The Los Angeles Lakers have had a talent drought in recent years, lacking big-time performers who could take the place of an aging Kobe Bryant and lead the team to victory. While they haven’t managed to reel in a superstar-level talent in free agency like they hoped, the Lakers have managed to put together an interesting combination of high-character veterans and young players dripping with potential.
However, that doesn’t mean that the team is completely devoid of players who will make a difference this season. To that point, recently-signed forward Luol Deng ended up at number 60 on Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 Players of 2017 list, which attempts to predict the league’s most impactful players of the coming season. SI’s Rob Mahoney succinctly broke down Deng’s pros and cons:
The power forward’s evolution in the modern NBA has made the position a safe haven for aging wings like Deng. Realistically, there are only so many big-bodied fours who could really give Deng trouble. The rest are right in his range: largely perimeter oriented but a step slower than the shooting guards and small forwards Deng checked for the bulk of his career. His positional shift last season in Miami worked to extend his career. Teams know what they can expect from Deng. Every defensive possession—even those that are ultimately fruitless—will be hard-fought. Every offensive task will be executed cleanly. There are clear limits to what Deng can do at this stage, though the reliability he brings to a system is an asset in itself.
It’s certainly interesting that SI opts to list Deng as a power forward rather than a small forward. He did revitalize his career last season in Miami by sliding down to the four spot, but with the Lakers already employing Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr. there, it seems likely that Deng will spend most of his minutes next season at his old position of small forward.
Unfortunately, Deng is the only Lakers player to make it into the top 100, though they figure to have more next year when their young core has had a chance to prove themselves without Bryant,