LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers will not make the playoffs. It will be the first time since his sophomore season in the NBA that James has failed to reach the postseason.
James’ first season in Los Angeles could be described as chaotic. After a strong start, the Lakers were set back by multiple injuries. James himself would suffer an injury on Christmas Day, and the team would struggle in his absence.
On top of injuries, Anthony Davis rumors swirled, causing a huge distraction for the team. The team also struck out at the trade deadline, not acquiring Davis, nor any other star.
While the season has been a huge disappointment for fans, there is a silver lining for the Lakers’ season. Both with and without James, L.A.’s young core has made big strides this year.
The Lakers acquired several players with high potential before LeBron James signed with them last summer. Despite being out since late January, Lonzo Ball maintained more or less the same stats as last season, with an increase in field goal percentage. Ball’s defense also went noticed this season.
Ball continued to play solid basketball, but his teammates Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma made big improvements to their game’s this season.
Another Lakers wing, Kyle Kuzma has also improved in his second season. Kuzma’s points increased to 18.8 per game this season, along with field goal percentage, assists and free throw percentage. In early January, Kuzma dropped a career-high 41 points on Detroit.
Both Kuzma and Ingram have shown flashes of stardom this season. Even with the dynamic changing upon the arrival of James, the young duo have still been able to increase their numbers. The Lakers will miss the playoffs, but the development of these two players in particular is a silver lining for the team’s season.
However, it is still unsure if Kuzma and Ingram, among others, will remain with the Lakers next season. They missed at the deadline, but Anthony Davis is still available. The Lakers have two options: They can either wait until Davis is a free agent and waste another year of James’ prime, and pair him with the young players, or trade them in a package for Davis this summer.
Whatever happens, Kuzma and Ingram’s value has increased after this season. This means they may be able to give up less in a trade for Davis. If they decide not to do that, the two young players will keep growing under James. Add some free agents, and this could still put the Lakers in a good spot.
After this season, there shouldn’t be any doubt about Lakers management picking right in the last two drafts.
Featured image credited to USA Today.