The Los Angeles Lakers Are Finally Ready To Run The NBA Again
The Los Angeles Lakers appear to be on their way back to organizational success, through the utilization of a tactic we saw the NFL's Seattle Seahawks employ over the past two seasons.
The Seahawks were loaded with young talent, most of which was picked up in the later parts of the NFL Draft, meaning they had a large amount of very small rookie contracts on their roster.
They locked up Richard Sherman last season with a huge long-term contract, and it appears Russell Wilson is about to be the highest-paid player in football. But they beat the system over the last two years by extracting maximum production from a litter of players who were making what is considered chump change by NFL standards.
The Lakers organization has found its way into the lottery each of the past two years, selecting Julius Randle last year and D'Angelo Russell number two overall this year.
Both players have the ability to contribute right away and ascend to All-Star ranks within a few years. They, like every other rookie, will be making less over the next few seasons than they are worth, due to how rookie contracts are set up.
Though neither has played a regular-season NBA game yet, Randle and Russell both possess skill sets that should allow them to have an impact during the coming season, exceeding the value their paycheck reflects.
The relatively small sums they are owed will allow Los Angeles to go out and spend big money on, perhaps, a two-year contract for a big-name free agent.
Should a Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge or Dwyane Wade be interested in coming to Tinseltown, it would take some of the immediate pressure off the Lakers' two young guns, while also giving them a mentor and option to defer, should they find themselves in unfamiliar circumstances.
Kobe Bryant is not the Kobe we once knew, but if he can slightly taper his ego, he has more basketball knowledge to impart than just about any human being alive.
A two-year deal for one (or even two) of these established stars will mean they will have him for enough time to help their future cornerstones develop, while they are still under cheap contracts.
Then, in a couple of years, their contracts will be up, just as Randle and Russell will be looking to sign their second, and undoubtedly more expensive, contracts.
By that time, I expect both of these young players to have already established themselves as being near the top of their respective positions. I'm also expecting Los Angeles to have its swagger back as an organization.
This will mean free agents will once again be drawn to the city, as they have always been up until the past couple of years.
Although I love Jahlil Okafor and think he will be special, Russell is a much better fit to play alongside Randle. Randle and Okafor both like to set up shot and work in the paint, with neither posing any real outside-shooting threat.
Russell is both a gifted shooter and passer, and I think he and Randle will complement each other perfectly.
The Lakers made the smart basketball decision by picking Russell, giving me hope they will continue to put a larger emphasis on organizational needs, rather than making headlines.
Lost in the Russell hoopla is the fact that the Lakers also drafted Larry Nance Jr. late in the first round. Nance should make his presence felt immediately as an energy guy off the bench.
Gone are the days of Los Angeles trotting out a lineup full of has-beens and bad contracts. The Lakers are on their way back, and we should start to see great improvement as soon as the 2015-2016 season.