The win was the best of the young season for the Lakers and gave them their first winning streak, while evening their record at 5-5. The Lakers have improved rapidly over the past few weeks and are beginning to look like a good young team. Things aren’t perfect in LA, but there is finally light at the end of the tunnel for Laker fans.
The additions of Ball, Brook Lopez and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope have made Los Angeles better on both sides of the ball. Kyle Kuzma has been a revelation as a rookie, and when you factor in the improvement of Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram, the Lakers are almost a completely different team than a year ago. Larry Nance Jr. was posting a career-best season before he suffered a broken hand last week as well.
Ball’s early numbers won’t blow anyone away. He’s averaging 8.8 points, 6.7 assists and 6.6 rebounds in 32.8 minutes per game. His PER of 9.06 is, frankly, awful, while his field go percentage (29.9) and 3-point percentage (23.4) are brutal as well. That said, when you watch him play, you get what all the fuss is about. The ball moves when he’s on the floor and he opens things up for his teammates. His defensive effort has also been a pleasant surprise.
At just 20 years old, Ball is almost certainly going to be up and down all season. He has never played this many games in a row, never traveled this much and never spent night after night getting beaten up by grown men. As long as he keeps the ball moving, rebounds well and focuses on finishing in the paint and at the hoop, he’ll be fine. His shooting form is a major issue, but that will have to wait for the offseason.
Ingram has been the most improved Laker so far, showing an aggressiveness over the last few games that has proven he has All-Star potential. In his last three contests, Ingram is averaging 17.3 points and 6.7 rebounds, while shooting 50 percent from the field. The second-year man just turned 20 and his potential is sky-high as long as he continues to attack offensively.
Lopez leads the team in scoring (15.9 ppg), while Kuzma (15.7) isn’t far behind. Kuzma is looking like the steal of the 2017 NBA Draft, while Lopez has given LA a solid inside presence it has lacked in recent years. Caldwell-Pope is a ball of energy and gives the Lakers a defensive stopper on the perimeter who can also knock down shots.
It’s clear the plan Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka and coach Luke Walton have put in place is beginning to work. While not a defensive juggernaut, the Lakers have better intensity and focus on that end than they did last season. Offensively, it feels like there’s a plan to get everyone involved. That’s evidenced by the fact that seven players are averaging double figures, and Ball is knocking on that door as well.
Are things perfect? Absolutely not. The Lakers are last in the NBA in 3-point shooting (31.1 percent) and they turn the ball over too much (17.1 per game). But they are averaging 22.9 assists this year, up from 20.9 a year ago. That is a clear sign the ball is moving, guys are looking for each other and the offense is improving. Meanwhile, Ball and the rest of the young guys will continue to get better with experience.
After 10 games, things are actually looking promising in Laker Land. The team’s long, slow build is finally beginning to show something. The Lakers have a young, exciting roster that is playing entertaining, enjoyable basketball.
It’s been a long time since Lakers fans have had a reason to be optimistic. They can finally start feeling good about their team’s future now.