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13 LAKERS

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Name a star to hit free agency sometime in the next two years, and there's a rumor linking him to the Lakers. But in the middle of all this smoke, there are two players who can create fire in Los Angeles.

Lonzo Ball will be tested every night by guards gunning for his head—thanks, Dad!—and it won't be easy to live up to the considerable hype. Still, if Ball's passing gifts translate to the NBA, he'll be creating easy looks for teammates all over the floor.

Then there's Brandon Ingram. He struggled to get comfortable as a rail-thin rookie on a 26-win team, but he still checks every box for a modern All-Star. He can guard multiple positions at 6'9", and he's got vision as a passer, a decent handle, good athleticism. His shooting is a different story. Ingram made just 29.4% of his three-point attempts last year. If his accuracy catches up with all the other tools this year, he'll become the sort of improving-every-month young star who makes life easier for the rest of the roster.

The Lakers won't make the postseason in 2018, but that's not the point. If the young players can show enough this year to attract help over summer, that will be when the real fun begins.

PROJECTED LINEUP

2016--17 STATS

COACH LUKE WALTON

(2nd season with Lakers)

2016--17 RECORD 26--56

(4th in Pacific)

PG LONZO BALL [ROOKIE, COLLEGE STATS]

14.6 PPG; 7.6 APG; 55.1 FG%; 41.2 3FG%

99 [THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING]

SG KENTAVIOUS CALDWELL-POPE [NEW ACQUISITION]

13.8 PPG; 3.3 RPG; 39.9 FG%; 35.0 3FG%

SF BRANDON INGRAM

9.4 PPG; 4.0 RPG; 2.1 APG; 40.2 FG%

94 [THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING]

PF JULIUS RANDLE

13.2 PPG; 8.6 RPG; 3.6 APG; 48.8 FG%

45 [THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING]

C BROOK LOPEZ [NEW ACQUISITION]

20.5 PPG; 5.4 RPG; 47.4 FG%; 34.6 3FG%

BENCH

SG JORDAN CLARKSON

14.7 PPG; 2.6 APG; 44.5 FG%; 32.9 3FG%

SF LUOL DENG

7.6 PPG; 5.3 RPG; 1.3 APG; 38.7 FG%

PF LARRY NANCE JR.

7.1 PPG; 5.9 RPG; 1.5 APG; 52.6 FG%

• THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING

*NEW ACQUISITION

(R) ROOKIE, COLLEGE STATS

ENEMY LINES

A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP LOS ANGELES

The worst is over. LONZO BALL gives them real momentum, and they've got legitimately intriguing young guys.... They'll have one of the worst defenses in the league again. They'll just try to outscore you and make it a track meet.... Ball is my favorite for Rookie of the Year. I don't think he'll be better than a hot-and-cold shooter, but I'd rather have Ball than Ben Simmons or Markelle Fultz to start a franchise. Ball has that old-school feel. He does more for his team than other young prospects, and he fits cleanly into lineups. It's not crazy to say he could finish in the top five in assists.... I like the KENTAVIOUS CALDWELL-POPE signing for two reasons: Ball's passing and tempo should help him slide into a more comfortable offensive role, and Caldwell-Pope's defense should really help cover for Ball.... BRANDON INGRAM is a great breakout candidate because all eyes are going to be on Ball. LUKE WALTON made Ingram earn his starting spot last year; he earned it, and he's ready for more. His confidence is growing and he's got a deep package of moves. We might still be one year away from him being a show-stopper.... This is a gigantic year for JULIUS RANDLE. I'm still not convinced he's going to get it. He's not a good team defender. He can't shoot. He doesn't play above interior defenders. I don't think he can grow out of some of those limitations. All of Randle's best plays come in the open court. When the game slows down in the playoffs, what does he do for you?.... KYLE KUZMA looked like a steal in Summer League. His shooting and energy were exciting.

TELLING 29.4 STATISTIC

BOTTOM LINE

They'll be in development mode for one more year, and if Ball's play can attract free agents, watch out.