The Los Angeles Lakers may have suffered a tough loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder 110-93 on Friday night, but that doesn’t mean that there weren’t some positive moments. With leading scorer Lou Williams traded to the Houston Rockets for a first-round pick and Corey Brewer before the trade deadline, it was clear that the rest of the team would have to step up to fill the void.
And they did. D’Angelo Russell turned in arguably his best game of the season with 29 points, six assists, four rebounds, and four steals. Sixth-man Jordan Clarkson was also more involved, going for 14 points and tying his season-high with five assists and four steals, and rookie center Ivica Zubac was productive in 27 minutes, more than double what starting center Tarik Black received (13 minutes).
After the game head coach Luke Walton expressed optimism on Spectrum SportsNet:
“Obviously, it sucks to lose, but there’s some good building going on out there,”
After trading away Williams, the Lakers have officially shifted their focus to developing the team’s young players, and intend to give Russell, Clarkson, Zubac, Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr, and Brandon Ingram as many minutes as they can handle.
Wins won’t come often, but the hope is that the future core will learn from their mistakes and develop at a faster pace than if the training wheels were being kept on. Of course, a byproduct of playing so many young players is that the Lakers will lose a lot, which will help their chances of retaining their top-three protected 2017 draft pick.
As of right now, it looks like the best the Lakers can hope for is the second-worst record in the league, which would give them a roughly 56% chance of keeping their pick. Should the draft lottery turn out in their favor, the Lakers will also get to keep their 2019 first round pick, which otherwise would go to Orlando as part of the Dwight Howard trade.