LA Lakers Need New Priorities

In terms of the bigger picture, the Lakers have far more important issues than defeating the Warriors at Oracle Arena.


 

As difficult as it may sound to the fans in Los Angeles, a Lakers victory tonight against the Golden State Warriors in the regular season will likely be their biggest victory all year.

That shouldn’t downplay the significance of such a feat.

But, the teams that are going to be playing in May are not worried about winning one game in November.

Even if it is against the defending champions.

Their first round draft pick D’Angelo Russell is not providing the production that was expected when he was chosen in the off-season.

If it is any indication, Byron Scott seems slow to put faith in the rookie as Russell has been kept on the bench for certain games in the fourth quarter this season.

This past summer was supposed to be about bringing in young talent that would change the course of the franchise.

Instead, the Lakers have only two wins this season and looked poise to keep their up-coming top three draft pick from Phoenix.

All of this while the future of their back-court hasn’t been given the chance to play in critical moments.

Russell’s progress wouldn’t be as concerning if the other top picks in the draft: Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor, and Kristaps Porzingis weren’t all have spectacular rookie seasons of their own.

All three of the aforementioned players are already averaging a near double-double per game.

While it is far too early to judge Russell’s career, his impact on the Lakers immediate future is already taking shape.

Soon-to-be free agent Kevin Durant does not seem likely to be swayed away from OKC, his teammate Russell Westbrook is a whole other story.

An LA native, Westbrook has grown to become an MVP contender himself and many teams are expected to make the moves to bring him to their franchise.

The public perception at the moment is that in choosing a guard with their draft pick the Lakers have prematurely bowed out of the race for Westbrook in 2017.  A race they could conceivably have won.

Had the Lakers chosen Okafor in the draft, a front-line that also featured Julius Randle and Roy Hibbert, along with combo-guard Jordan Clarkson is a squad that on paper would allow Westbrook to be the focal point while giving him the young, well-rounded supporting cast that he doesn’t have with the Thunder.

If the Lakers are planning to make a play for a free-agent, then they must show that their young roster is talented enough to be elevated to the next level with a new star’s presence.

If the team is going the opposite route and putting all their chips on their draft picks, they still need to develop their young players.

Neither is going to happen if Russell remains on the bench.

The Warriors are the hottest team in the league right now and Steph Curry has elevated his game to the point where experts claim he has usurped LeBron James as the best basketball player in the world.

That lethal combination is intent on going 16-0 and breaking the record for the best start in NBA history.

If the Lakers do win tonight, it will be from a lightening in a bottle level performance from all their players.

Tonight, Byron Scott has a chance to see where his young squad stands against the best team in the NBA.

Bottom Line: Without focus, there’s no future.

With nothing to lose, the team has the chance to play without expectations and hopefully more relaxed.

That means that the entire roster can play up to their potential.

For the Lakers’ future, that is more important than a “W” over the defending champions.