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NBA scouts offer opinions about Lakers

Lakers forward Metta World Peace works in the post against the Warriors during the fourth quarter of an exhibition game at Honda Center on Oct. 22.

Lakers forward Metta World Peace works in the post against the Warriors during the fourth quarter of an exhibition game at Honda Center on Oct. 22.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
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With the Lakers preparing to open the regular season Wednesday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center, a couple of Western Conference NBA scouts who requested anonymity offered their opinion on the team’s prospects for the 2015-16 season.

The two scouts noticed a big difference in the Lakers’ approach when Kobe Bryant was on the court versus when he sat out the last three exhibition games with a bruised lower left leg. Lakers Coach Byron Scott said Bryant will play Wednesday.

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“They’re scared. They play in fear,” one scout said. “That’s just the way it’s going to be. Kobe has to have the ball. Now when the game comes, Kobe is still competitive and he wants to prove himself. The ball moved better when he wasn’t on the court in the preseason.”

“They play better without him,” the other scout said. “They are more free. They’re juiced. They’re not uptight. They’re not worried about messing up if somebody looks at them crazy. And everybody -- Everybody! -- touches the ball more when Kobe is not playing.

“He’s Kobe. He’s going to get his touches. He’s going to shoot it. You can’t get away from it. Until he’s gone, that’s just how it’s going to be.”

One of the scouts said the Lakers’ young players -- Julius Randle, 20, D’Angelo Russell, 19, and Jordan Clarkson, 23 -- have a bright future.

“I think they are the future for the Lakers, but I still think they need a veteran in there,” the scout said. “I like Clarkson. I love his aggressiveness. He’s elevated into a pretty decent shooter. And I really like Randle talent-wise. He’s a little undersized four (power forward). But his quickness and athleticism is unmatched. I think he gets in a hurry sometimes. But once he learns how to slow down, I think he’s going to be a beast. D’Angelo, he’s still trying to find his way. I think the talent is there. I’m just not sold on him yet. From what I’ve seen, I’m not convinced that he’s ready yet. But he’s got to play to develop.”

One scout said the Lakers seem to still be trying to figure out who is best suited to be the starting point guard, the rookie Russell or second-year player Clarkson.

“They’ve still got to figure out who is going to be their leader,” the scout said. “Is it going to be Jordan Clarkson? Is it going to be D’Angelo? Well, what you’ve got to do is play both of those guys together and they have to play off each other. It’s just a hard mix of great guys. I think they are going to have some chemistry issues.”

When asked whether the Lakers stood a chance of making the playoffs in the powerful Western Conference, one of the scouts didn’t see how it would be possible.

“If everything went right for them, if they stayed healthy all season and Kobe played like he has in the past and Roy Hibbert plays outstanding and the young players play like All-Stars, I still don’t see them in the playoffs,” the scout said. “The West is just too tough and the Lakers just aren’t good enough.”

broderick.turner@latimes.com

Twitter: @BA_Turner

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