The L.A. Times Sports staff revealed the results of that ambitious question. Their experts only looked at players who played at least 100 games with the franchise. Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, and Shaquille O’Neal topped the list. One player who felt like he was shorted, however, was Nick “Swaggy P” Young. He tweeted: “The hate is real why ya’ll hate me but love me..” after the results of the poll were posted online.
Magic Johnson is the greatest Laker. In the franchise’s 75 years of existence, one doesn’t need to see a no-look pass to understand he is clearly the only choice. In a poll conducted in conjunction with the Lakers’ 75th birthday, five of the six experts on The Los Angeles Times panel voted Johnson as the greatest Lakers player, with the sixth expert choosing Kobe Bryant, who is a worthy selection but not quite the basketball equal of Magic. They were both so great that they will be forever known only by their first names — and so it shall be in this column — but there are some slight differences.
In January of 2022, HoopsHype polled 15 NBA executives and asked them to rank their top five players under 25 years old by the start of the NBA season to build around. We have repeated the exercise ahead of the 2022-23 season. Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic was the unanimous first choice among the NBA executives polled, while Evan Mobley and Anthony Edwards were two of the top risers.
Conversely, Williamson got a whopping 72.3 percent of the vote when fans were asked which player is the most important one on the roster this season. The love might not be quite where it was in the past because of his elongated absences, but the fanbase in New Orleans still knows how much of a special talent he is. It seems they are tired of waiting for him to show it throughout an entire season without injuries.
According to this poll, Pels fans wouldn’t be totally against a return to the Play-In Tournament, but they have much bigger dreams than that. More than 57 percent of respondents said anything short of a second-round berth would be an unsuccessful season. That’s a high bar to reach for a team that barely reached the postseason last year, but it’s not surprising considering the talent on the roster. I think the 30.4 percent of voters who said making it back to the first round will be good enough are a little more practical. However, this is what comes with all the hype surrounding this team since the end of the season.
This past season, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert was voted by the media as Defensive Player of the Year for the third time in four seasons — and Gobert won the award by a landslide over Simmons, who was the runner-up. Gobert captured 84 first-place votes to Simmons’ 15 and garnered 464 total points to Simmons’ 287. The Athletic’s survey indicates that coaches regard Simmons as the better defender, although not by much. Simmons received seven first-place votes to Gobert’s five, with Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green receiving the other first-place vote. Simmons finished with 50 total points in the vote we conducted, followed by Gobert, who compiled 40. Green placed third, with nine points.
He has so much to work on offensively to start pulling his weight as a max player, but as a defender, it’s hard to find a weakness in him. “I know Gobert is Gobert and he blocks a lot of shots and does everything, but Simmons is so disruptive,” one coach told us as he explained his Defensive Player of the Year vote. “You can’t go wrong with either guy, but the versatility with Simmons is what put him over the top for me.”