The Los Angeles Lakers were having a terrific season before the coronavirus outbreak, with the best record in the West (49-14), playing great basketball, defeating their biggest rivals for the NBA championship before the league suspended the season. They were doing great, but they had to make some big moves to reach that level.
Five years ago, if somebody told you LeBron James and Anthony Davis were sharing touches at the Staples Center, nobody would believe it. Well, this season that happened, and Bron with AD were set to take this team to the promised land. If we take a look back, during the 2015/16 season, the Lakers were awful, recording their worst record in franchise history.
Today, we’re going to take a look at the evolution of the Lakers. How they went from being one of the worst teams in the league to become the highest-ranked in the West this year. These are the Lakers starting lineups in the past five seasons.
2015/16 Starting Lineup: D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Kobe Bryant, Julius Randle, Roy Hibbert
This was Kobe Bryant’s final season in the NBA after he announced his retirement. Kobe had to lead a young team with some veterans who were expected to bring something good to the squad. They drafted D’Angelo Russell, who instantly became their starting point guard, Larry Nance, and Anthony Brown.
This team finished the season with a 17-65 record, the worst in their rich history, breaking the record they had set the last season. The Lakers had a 10-game losing streak that season, and it’s fair to say the only good thing about that team was Kobe’s final game, where he dropped 60 points on the Utah Jazz. This NBA season is widely considered as the best ever, but not precisely for the Lakers.
2016/17 Starting Lineup: D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram, Larry Nance Jr., Julius Randle
Here is where the post-Kobe Bryant era became, and things improved a little for the Lakers. However, not enough to get them a playoffs berth. That season they drafted Brandon Ingram and Ivica Zubac, two players seen with good eyes by the organization and fans as soon as they landed in Los Angeles.
That term, the Lakers suffered their worst loss in franchise history, when the Dallas Mavericks dominated with a 122-73 victory in Dallas. Luke Walton stepped in as the team’s new head coach, improving last season’s record to 26-56. Off-court controversies were the main event for the Lakers that campaign, including the infamous, leaked Snapchat video of Nick Young and D’Angelo Russell. At the end of that season, both players were traded.
2017/18 Starting Lineup: Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Brook Lopez
This season was expected to be the beginning of something good for the Lakers. They had the second overall pick in the NBA draft, which they used to select Lonzo Ball from UCLA. Lonzo was seen as a future star during that season, the next big thing for the Purple and Gold. Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart were drafted with him.
Things continued improving for the Lakers that term, but they still were unable to make it to the playoffs. In Luke Walton’s second season in front of the team, they recorded a 37-45 record, better than the past two seasons, but still not enough to actually compete in the Western Conference. Moreover, with the hopes they had in their young players, this appeared to be the beginning of something good for them.
2018/19 Starting Lineup: Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma, JaVale McGee
This is when the LeBron James era started for the Lakers. Last season the Purple and Gold hoped to experience a major improvement after signing the future Hall of Famer, who penned a 4-year, $156 million contract in the summer of 2018. Things started really well for the Lakers, having a 20-14 record at some point, but everything fell apart when several starters went down with injuries, including LeBron.
They only won 2 games more than the prior season, which led the team’s front office to make major changes in the offseason. The Lakers finished the season with a 37-45 record, which meant the first time LeBron James missed the playoffs since 2005. After that season was finished, Magic Johnson stepped down as president of basketball operations, while Luke Walton and the team agreed to part ways a couple of days after that. However, when everything seemed lost for the Purple and Gold, they worked their magic.
2019/20 Starting Lineup: LeBron James, Avery Bradley, Danny Green, Anthony Davis, JaVale McGee
Last offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers looked somehow lost after Magic Johnson left, with Rob Pelinka taking the reins of the team as president of basketball operations. They agreed to send a package of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and draft picks (including the No. 4 overall selection in 2019) to New Orleans in exchange for Anthony Davis, who wanted out of the Pelicans.
They tried to recruit Kawhi Leonard in free agency, but he decided to join the Clippers instead. Still, they put together a very good group of players that were doing a terrific job before the season was suspended in the middle of March. The Lakers were boasting a 49-14 record, the best in the West, while defeating big rivals to show they were the best team in the association without any question.
They were seen as the biggest favorites to win the championship before the season started. The development of the 2019/20 season only confirmed they were set to bring the Larry O’Brien trophy home once again. Now we’re not 100% sure if the league will renew the season at some point due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Lakers were having a big moment and it would be a shame for their fans to see all that lost due to external factors.