The Los Angeles Lakers are headed toward the end of their fourth losing season without a playoff appearance. The last half decade has been forgettable, to say the least with the storied franchise in unfamiliar territory rebuilding through the NBA Draft while also unable to substantially upgrade the roster through NBA free agency.
With so much trade speculation around the NBA trade deadline last month involving the Lakers, it would be safe to assume the new regime in the front office may be looking to make a blockbuster over the summer. Big-name players like Paul George and Jimmy Butler could become available, but in order to get one of these star players, the Lakers brass will almost certainly have to break up its promising young core.
In this week Lakers Nation roundtable, we expect the prospect of the team making a major trade in the offseason and which players of the young core should be expendable:
If the Lakers make a trade this summer, which player(s) of the team’s young core need to go?
Here’s what our expert panel had to say:
Daniel Starkand (@DStarkand)
The lack of passion and effort in recent weeks out of the Lakers young core has left Laker fans, and possibly the front office, wondering if this group of players is going to be the group that turns the franchise around, or if some or all need to be traded for an established star.
For me, the only young players that I would not want to trade are Brandon Ingram and Ivica Zubac. Everyone else is fair game for me in the right deal. The player I would be most willing to trade is Julius Randle.
Randle has shown flashes of greatness in the last couple seasons, but has been very inconsistent and hasn’t shown much overall improvement since his rookie season.
It seems to me that Randle is the one young player that is already at or close to his ceiling as an NBA player, which can be a solid player but not a superstar. So for that reason, he is the one that I would trade first if the front office decides to make some changes.
Trevor Lane (@Trevor_Lane)
I’m not sure that any of the Lakers young core really needs to go, but if they are making a trade for a star whoever they are dealing with will almost certainly ask for Brandon Ingram along with other pieces like D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, or Ivica Zubac. Whether or not the Lakers should give up that much in a trade is open for debate, but that’s what teams will ask for.
From the Lakers perspective, who is expendable may largely be determined by the outcome of the NBA Draft Lottery. If the Lakers are able to retain their 2017 first-round pick and land a top guard like Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball, then that could hypothetically make it a bit easier to part with Russell or Jordan Clarkson. Similarly, landing a swingman like Josh Jackson or Jayson Tatum makes it a bit more palatable to move Ingram.
Still, draft pick aside, if the Lakers determine that they simply want to speed up their rebuild and move on from some of their young players, depending on the return, I think the guy to move is Randle. He’s an absolute beast when he’s on, and he has a lot of potential, but his physical limitations lower his ceiling a bit and makes building around him more difficult than the team’s other young players.
They need to find more players with defensive mindsets, and Randle’s inability to offer much resistance at the rim doesn’t help much in that regard. He is also at his best on the offensive end when the ball is in his hands, which unfortunately also describes Russell, Ingram, and Clarkson.
If the Lakers could find a defense-first power forward who can also stretch the floor (which isn’t easy), then that may best serve them in the long term.
Eric Avakian (@EAvakian5)
With the duo of Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka now in place, the franchise enters an interesting fork in the road on the path to rebuilding towards a contender. During all the hoopla that comes with the NBA free agency, the Lakers gauged the availability of some star players around the league, including the likes of DeMarcus Cousins and Paul George. If the Lakers were to pull the trigger on a trade, I believe they need move in a direction that works for the overall chemistry of the team. When looking at potential trade pieces, the value they have built also comes into play. Therefore, I think the two easier players to find trade partners for will be D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle.
Russell has had a great second half to the season but hasn’t exactly developed mentality the way many thought he would. The defensive liability with on-ball defense and questioned effort at times on the court hasn’t necessarily won the staff over either. Russell has a strong future in store in the NBA, but I would value the possibility to acquire George more than the possibility of Russell maturing on both ends of the floor.
Randle remains an offensive bull, with the possibility for a triple-double on any given night. However, many teams have started to figure out the defensive problems that come with an offensive-minded player. Kyrie Irving continually ran pick-and-rolls to switch Randle onto him, he has a difficult time using his hands and verticality rather than his body. Randle’s defense aid has been nonexistent at times this season, while him being undersized compared to centers in the NBA is huge rebounding disadvantage. Many teams would be willing to add such an effective scoring machine, especially when they already have an established center on the roster that can take some of the load off of him.
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH)
For me, the young players who are most expendable are the two who’ve been with the team longest: Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson.
For Randle, I just don’t think he’ll get much better than what he is right now. I have my doubts about his ability to ever develop a consistent jumper, he seems to stat hunt at times, and he is probably the worst defender on the team.
Clarkson just hasn’t really developed much since his rookie season and goes into ball-hog mode too much for my liking. He plays hard, but I just don’t see him getting much better.
D’Angelo Russell is on the cusp as well, but until it is clear that he is really harming the culture and locker room, I’m gonna bet on talent, and his talent is clear. As such, I would be just fine if Clarkson and Randle were moved this offseason.