The Five Best Former Young Lakers
From 2014 to 2019, the Lakers’ draft picks included notable names Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Lonzo Ball, and Brandon Ingram. All of them were either traded by the purple and gold or left in free agency, finding success elsewhere. In this article, I’ll be reflecting on five of the best former Lakers and how they would look if all of them were on the same roster.
Randle’s rookie year with the Lakers wasn’t much of a season at all, as he broke his leg in their opening night match against the Rockets in 2014. His sophomore year saw him make some impact on the team, posting 11.3 PPG, 10.2 RPG, and 1.8 BPG. He would continue to improve his all-around stats as time went on, averaging 16 PPG, 8 RPG, and nearly 4 APG as he played in all 82 games (49 starts) in his fourth and final year with the Lakers.
Randle left LA in free agency shortly after LeBron James’ arrival, asking the Lakers to renounce his rights to allow him to become a free agent. He would go on to blossom with the New Orleans Pelicans, averaging 21.4 PPG, 8.7 RPG, and 3.1 APG, shooting 34% from three-point range. His strong play earned him a three-year, $62 million contract with the New York Knicks, where he’s currently putting up a career-best 23 PPG and 11 RPG while shooting 48% from the field, 41% from deep, and 81% from the free-throw line. He was also named a first-time All Star this year, deservedly so.
DLo was drafted with the second overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, and his time with the LakeShow had a great start but a rocky ending, to say the least.
Russell finished his rookie campaign with averages of 13.2 PPG, 3.4 RPG, and 3.3 APG with 41–35–73 splits. Like Randle, he’d continue to improve amidst the turnover in head coaches from Byron Scott to Luke Walton, increasing his stats and splits across the board. He scored a then-career-high 39 points against the Nets on March 1, 2018, topping that with a 40-piece against Cleveland on March 19, 2017.
Unfortunately, his second year with the Lakers saw quite a bit of controversy. Russell recorded then-teammate Nick Young’s conversation with him about him cheating on Iggy Azalea. This caused Russell to be alienated by his teammates and booed at home games. An argument could be made that this was a contributing factor in him getting included in a trade for Brook Lopez that offseason.
Russell would go on to have success in Brooklyn, leading them to the playoffs and becoming an All-Star in the 2018–19 season. He would then be traded by Brooklyn to Golden State the following year, average a career-best 23.6 PPG with the Dubs, then be dealt at the trade deadline to Minnesota, where he currently plays.
Russell is currently nursing a leg injury, and his Timberwolves are currently out of the playoff picture after sustaining numerous injuries and postponed games.
The Lakers selected Clarkson with the 46th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. JC would go on to have a good rookie season, averaging 11.9 PPG, 2.3 RPG, and 3.2 APG, shooting 45% from the field, 31% from three, and 83% from the stripe.
His sophomore season would see him have a big jump, playing (and starting in) 79 games, putting up 16–4–2 with 43–35–80 splits. It would be the only season where he would start every game he played in. He then received a four-year, $52 million extension from then-GM Mitch Kupchak, a sign that seemingly secured his future with the team.
As we all know, the league is a business. After 53 games (14.5 PPG) in the 2017–18 season, Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr were traded at the deadline for Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, and a first round pick that would end up being Moe Wagner. The move was done to clear cap space for the upcoming offseason, and played a pivotal role in the Lakers signing LeBron James in free agency.
Clarkson would end up playing a year-and-a-half in the 330 before being traded to Utah for Dante Exum. There, he’s currently breaking out for Quin Snyder, posting 18 PPG, 4 RPG, and 2 APG, and aiming for the Sixth Man of the Year Award at season’s end.
Zo was selected second overall in the 2017 draft and was believed by many to be the franchise point guard and was compared mostly to Magic Johnson. His rookie year saw him break out for 29 points against the Phoenix Suns in his second NBA game after he was held to three points, nine rebounds, and four assists by some guy named Patrick Beverley, who has career averages of 9 PPG, 4 RPG, 3 APG, and 100 HCPG (hand claps per game). He became the youngest player to record a triple double (at the time), posting 19 points, 11 rebounds, and 13 assists in a 98–90 loss to the Bucks. That record is currently held by his 19-year-old brother LaMelo, who had 22 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists in a 113–105 win against the Hawks on Jan. 9.
Ball’s second season wouldn’t be as productive, with decreasing stats across the board in a year where he called the King his teammate. He did improve in his field-goal and three-point shooting (40% and 33%, respectively), but would shoot an abysmal 42% from the free-throw line.
Lonzo, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart would then be traded in the 2018 offseason for Anthony Davis. Zo has improved greatly in the Big Easy, boosting his three-point and free-throw percentages to 39% and 76%, respectively. Playing with Zion Williamson and a plethora of young talent has benefited Ball, who continues to show signs of improvement in scoring and dishing.
B.I. was also a #2 overall pick, but in the 2016 draft. Ingram, who had garnered comparisons to Kevin Durant, had a quiet rookie year, putting up 9–4–2 in 79 games (40 starts). Like other Lakers, he also had a sophomore boost, improving his scoring output to 16.1 PPG to go along with 5.3 RPG, and 4 APG. He had a then-career-high 36 points in a 121–105 loss to the Sixers on Jan. 29, 2019.
He was included in the aforementioned Anthony Davis trade, and would see plenty of success in his first year as a Pelican. He won the Most Improved Player Award that season, putting up 23.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG, and 4.2 APG, shooting a career-best 39% from downtown in a year where the Pels’ star rookie Zion Williamson missed half the season. He was also named an All Star that year, and scored a career-high 49 points in a 138–132 victory over the Jazz on Jan. 16, 2020.
He’s currently boasting 24 PPG, 5 RPG, and 5 APG, and with his recent play, it’s likely that those KD comparisons are coming into fruition now.
How They Would Look on the Same Team
Image via Bleacher Report
On Duncan Robinson’s podcast, “The Long Shot”, Julius Randle was asked how all the former young Lakers would look together on the same team and said, “It’d be interesting to see how that really would’ve played out.”
This would likely be the depth chart if all the former young Lakers were on the same roster:
PG: D’Angelo Russell, Lonzo Ball
SG: Jordan Clarkson, Josh Hart
SF: Brandon Ingram, Svi Mykhailiuk
PF: Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr.
C: Ivica Zubac, Mo Wagner
If they all played at the level they’re at now, I can see this team going into the playoffs and sitting roughly between the fifth and eighth seeds. Of course, mixing them in with LeBron and AD would instantly make them favorites for the NBA title.