This is not how it is supposed to go. When a legend retires after a long and highly-decorated career there is supposed to be a period of mourning and a rough transition. I can't imagine that at this point there is a single person on or around the Lakers who is sad to see Kobe Bryant gone. As great as he was, he wasn't a net positive for at least the last year. He wasn't consistently healthy, and he wasn't exactly a selfless teammate when he was playing. Some veterans help youngsters grow and develop. Bryant was not one of those guys. Now the youngsters here don't have to worry about kissing Kobe's ring and they can go about learning how to play and win in this league. They didn't once last year look like they were having even a little bit of fun. That must change immediately. It's a crucial change for this franchise if they ever want to break out of the horrible mess they have found themselves in lately.
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2016 Los Angeles Lakers Betting Storylines
Soon we are going to find out if Luke Walton, the youngest coach in the NBA, can actually coach. Was the big success the Warriors had under him when Steve Kerr was out with his injury a result of his influence? Or could a reasonably intelligent rat have led the team to about the same record as long as he could find a clipboard in his size? We have to be careful how we judge Walton here. He is going to lose a whole lot more games than he wins, so his record can't be what we use to grade him. Instead we have to look at better clues. Are the young players clearly improving? Is the team playing right up to the final buzzer whether they are ahead by three or behind by 20? How is the body language around the team? Are they playing a system that seems to make sense, and that suits the capabilities of the team? I am reasonably optimistic about Walton, but that optimism is cautious at this point.
The Lakers have a pretty solid core of young players to build around. This year's draft choice, Brandon Ingram, taken second overall from Duke, joins recent choices D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance Jr. It's a young and raw group, but there is plenty of upside there. Developing that talent is the primary job for Walton going forward.
2016 Los Angeles Lakers Additions and Departures
It used to be that the Lakers were a destination - the place everyone wanted to be. It was obvious in recent years that that had changed, but only this summer did it become clear just how much. Timofey Mozgov is only barely serviceable, and the Lakers gave him easily the worst contract doled out during this summer of ridiculous contracts - four years and $64 million. They overpaid for Luol Deng as well - four years and $72 million. They can afford it because of all the cheap young players they have, but it's still not an ideal situation. Aside from those two they added Jose Calderon, who was easily the worst starting point guard in the league last year, in a trade. Deng is still a solid player who will contribute defensively, but it's hard to get too excited about this addition of talent.
Aside from Bryant, departures include Metta World Peace, Roy Hibbert, Brandon Bass, Robert Sacre and Ryan Kelly.
Ingram was the obvious prize of the draft - he could just as easily have gone first as second. He was one of two picks, though. They also took Ivica Zubac in the second round. He's a 7-foot-1 Croatian center who has been playing pro in Europe and will be joining the Lakers now. He's obviously very raw and will have to be brought along slowly.
2016 Los Angeles Lakers Futures Odds and Trends
You could make a lot of money betting games the Lakers played in last year. They were 36-46 ATS, so there was no team more profitable to bet against. They also went "under" the total 44 times and "over" just 37, so they were quite profitable there as well.
Los Angeles Lakers Futures Odds (from Bovada)
NBA title odds : +20000
Western Conference title odds : +15000
Brandon Ingram MVP Odds : +650 (second best)
Brandon Ingram ROY Odds : +30000
Season win total (from Westgate): 24.5
2016 Los Angeles Lakers Predictions and Futures Odds Picks
This is a team moving very much in the right direction - for the first time in a long time. It would be a major mistake to assume, though, that anything is going to happen quickly. The core of this team is so very young, and it is going to take time for them to adapt to a new system and determine what they have to do to win in this league. The mindset for Walton this year has to be to basically ignore wins and losses and only focus on those fundamentals that will help the team build to a brighter future. That depends on Walton being a good coach, but that's a good risk. I suspect that they will play hard and lose plenty. Last place in the division will be theirs again, but it will be a much more positive result than last year.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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