Despite my widely criticized pick in the preseason, the Los Angeles Lakers will not be making the playoffs this year. It was a stretch on my part but maybe I saw something that wasn’t there. I figured with Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov paired with the young guys like Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell they would make a run. It’s cool, I was wrong.
With the Lakers officially eliminated, the team is moving in the right direction by sitting Deng and Mozgov and seeing what the future hold as they play the younger guys.
As much talent as they have and with their youth the Lakers are keeping a close eye on how the handle the pressure. The rest of the 2016-17 season is not about the wins, it’s about clarification. The players must remember that the NBA is a business and no one understands that more than new President Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka.
Magic nor Pelinka drafted these players and to be honest, they have no ties to them. The Lakers are a worldwide brand and Magic wants to see the organization get a rebirth. There is no more Showtime, Phil Jackson or Kobe Bryant to showcase to the fans, now the success of the Lakers will hinge on actual results. The young guys that were drafted by Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss must begin to hold themselves accountable or they could very well find themselves playing for another team next season.
Russell has been hailed as the new floor general but his play has been so sporadic this year that his name came up in trade rumors. The same can be said for Randle and Clarkson as well. Johnson wants to see the Lakers back on top and will do whatever he has to do to make sure that gets done. If it means trading one of the younger guys for a veteran that can produce NOW, then so be it.
Next season there will be a cluster of free agents to hit the market. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and Paul George just to name a few and with the young guys the Lakers have they could make a ton of trades that could place them tight in contention for a playoff berth.
It’s hard to look at a young core like this and think about blowing them up. However, if they can’t seem to get on the same page or at least show a little consistency then breaking them up may be in the Lakers best interest. The Lakers are not the Toronto Raptors, they have tasted success and want to get back to their winning ways.
Just so happens that some of these young players may not be around for that.