins have been the development of the young core, specifically Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram. Both players have taken big leaps this season in their individual numbers and have played a big role in the team’s uptick in wins. The biggest team improvement this season is inarguably the team’s defense. In their last three seasons, the Lakers ranked 29th, 30th, and 29th in defRTG before taking a huge leap this season with the 15th best defRTG in the league, which arguably is closer to 10-13 if not for the recent string of injuries.
2. How would you describe the state of the franchise?
I think I can safely say the franchise is in the best shape it has been in five years. When Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka came on board, I was one of many who were skeptical of a duo of front-office rookies running the show, but the pair have arguably not missed on any of their basketball decisions as of today. The entire basketball operations have drafted incredibly, Luke Walton is one of the more promising young coaches in the NBA, and the team is one of only a handful with massive cap space heading into a summer with a strapped league.
3. With Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma, there are some pieces for the Lakers to build around, who else on the roster should the Lakers build around?
I think I will answer the first part of the question with who I feel on the roster is safe, which probably only include: Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma. Julius Randle, still only 23, has been remarkable in his contract year with the team and has arguably been their best and most consistent player. If I were the front office, I would do everything in my power to bring him back next season but it could possibly be tricky considering the team’s lofty summer aspirations. Also worth noting is the Lakers’ other first-round pick last draft, Josh Hart. Hart became an instant fan-favorite and has been fantastic in providing the team with energy, defense, and three-point shooting a la Derek Fisher.
4. LA expects to be a factor into free agency with Paul George and LeBron James frequently being mentioned. What do you think the odds are the Lakers land either of them?
The Lakers are one of the only teams who will have cap-space this summer for not only one, but two max-level contracts. As many are aware, the current financial landscape in the NBA is airtight. After the horrid 2016 Summer contracts (the Lakers had two albatross deals) and the lack of a cap jump, many teams are still dealing with the ramifications in terms of luxury tax and lack of cap flexibility. The odds of the Lakers signing both LeBron James and Paul George obviously hinges on their ability to pitch them on this young core and the front-office’s direction. I still feel the odds of signing LeBron James in particular has always been a long shot, but Paul George on the other hand is a real possibility. The two have been tied together since last summer’s drama when word got out that George wanted to be traded to the Purple and Gold. With OKC still fighting for a playoff spot and the amount of luxury tax the Thunder would be in to retain the trio of Westbrook, Anthony, and George on the roster, the Lakers have a real shot in bringing PG-13 back home.
5. How do you feel the Lakers match up vs. Giannis?
Like any team, Giannis is a nightmare to scheme against. Yet, I think the Lakers have a shot in at least keeping him below 30 in this game, which in all honesty should be considered a moral victory. The Lakers currently have the 12th best opponent field-goal percentage at the rim with the size and length of the team’s front-court. Also a specifically fun match-up should be that of Giannis vs. Ingram. Ingram has been compared to Giannis in terms of ball-handling, and mobility from a player of his size. He is obviously not the same physical monster, but at 6’10 and with a 7’4 wingspan, Brandon is arguably the team’s best ball-handler and has played point-guard for the Lakers when Lonzo Ball was out. So the combo of Ingram’s length, and the team’s improved defense, could give the team a shot in stopping the Greek Freak, or at least keeping him from a career-night.
We once again thanks Alex for his time, be sure to follow him @Alex_Regla09 and Silver Screen and Roll on Twitter @LakersSBN. Tell us what you think of the upcoming game and the Lakers rebuilding in the comments below.