• It may sound strange to say about a team that won just 17 games, but the Lakers accomplished much of what they hoped to in 2015-16.  Yes, the games themselves were ugly affairs, but the Lakers were able to put themselves in an excellent position to keep their pick while celebrating Kobe in a way that guaranteed interest in meaningless games.  Hoop Ball’s Post-Mortem series takes a look at what happened in Los Angeles.


    There are really two sides to this Lakers’ season: the development of their young core and the Kobe farewell tour.  The two did not always coexist harmoniously, as Byron Scott struggled to balance catering to a legend while also moving the franchise forward.

    Scott’s task was not an enviable one, as very few coaches would be able to juggle the (sometimes) competing interests of Kobe, the Buss family, and GM Mitch Kupchak, but his performance was subpar at best.  Journeymen played heavy minutes while D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle road the pine in crunch time, and Kobe was given carte blanche to shoot despite averaging the worst field-goal percentage of any player who took at least 10 shots per game.  The Lakers couldn’t hit or defend the 3-ball, and opposing point-guards practically walked their way into the paint.

    All that being said, this season also gave Lakers fans cause for hope.  Scott was unceremoniously ousted, and the team’s lineup of potential replacement coaches is promising.  More importantly, the Lakers’ young guns showed real signs of brilliance as the season progressed: Russell evolved as scorer and distributor, Clarkson built on a promising rookie campaign, and Randle demonstrated that he has at least one NBA-level skill (rebounding).  Put it all together and there’s a lot to like, despite the fact that all of these developments took place on the margins of Kobe’s send-off.

    The franchise will begin its search for its coach of the future this offseason.  Whoever accepts the job does inherit a very interesting situation, as Russell, Clarkson, Randle, and a likely top-3 pick form an intriguing core, especially with the added advantage of the L.A. media market.  With Kobe finally riding off into the sunset, a new chapter can begin in Southern California.


    Scott was disastrous over the last two seasons, even beyond finishing with the two lowest win totals in franchise history.  He was unforgivably stubborn, refusing to adapt tactically to the modern NBA and – as previously mentioned – ignoring the obvious needs of a rebuilding franchise.  Russell and Randle were repeatedly benched or squeezed in the rotation in reaction to rookie mistakes, and Scott showed an unwillingness to balance growth and accountability with his young core.  In fact, after losing his starting spot halfway through the season Russell commented to the media on the lack of feedback and coaching he’d received from Scott.

    Moreover, the extent to which Kobe played exactly when and how he wanted to was staggering.  Perhaps no coach could have curtailed the Mamba in his final season, and maybe no coach should have tried in the midst of Kobe’s send-off, but the ripple effect was palpable.  How could other players be held accountable for their own shot selection while Kobe launched 19-foot fade-away after fade-away?  With Kobe now off the books, the Lakers’ next coach will have to build a new foundational system on both sides of the ball, as little of value is left from the Scott era.


    Kobe Bryant

    ADP: 63/68 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 176/205 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 147/193 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 64

    I don’t want to troll Kobe supporters, but this has to be said: Kobe was one of the more toxic fantasy players to own in 2015-16.  No player harmed your field goal percentage more this year, as Kobe scored 17 points on 16.4 shots per game for a putrid 35.4% from the floor.  While players below Kobe on the player rater may have contributed less in raw stat totals, Kobe actively took owners out of contention in field goal percentage.

    Outside of his shooting woes, Kobe averaged a fine – but unremarkable – 3.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.9 threes, 0.9 steals and 1.9 turnovers.  If he had shot better from the floor Kobe could have been considered an option in standard leagues, but there wasn’t any real statistical payoff for his horrendous field goal percentage.

    This season marked a sad end for one of fantasy’s all-time greats.  It feels like NBA eons have passed, but as recently as 2012-13 Kobe was a top-10 fantasy option.  At his apex, Kobe was a dominant scorer who contributed in nearly every category.  While his final game in Utah felt like a fitting conclusion, much of this season was simply a painful reminder of what Kobe once was.

    Jordan Clarkson

    ADP:  96/125 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 77/82 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 98/105 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 79

    It probably says more about the Lakers than Clarkson that he was their best all-around fantasy contributor this season.  Ouch.  That said, Clarkson did build on his surprising rookie campaign, averaging 15.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.4 treys.  He also didn’t hurt you anywhere, shooting a respectable 43% from the floor and 80% from the line.  Even with a sizeable increase in minutes, Clarkson also proved himself durable, playing 79 games this year.

    Clarkson’s assists were down from his rookie season, but I would attribute that more to Kobe’s usage rate than either Clarkson’s performance or sharing some ball-handling duties with D’Angelo Russell.  The dimes should return to his rookie average at the very least, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he actually averaged four or more per game in his third season in 2016-17.  Just as importantly, Clarkson proved that his low turnover totals from 2014-15 weren’t merely a product of limited minutes, as he averaged 1.7 in 32.3 minutes over the course of this season.  That’s a perfectly respectable number from a lead guard, making Clarkson an attractive utility guard in both eight and nine-category formats.

    D’Angelo Russell

    ADP: 96/103 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 88/137 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 115/172 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 78

    What a bizarre season for Russell. I suppose you could replace his name with that of any Laker in that sentence, but the narrative on Russell seemed to change constantly.  In July he was the savior of the franchise, this winter he was declared a bust, then he was a traitor to his teammates (ridiculous), and then looked like a stud as the season ended.  Obviously, most fans were more nuanced in their assessment than those sweeping takes, but it did seem like the team, fans and media kept moving the goalposts on Russell.

    For fantasy purposes, Russell excites me more than any other Laker going forward.  In the season’s last two months, Scott finally gave Russell 33 or more minutes a night, and the young guard responded admirably with averages of 15.4 ppg, three rpg, three apg, 1.3 spg and 1.8 3pg.  He still shot below 40% from the floor, but he flashed his exceptional potential by lighting it up from distance and making play after play in the pick-and-roll. Next season, without Kobe and hopefully in a better scheme, it isn’t difficult to imagine Russell jumping into the top-50 on draft day.

    Julius Randle

    ADP: 105/125 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 105/129 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 139/164 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 79

    Taken at first blush, Randle emerged in 2015-16 as a double-double machine, putting up 11.3 points and 10.2 boards in only 28.2 minutes per contest.  That said, Randle didn’t offer much beyond empty calorie stats, and was actively harmful in two categories: field goal percentage and turnovers.  While neither of his averages in these areas will jumps out at you, 43% from the floor and 1.8 turnovers are absolutely devastating from a big man.

    Perhaps more harmful for fantasy the pre-draft concerns about Randle’s wingspan were realized, as he offered little in the way of steals (0.7 per game) and was an abysmal rim protector (0.4 blocks per game).  Perhaps with a more consistent role and minutes Randle will flash more in 2016-17, but he has a long way to go before he can be counted on as more than a late-round flier.

    Lou Williams

    ADP: 117/120 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 121/134 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 105/106 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 67

    Williams put up nearly identical counting stats to Clarkson, but barely averaged 40 percent from the floor, deflating his value to end-of-bench status in fantasy.  Still, he contributed enough in most categories to keep himself ownable, averaging 15.3 points, 2.5 boards, 2.5 rebounds,  0.9 steals, and 1.6 threes.  Williams is under contract for the next two seasons, and will likely remain L.A.’s sixth-man in 2016-17.  However, a new coach will likely feel pressure to develop the Lakers’ young core, so Williams could see a dip in minutes next year.

    Roy Hibbert

    ADP: 112/103 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 147/131 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 195/171 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 79

    Coming into this season I advocated drafting Hibbert as a cheap source of blocks who wouldn’t kill your free throw percentage, and for the first two months he looked ready to exceed those expectations.  Unfortunately, Hibbert again faded over the second half of the season, finishing with averages of six points, 4.9 boards, 0.4 steals, and 1.3 blocks.  He also continued to struggle from the field, making just 44% of his shots (a laughable number for a man standing taller than seven feet), and will again be a low-end option at best in standard leagues next fall.

    Brandon Bass

    ADP: 140/136 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 177/139 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 176/138 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 66

    Bass had yet another impressive but unheralded season in 2015-16, but he still couldn’t make his way on to the standard league radar.  Averaging 20.3 minutes, 7.2 points, 4.3 boards, 1.1 treys, 0.5 steals and 0.8 blocks per game, he showed his ability to produce solid counting stats without sacrificing anything in the percentage categories.   Playing time was the only issue.  On April 20th Bass opted out of his contract with LA, and will need to find more minutes in his next stop in order to be relevant in most fantasy leagues.

    Larry Nance

    ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 214/198 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 212/181 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 61

    Nance was another victim of Scott’s stubborn rotations, as the rookie averaged just 20.1 minutes per game this season (and less than that for most of the first half).  Nance flashed some real upside in his limited minutes, though, averaging 5.5 points, five rebounds, 0.9 steals and 0.4 blocks.  A bump in minutes could make him an intriguing option in his sophomore campaign.

    Nick Young

    ADP: 140/133 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 317/312 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 339/325 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 54

    Despite being drafted outside of the top-100 players, you could argue Nick Young was the biggest bust in fantasy this season.  There isn’t much to say, as Young contributed more to asinine stories off the court than he did for the Lakers on the floor.  He averaged just 7.3 points, 1.8 boards, 0.6 assists (yikes!) and 1.4 threes on truly horrendous shooting numbers.  Let’s move on.

    Tarik Black

    ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 353/344 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 345/337 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 37

    Tarik showed flashes this season as a defensive contributor, as he averaged 3.4 points, 3.9 boards, 0.3 steals, and 0.4 blocks in only 12.5 minutes per game.  He currently isn’t on the standard league radar, but could be worth watching if he ever earns consistent playing time.


    So many questions still linger for the Lakers.  Who will coach the team in 2016-17?  Can Clarkson and Russell co-exist long term?  Who will they be able to add this summer?  This team could look significantly different next year than they did this season.  How the Lakers build their roster will be fascinating to watch, and the development of their promising young core will be a key story next year.  As it emerges from Kobe’s shadow, the Lakers’ franchise of the next decade will begin to take shape.

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