You’ve heard the hype that says Lonzo is a once-in-a-generation player. He’s supposed to make everyone around him better. He won the summer league MVP as he played top-level basketball. That’s all well and good, but does he put the Lakers over the top?
The Lakers have been going through a dark period in their history. They haven’t made the playoffs in the last four years, a dry spell that is magnified by the fact that they play for a gigantic market of loyal fans in Los Angeles and by the fact that the franchise is one of the most successful in NBA history.
The optimist believes that the arrival of Lonzo Ball changes everything. He’s a passer who makes everyone around him better. He’s got a decent shot regardless of how his form looks. The narrative goes that he will be able to get the whole team higher percentage shots and the Lakers will be carried to victory.
A more realistic take is that the Lakers cannot be saved by one player no matter the magnitude of the hype surrounding that player. Lonzo is not likely a better player than DeAngelo Russell is yet. Russell has had the luxury of two years in the NBA while Lonzo has only a year of college ball under his belt. The addition of Brook Lopez was a good move as LA picked up a modern NBA center, but is it enough to compete? The Kentavious Caldwell-Pope signing was a dubious decision, but the Lakers obviously see value in the guard. It looks like these moves will not be enough to earn a seed in the Western Conference Playoffs.
It will likely be a few years before the Lakers are a playoff team. They are a major piece away (although, signing LeBron in 2018 would suffice, and that possibility seems to be likelier with the scenario unfolding in Cleveland) but currently, they don’t have enough firepower or experience to make it to the playoffs. They would need to improve on the defensive end as well if they wanted to compete at the highest level. At this point, it is hard to see the young Lakers get more wins than Portland or Denver. Hopefully, Lonzo becomes the player his father has hyped him up to be and the Lakers become a decent team around him, but in all fairness, if it takes him a few years to achieve playoff success, we will all understand.