The Los Angeles Lakers young core pieces were meant to be a foundation. After a disappointing season, their respective futures are uncertain. How will the futures of the Lakers’ young core play out this offseason?
The Los Angeles Lakers Young Core Looking Forward
When LeBron James joined the Los Angeles Lakers last off-season, he knew that he would be tasked with leading a young, inexperienced but talented group. After Saturday’s loss to the Boston Celtics, James echoed this statement post game. “It’s challenging…but I knew what I was getting myself into.”
As time has passed, the futures of young pieces such as Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Kyle Kuzma are clouded. After they struggled during James’ absence and Los Angeles failed to acquire Anthony Davis via trade. Chemistry took a hit as a result and now the Lakers will likely miss the playoffs.
With James now 34 years old, it has become “win now” mode for Los Angeles in the era of LeBron. What does this mean for the future of the young pieces? Here are some possible scenarios to be wary of heading into the off-season.
Star Power in Exchange for Youth
LeBron James is incapable of leading this Lakers team by himself. This was true when he arrived in LA but has become even truer now. Los Angeles needs a second star to compliment James.
Anthony Davis has become the most likely to pair up with James in Purple and Gold. The question here is when exactly that will happen? Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka hoped that this would happen in mid-February. That did not come to fruition, but perhaps it was meant to be in the summer.
We could very well see Ingram, Ball, and Kuzma shipped to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Davis. The Pelicans need to get value in return, and the Lakers have assets. If they are smart, they could offer the three young pieces without the absurd number of draft picks offered back in February.
Fix the Chemistry
The Lakers will forever need a second star, but it may not need to come at the expense of youth. James is not getting any younger, so Los Angeles would be wise to attempt at keeping the younger players on the roster. Davis is not a free agent until 2020, but that does not mean he is the only one in play for the Lakers.
Los Angeles has the cap space to sign a max player this summer. Could they simply wait it out, keeping their youth, and work to make a splash signing this off-season? In this scenario, they can attempt to right the wrongs of the chemistry issues with the youth.
Fix the Roster Depth
The Lakers should take a look at the Celtics as a potential message of caution. With an overabundance of talent, Boston has had to tinker with their rotations. The result has been a season-long struggle to figure out chemistry.
If the Lakers add a second star, whomever it may be by way of free agency or trade, the end goal must be to fix the depth chart and rotations. Los Angeles can keep some young pieces, but ultimately someone will be the odd man out.
Lonzo Ball’s stock has risen in his absence, during which his playmaking prowess has been sorely missed. But Ingram and Kuzma roughly play the same position as James, and LeBron is going nowhere. So in a way, Ingram or Kuzma (potentially both?) could be out.
Ingram has the higher upside, but Kuzma might be the more proven right now. Perhaps the Lakers could flip one or both of these for complimentary role players, along with a draft pick or two. LeBron James has been most successful with reliable shooters around him. If Los Angeles signs a second star, flips a young player for better-suited role pieces, the Lakers could be on the right track by next season.
Main Photo: WASHINGTON, USA – NOVEMBER 09: Otto Porter Jr. (C) of the Washington Wizards in action against Lonzo Ball (2) of the Los Angeles Lakers during an NBA Game between Washington Wizards and Los Angeles Lakers at Capitol One Arena in Washington, United States on November 09, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)