THIS JUST-IN: The Next Great Laker

Justin Prakaiphetkul, Asst. Sports Editor

In six out of eight decades since the dawn of the NBA, the Los Angeles Lakers have always had at least one superstar carry the team to glory. Whether it was with the late great George Mikan, Magic and Kareem, or Shaq and Kobe, the Lakers have remained relevant through the years, missing the playoffs only ten times in their illustrious history.

Although the current Lakers feature a young core of talented players, for the first time since 1992, they have found themselves without a clear-cut superstar for an extended period of time. Though the team plans to pursue two top-level players this summer, there is no guarantee that they will be able to sign even one.

With that said, the Lakers currently have three players who I believe have the potential to fill the team’s superstar void down the line: Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma.

The player who I believe has the most potential to become the face of the Lakers is Ingram. Comparing Ingram’s play this year to his inaugural season, it is clear that he has improved in every facet of his game. He has grown the most in terms of his ability to score in the paint, as well as his playmaking.

Despite the fact that Ingram’s physique is the equivalent of a toothpick, he has been much better at finishing with contact. His lengthy wingspan allows him to score over many players and put back misses with relative ease. He’s also improved his isolation game, which should allow him to flourish on a consistent basis in his prime.

Additionally, his ability to read the floor as a passer, for a second-year small forward, is remarkable. With Ball suffering a knee injury in mid-January, the team’s point guard duties were relegated to Ingram. Luckily, he showed he was more than capable of directing the team’s offense and led the team to a 9-7 record in Ball’s absence.

Another potential face of the Lakers is the aforementioned Ball. If you ignore his horrific shooting percentages, Ball has been impressive as a rookie.

Lonzo’s court vision is without a doubt his strongest strength, as his knack for setting up his teammates for open looks is rare for a player of his age. Ball’s ability to grab rebounds and play solid defense for a player with his frame is also impressive. These three aspects of his game make it seem as though he is involved in every play on the floor.

If Ingram and Ball find their touch on the perimeter and gain more strength, the two should be able to become perennial all-stars.

Kuzma also deserves to have his name in the conversation as to who will be Kobe Bryant’s successor. Kuzma’s scoring prowess has been nothing short of impressive. He has an array of moves, including a running skyhook and a smooth post fadeaway, that would make Kareem and Kobe proud.

Unlike Ingram and Ball, the man behind Kuzmania has proven that he can knockdown perimeter shots on a consistent basis. Kuzma’s offensive game gives him the potential to be a deadly threat on that end of the floor. If Kuzma can continue to improve his shot selection and defense, he will be an unstoppable force for the purple and gold.

The Lakers’ front office will certainly try their hardest to bring in two all-stars this summer. If they are able to do so, the team should be set to compete for a Top 5 seed in the wild West. However, if the team is unable to bring in such talent, Lakers fans should not be upset, as they can continue to watch Ingram, Ball and Kuzma grow into future stars.