What We Know
With the second pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers select…
Simply put, the current core for the Lakers is: D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., and Julius Randle. By selecting Ben Simmons, who is expected to go first to Philly, or Brandon Ingram, the Lakers could be set at the 1-4 positions for years to come. Adding the next expected player to the nucleus, Duke’s Ingram, provides the rebuilt franchise with four starters and a sixth man (I’m big on Nance by the way). As a basketball fan this will get me excited about the Lakers again, but for the past few years they’ve just been the Lakers and they haven’t been the Lake Show.
There are solid veterans on the roster but all of which should be viewed as assets for possible moves. You don’t want those guys soaking up the majority of the minutes with the plethora of youth that the front office has accumulated. But, as role players they could return for a developing team that has their sights set on a return to the postseason, likely a lower seed at the very best. They would accelerate the course a little bit by catching up to another up and coming team, the previous Lakers location as a matter of fact, up in Minnesota with an abundance of talent and a great coach in Tom Thibodeau.
The Lakers were once interested in Thibodeau before deciding to bring Luke Walton back to the purple and gold. They are betting on Walton being able to integrate a culture and rub off some influences from the defending champion Warriors, when he comes down Interstate 5. I’ve already heard some hopefuls envisioning Russell, Clarkson, and Randle as the next Splash Brothers with Draymond Green trio. If not for the 3-point records, they’re referring to the uptempo style of play.
Oh, you mean what the Lakers had hoped to accomplish with Mike D’Antoni? If only Dwight Howard was cool being a defensive and rebounding presence and didn’t care about getting touches. Well, ego definitely comes into play with athletes, let alone star athletes. We’re talking about a MVP candidate and Defensive Player of the Year that led a team to The Finals. If anything, Byron Scott was used to teach the young guys tough love and discipline while making sure that Kobe Bryant rode off into the sunset at the same time. Popular or not, Scott did what was asked of him, and that final game against Utah was a treat from the Black Mamba!
Again and again, I’ve told everyone that I talk about sports with, since Russell Westbrook was drafted I believed him to be L.A. bound. The former UCLA standout is an elite player in this league for a top-4 team in The Association. His future will have many more All-Star appearances and possibly some hardware, individually or collectively or both. Russ is the most explosive guard in the game and a top-notch defender. No one truly stops him, but like some of us, he is his own worst enemy. Yet, the 8-year veteran still has some untapped potential and we all can see it.
Anyhow, pretty much everyone in the league would take Westbrook on their team. OKC has their attention turned to Kevin Durant this summer, who should sign a 1-year deal with a 2nd-year player option to hit free agency again a year from now. Well, unless he is dead set on joining another powerhouse like the Warriors or Spurs. Also a year from now, Westbrook will be a free agent. I really wish we got to watch this NBA Jam duo play more in those Seattle Super Sonics jerseys.
At that time, maybe the Lakers dangle some of their young talent with those solid veteran pieces to acquire Westbrook via sign and trade. That would balance out some salary while netting the star point guard the most he can earn financially. But who would get shipped? It would hurt to see some of the young guys go, right? Well, not if it lands you an elite player that can put the Lake Show back in Los Angeles as championship contenders again. It’s always been an option and a way for them to plan as they’ve assembled a contract-friendly roster and assets.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Russell for Russell swap. Of course, the Lakers would need to send a care package to OKC, but it would be a way for both teams to be set at point guard. Especially, if Westbrook is going to leave, then why not sign and trade him back to L.A. while acquiring D’Angelo Russell who was just drafted 2nd overall? Understand, though, that it could involve another player from that young nucleus as well, perhaps Randle, a bench piece, and draft picks. That’s just one of many scenarios that you could throw out a year from now. Maybe it’s centered around Clarkson and Ingram or something like that, perhaps in an attempt to pair the Russell’s together in the back court. Have fun being creative from now on until next summer.
Don’t get carried away Lakers fans. “Oh, let’s sign Durant this summer and then Westbrook next summer.” You don’t think that while the Thunder has them now, with a big name coach in Billy Donovan that just left college, that they won’t do everything in their power to improve their title hopes? They led the Western Finals 3-1 over Golden State before fizzling out. But, yes, you could hold onto “so, you’re saying there’s a chance?”