The Lakers sit near the bottom of the NBA standings, but that was to be expected in a rebuilding year. Luke Walton entered his second season as head coach with a roster full of developing players battling against elite competition in the Western Conference.
What may have come as more of a surprise, though, is how quickly and aggressively the Lakers have shopped a couple of those youngsters. The team would “love” to move Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson, and both players are aware they have been offered in trades, according to Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times. This comes after ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski previously reported the Lakers were looking to trade Clarkson after the season.
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Randle has seen inconsistent playing time through 34 games, though he did log his first start of the season Friday against the Clippers, scoring 18 points and grabbing seven rebounds in 28 minutes as the Lakers lost by 15. The 23-year-old forward has produced in big games (20 and 21 points in two close losses to the Warriors) and shown potential to grow after cutting weight last offseason, but it remains to be seen how he fits into the modern NBA and what his role would be on another team.
Clarkson would not have as much difficulty finding his place. He operates best as an instant scorer off the bench, and he is doing so with greater efficiency this season. Clarkson currently holds the highest 3-point percentage (35.2), true shooting percentage (53.6) and player efficiency rating (17.4) of his career. It also doesn’t hurt that the Lakers have a noticeably worse offensive and net rating with him off the floor.
Of course, the end game here for LA is to create enough cap space to add one or two superstars in the offseason. Rumors and speculation surrounding Paul George and LeBron James won’t disappear anytime soon, and Magic Johnson has big moves in mind as president of basketball operations. It’s important for Johnson to focus on acquiring talent without throwing away assets in the hopes of signing a star, especially one who may never end up heading to Staples Center outside of a visit as a member of the opposing team.
We’ll see how much patience the Lakers exhibit ahead of the Feb. 8 trade deadline. It wouldn’t be shocking to see them make a little noise even if they ultimately decide not to make a trade.