As we all know Kobe Bryant will be retiring at this year’s end. The 37-year-old has played for the Los Angeles Lakers all 20 years of his legendary NBA career. How will the Lakers adjust to Kobe not being on their team for the first time since 1996?
Kobe has career stats of 25 points and 4.7 assists per game while shooting .448 percent from the field. One thing we all know for sure, he likes to shoot. Kobe has always been the guy that the team played through. He took the game-winning shots. He wanted the ball in his hands A LOT. In his final season, his stats have been poor; averaging just 16.8 points and 3.1 assists per game on just .356 percent shooting. But I mean… He is 37. Cut him some slack.
He’s adjusted his game a bit in his final season, kind of giving the youngsters a chance to show what they’re made of. With the lowest scoring average since his sophomore season, this would cause the young players like Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, or rookie D’Angelo Russell to take some of the scoring load off his back.
Speaking of D’Angelo Russell, once Kobe is gone, he needs to take over this team. The Lakers drafted the 19-year-old from Ohio State for a reason, to be their point guard of the future. This season he’s averaging 13.5 points, 3.5 assists, and 3.5 rebounds per game as a rookie.
D’Angelo needs to fill the void that Kobe leaves behind. That’s not an easy task for anybody to do, but I believe he can do it over time. He will be a star in this league one day, I believe; and having this season to be mentored and to be put under Kobe’s wing helps him tremendously.
Fans were skeptical when the Lakers drafted Russell second overall over Jahlil Okafor in this past year’s NBA Draft. Many thought the combination of Julius Randle and Jahlil Okafor would’ve been deadly and difficult to handle in the years to come. But the Lakers knew what they were doing when drafting Russell. They knew this guy was going to be the one to replace the Mamba.
With Kobe gone, that’s 16 shots per game that will be spread out to everybody on the team. The Lakers will also be heavy hitters in free agency this year and will be looking to spend every penny of the $25 million they won’t be paying Kobe next season. They’ll look to target guys like Demar Derozan, Hassan Whiteside, Harrison Barnes, and smaller role players like Kevin Durant (joking). They will be a team this offseason that will be handing out max contracts since they can afford to do so. Landing a big free agent is something Lakers’ fans always say is going to happen, but never does. This offseason is the one where the Lakers need to finally sign a big-name free agent with the projected $49 million in cap space they’ll have. And with Kobe gone, it will be more enticing for stars to join this young squad this offseason.
The Lakers will be looking to bring in a big-name player and an immediate game-changer, but don’t be mistaken; D’Angelo Russell is the future of this team. He’ll be the face of the franchise in the years to come and has the potential to be a star in this league. I’m excited to see what D’Angelo does and how he elevates his game with Kobe off the team. Expect him to be a big scorer and facilitator for this young Lakers’ team in the years to come.