Are the Lakers young players untouchable?

Are the Lakers young players untouchable?

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Everyone has a price, this includes Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka. The question is what their price for each young Laker player is. Laker fan have been split on whether or not to trade the young players. With the season coming to an end, I made a list on a scale of 1-10 of how “tradeable”  each young Laker is, with 10 being untouchable and 1 being should be traded.

D’Angelo Russell

The most polarizing player for the Lakers since….well Kobe. Some fans hate Russell and will say he has only been playing well because he is scared of Lonzo Ball. Others can’t admit anything is his fault, blaming all of the other Lakers before they criticize the former Buckeye.

In reality, while nowhere near perfect, D’Angelo has been very good this year. His per game averages of 15.7 PPG and 4.8 APG are forth and first amount players from the 2015 draft. His 2.1 3PM lead his draft class and his 35.3% 3P% is 5th among qualifying players (Player who shoot over 1.0 3 pointers a game).

His numbers are even better once you adjust the minutes. Based off numbers from basketball reference, Michael Taylor (@LFRMBT) of Laker Film Room (@LakerFilmRoom) was able to calculate in the 30 games Russell has played over 30 minutes he has a stat line of 20.3-4.3-5.8 along with 1.8 SPG. This isn’t per 36 for everyone who believes that stat is invalid. These are actual games D’Angelo played over 30 games.

The numbers show D’Angelo has been a really, really good. The Lakers should value him highly, and really keep him unless an unrealistic offer, even by 2K standards is made.

Untouchable scale-9.75

Brandon Ingram

Mitch Kupchak died for Laker fans when he didn’t include Brandon Ingram in a package for DeMarcus Cousins. Hopefully the new regime hold Ingram as highly. After starting the season with a significant struggle to score, Ingram has been  fantastic since the all star game.

The Kingston native has averaged 13.8 PPG on 54.6 % true shooting since the all-star break has been a huge improvement from before then. Overall his rookie year numbers are comparable to that of Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Paul George.

(I posted his per 36 to take into account that Ingram lead the group in minutes)

Yes there have been other wings with similar numbers to not become all stars, but the point of this is to show Ingram’s ceiling is still ridiculously high. With a summer to work on his free throws and be a consistent 3 point threat, Ingram can make a huge jump next year, especially when you consider how much he has improved since the season started.

Ingram should be a Laker for not just next season, but for a long time. He has too much potential to let go in a trade that is anywhere close to being realistic.

Untouchable scale-9.75

Julius Randle 

Julius Randle is the Laker I feel gets the most unfair proportion of praise and hate. While D’Angelo also gets by far the most hate, he also gets a lot of love. Randle doesn’t. It’s a shame as his skill set is very unique. In fact since 1980 there have only been 11 seasons where a player 22 or under to produce a stat line of at least 13 PPG 8.5 RPG and 3.5 APG. And Magic Johnson and Chris Webber each produced 2 of these seasons, meaning only 9 different players 22 or under have been able to do it.

Granted his win shares are the lowest of the group, but his team is also the worst of the group by a wide margin. Also all of the other players on this list were superstars outside of Jokic, who will be one day. This isn’t to say Randle will be an all star, but it’s to show he is still a very good young player and could play a really important player on a championship team. Yes he has shortcomings, like his shooting, lack of a right hand, and sub-par defense, but at the young age of 22 he can still improve in all those areas. He already has. Randle has shot from 50%  and 32% from 10-16 ft and 16 ft to the three point line respectively. That’s up from  22.7% and 25.4% from the same distances last year. He also has made 32.4% of his 3s on 1.8 attempts per a game since the all star break.

The point of those numbers were to show Randle is already a good player and while he has room for improvement, he is on the right track. The Lakers would be foolish to trade him unless you are trading him and a throw in for an all star locked into a contract for years to come

Untouchable scale8.75

Ivica Zubac

The Lakers hit on yet another late round pick with Zubac. That being said Zuabc suffers from “Jordan Clarkson syndrome”. Jordan Clarkson syndrome is when a player surpasses his draft expectations and fans think he is better than he is because of that. While Zubac is only 19 and has insane potential, he has a really far road ahead. He struggles as a rim protector and his defensive game in real is terrible. So while I would prefer to keep Zubac, he shouldn’t be a deciding factor in a trade.

Untouchable scale6.0

Jordan Clarkson 

Jordan Clarkson, the original victim of “Jordan Clarkson syndrome”, received a reasonably sized extention this of season. It was clear from the quick timing of the extension the old Lakers front office viewed him as a major part of the core. It remains to be seen if Magic and Pelinka share the same view.

Clarkson, offensively has made little to no progress.

His Per 36 numbers are right on par with last year, improving his scoring and assist numbers. But his turnovers and rebounds have decreased.

His efficiency has been a mixed bag. His ability to score from inside the arc has improved greatly. He is finishing at the rim at significantly better and his mid range has also improved. But his 3 point shooting has regressed and he is getting to the free throw line at a lesser rate.  Still his true shooting percentage is slightly higher, but not to the margin it means anything.

Defensively Clarkson has improved, but is still below average. Clarkson now has a defensive field goal percentage of 46.6% vs 48% last year. Still, that’s not good when you consider he defends guard. Clarkson also allows his man to shoot 37.7% from 3. Those 2 numbers due to him being a terrible defender on closeouts and isolations.

Still his pick and roll  and screen defense, which has been a major problem for the team as a whole, has been pretty good.

Overall Clarkson is a below average defender, but not a horrible one like last year.

If he can make a jump again he could be an above average defender next year,as he has the physical tools to do so. But it is alarming someone of his size and quickness is having these troubles at his age. He is the “old man” out of the core and will be 25 next year. That is certainly not old, but the lack of fundamentals at that age is more concerning than it is for Randle or Ingram, even if they are worse defenders right now.

Clarkson is a fan favorite and it is easy to see why. Clarkson was the first real bright spot that Laker fans could look forward to after Kobe tore his Achilles, since Randle broke his leg. But he hasn’t improved as much as projected. I still think he can be a “super 6th man” and am very open to keeping him, but also open to trading him. Especially if Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, or Dennis Smith Jr land in LA.

Untouchable scale-5.0

Larry Nance Jr.

The last victim of the dreaded “Jordan Clarkson syndrome”, I am in the unpopular opinion in that Larry Nance Jr.is expendable. Nance is argubaly the least improved Laker from last year. D’Angelo has improved his decision making, ability to run the offense, and scoring ability. Julius Randle improved his shooting, his finishing, his passing, and his decision making. Zubac and Ingram are completely different players since the beginning of the year. Nance has really only improved 3 point shooting and free throw shooting. And even the former is with a small sample size and unproven.

While his 3 point shooting is better, his mid range game is pretty much the same. From 10-16 feet he has regressed, but from 16 feet to the three point line he has improved.

His Per 36 are pretty much the same with a slight increase all around, but that can also be due to the slight increase in usage rate and the Lakers higher pace on offense, which is also just better than last year’s.

Still Nance is a very good backup 4, and considering the Lakers have potential already found their 4 of the future in Randle, Nance is valuable where he is at. His athleticism also gives the Lakers the ability to play small, making them more versatile. I would prefer to keep Nance, but also would prefer to get rid of Luol Deng/Timofey Mozgov, and Nance is the most relastic player to package in that sort of deal.  

Untouchable scale-5.25

In the end I would prefer to keep the Lakers core, and consider Russell and Ingram untouchable in all practical means. Randle is borderline there for me. Clarkson, Zubac, and Nance would be players I am more than happy to keep, but also wouldn’t mind trading. For Clarkson and maybe even Nance I would test the waters to see what I can get. But as a whole the Lakers would be wise to keep this core together.

 

 

 

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