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Rise Up Through Ranks

Justin Cun, Writer

The Los Angeles Lakers have not set foot in the NBA playoffs since the 2012-13 season. This statement is perplexing. When considering the boundless titles and achievements the Lakers have earned over the course of NBA history, one must finally ask: What went wrong? But more importantly — Will the Lakers ever make playoffs?

After the departure of great players like Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, the Lakers have struggled to dominate the Western Conference. During the Kobe Bryant era, the Lakers were well-established as the leaders of the Western Conference for three seasons straight (2007-10). Not only that, but in the league overall (both Western and Eastern Conferences) the team was able to place 3rd in the 2009-10 season, 2nd in 2008-09, and 3rd in 2007-08. These successes, along with a myriad of others, manufactured the Laker saga as a monumental legacy in NBA history. Moreover, according to HoopsHabit, the Lakers have qualified for the postseason “60 times in 65 seasons,” winning the Western Conference 31 times with “only the Boston Celtics having more titles than the Lakers’ 16.”

Unfortunately, the Lakers have only averaged 22 wins in the past three seasons and had never finished better than 14th (out of 15 teams) in the Western Conference. They placed dead last in the 2015-16 season with only 97.3 points per game (PPG) ,the lowest in Laker history. Worse yet, after the 2015-16 season, Kobe Bryant retired from the game, forcing the Lakers to alter team dynamics and gradually lose prestige for the subsequent seasons. But even through all this, the burning question of whether or not in the Lakers will make the playoffs still remains unknown.

Currently, the Lakers seem to be in better shape relative to the previous three seasons. Although the Lakers lost Kobe, rookies like lonzo ball and Kyle Kuzma have stepped up to fill the shoes of the Laker’s legacy. Now, half-way through the season, the Lakers sit in the top 10 out of the 15 teams in the Western Conference at 19 wins and 29 losses. At first glance this record seems unremarkable, but looking at its previous standings, the teams current record is reassuring.

During the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, Kyle Kuzma performed surprisingly well, nearly taking the spotlight away from Summer League MVP Lonzo Ball. Kuzma made 24 3-pointers on a 48% shooting in the summer league and, across the six preseason games, Kuzma averaged 17.3 points. And following Kuzma is Brandon Ingram. As a rookie in the 2016-17 season, Ingram showed remarkable weaknesses in his shooting, ending with a field goal percentage of 40. However, from a 9.4 PPG to an astounding 15.7 PPG, Ingram has easily seen vast improvements to his game; Ingram’s one year development has slowly begun to turn the tide  in favor of the Lakers. And finally, Lonzo Ball. As an anticipated first pick in the draft, Ball has been considered the Lakers’ trump card. Ball was picked for Summer League MVP and currently has a 10.2 PPG with only 36 games played. Although he hasn’t entirely met the expectations of many, rookie Ball still has the potential to bring Lakers to great success. Overall, the 3-point shooting of Kyle Kuzma, the development of Brandon Ingram, and the aptness of Lonzo Ball may be what the Lakers need for the pending spot in the NBA playoffs.


Photo courtesy of NBCLOSANGELES.COM

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