It seems the goal has changed for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Through the halfway point of the season it looked like head coach Byron Scott and the Lakers were content coasting through the Kobe Bryant retirement tour, not worry much about how the young players on the roster developed and eventually cashing in on a lottery pick to keep building for the future.
According to Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times, the approach isn’t the same as before:
Lakers franchise would like a top-3 pick but they’d rather their kids play well the rest of the season – even if it means no pick
— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) March 9, 2016
It’s an interesting turn of events, to say the least. If the Lakers win enough games, their potential lottery pick goes elsewhere as the final goodbye from the ill-fated Steve Nash trade. As Pincus went on to detail, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Lakers could ruin their chance at another high selection:
Safe to say the Lakers (14 wins) aren’t catching the 76ers (8) but still might vs. Suns (17) and Nets (18) — Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) March 9, 2016
It’s hard to say what has changed within the organization to incite this different plan. Adding another top-tier young talent would give the Lakers another key piece to build around in future years, which in turn could act as a critical part in bringing on someone like say, Kevin Durant in free agency this summer.
Not that the Lakers have the wrong idea—there is plenty of talent worth spending developmental time on to close the season. Jordan Clarkson is just 23 years old and continues to show promise with his averages of 15.9 points and 2.6 assists per game. Ditto for D’Angelo Russell, who might still be the field general of the future if he can up his assist numbers from the average of 3.5 to go along with his 13.3 points per game. Down low, Julius Randle continues to look like a young force, just 21 years old but boasting a double-double at 11.7 and 10.1 points per game.
Rest assured the farewell tour for Bryant isn’t over and he’ll continue to take plenty of shots. But it seems like the Lakers are finally on the same wavelength as many in their fanbase, the one that says the traditional rebuild needs to continue by focusing on the younger guys, not throwing it all away now.
In a perfect world, the Lakers continue to develop their young players and keep the top pick. If not, though, the flashes by guys already on the roster looks great and a key free agent or two would make the lost pick a forgotten factor in a hurry.
As always no matter record or starting lineup, the Lakers remain one of the top teams to watch.