Over the coming weeks, we at FanSided will do a team-by-team breakdown of each NBA franchise’s fantasy prospects for the 2017-18 season. Let’s continue today with the Los Angeles Lakers.
After suffering through the worst four-year stretch in franchise history, the Los Angeles Lakers appear ready to surge back up the Western Conference standings. That’s welcome news for fantasy basketball owners, who suddenly have no shortage of top-100 options at their disposal in Hollywood.
New Lakers team president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka didn’t take long to begin making their imprint on the team, as they sent D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets in the days leading up to the 2017 NBA draft in exchange for Brook Lopez and the No. 27 overall pick. With Russell gone, the Lakers embraced the seemingly inevitable and selected UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball second overall, turning the franchise over to him from the get-go.
Their offseason makeover didn’t end there, though, as they found themselves in position to take advantage of the Detroit Pistons’ faux pas. When Detroit rescinded its rights to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the Lakers swooped in with a one-year, $18 million deal, giving KCP the big-money offer he desired while preserving cap space for their possible free-agent jackpot in 2018. When L.A. heads into training camp this fall, it will likely have three new players (Ball, Caldwell-Pope and Lopez) joining Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle in its starting lineup.
Which Lakers players should fantasy owners target with early-, mid- and late-round picks, and who should be left on the waiver wire? Let’s take a look.
Brook Lopez, C: Throughout Lopez’s first eight NBA seasons, he hit a grand total of three triples on 31 attempts. This past year, he erupted for 134 three-pointers on 387 attempts, as new Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson encouraged him to begin letting fly from deep. That newfound long-range shot caused him to shoot a career-worst 47.4 percent from the field, but with averages of 20.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.8 treys and 1.7 blocks, Lopez finished as the 40th-ranked player on a per-game basis in nine-category leagues. Since the 29-year-old will be the Lakers’ plan B for free agency next summer if their LeBron James and Paul George dream falls through, expect him to carve out a significant role this season, making him a worthy late fourth- or early fifth-round pick.
Lonzo Ball, PG: If the early drafts on ESPN.com are any indication, you’ll have to reach if you want Ball on your roster this year. As of this writing, the UCLA floor general has an average draft position of 46.7, ahead of established point guards such as Jrue Holiday, Ricky Rubio and Elfrid Payton. While Ball’s stellar summer-league performance seemingly portends greatness in his imminent future, it’s important to remember rookie point guards often struggle when thrown into the NBA fire. Owners who expect him to replicate the 16.3 points, 9.3 assists and 7.7 rebounds he averaged during his six-game stint in Las Vegas are setting themselves up for disappointment. As such, he’s more of a ninth- or 10th-round pick rather than a sixth- or seventh-rounder.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG: Though Caldwell-Pope’s inability to secure a big-money, long-term deal this summer is bad news for his bank account, it’s great news for fantasy owners. Heading into a contract year, he’ll have enormous incentive to put up career-best numbers, as it would give him more ammunition in contract negotiations next summer. KCP finished as the 104th-ranked player on a per-game basis in nine-category leagues last season despite shooting only 39.9 percent overall, as his contributions in 3-pointers (2.0) and steals (1.2) helped salvage his fantasy value. With a dazzling passer like Ball feeding him the rock this season, don’t be surprised if Caldwell-Pope sets a new career high in field-goal percentage, making him worth a look in the ninth or 10th rounds.
Brandon Ingram, PF: Ingram was a resounding fantasy disappointment during his rookie campaign, as his averages of 9.4 points on 40.2 percent shooting, 4.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 0.7 triples in 28.8 minutes made him a non-factor in standard leagues. Despite those struggles, the Lakers reportedly considered the Duke product “untouchable” in trade talks this offseason, according to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. With the Lakers embracing their youth movement head-on, Ingram should be a fixture in the starting lineup from opening night, relegating Luol Deng to a permanent reserve role. The rail-thin forward may not replicate his scoring production from college this season, but his ability to be an all-around contributor makes him a fringe top-100 option.
Julius Randle, PF: Randle is entering a make-or-break season with the Lakers, as he could be a victim of the team’s free-agent aspirations next summer. After looking like a rich man’s Kenneth Faried as a sophomore, the Kentucky product displayed more well-roundedness this past season, as he chipped in 3.6 assists to go with 13.2 points and 8.6 rebounds in just 28.8 minutes per game. His lack of steals (0.7), blocks (0.5) and 3-pointers (0.2) keeps his fantasy value in check, however, as evidenced by his 131st-place finish on a per-game basis in nine-category leagues last year. With Larry Nance Jr. and Kyle Kuzma breathing down his neck for playing time, he’ll have a hard time returning positive value on his 70.8 ADP from early ESPN.com leagues, but a breakout season could make him a strong ninth- or 10th-round pick.
Jordan Clarkson, PG: Like Randle, Clarkson could find himself squeezed out next summer once the Lakers begin carving out cap space to land two big-name free agents. In the meantime, he’ll look to build upon his 148th-place finish on a per-game basis in nine-category leagues last season, as he didn’t make enough of an impact in any one category to stand out. With a slight uptick in scoring, three-pointers, assists or steals, Clarkson will have no trouble justifying a late-round selection, and he has little established competition battling him for backcourt minutes off the bench. If you can acquire him around the 13th round, he’ll have a reasonable chance of returning positive value on your investment.
Tyler Ennis, PG
Briante Weber, PG
Josh Hart, SG
Corey Brewer, SF
Luol Deng, SF
Larry Nance Jr., PF
Kyle Kuzma, PF
Ivica Zubac, C
Thomas Bryant, C
Sleeper: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Bust: Lonzo Ball
Other team breakdowns
Atlanta Hawks | Boston Celtics | Brooklyn Nets | Charlotte Hornets | Chicago Bulls | Cleveland Cavaliers | Dallas Mavericks | Denver Nuggets | Golden State Warriors | Houston Rockets | Indiana Pacers | Los Angeles Clippers
All average draft position info via FantasyPros unless otherwise noted. All rankings via Basketball Monster are based on nine-category leagues.