The Lakers are one of the best teams in the league vying for back-to-back titles after winning it all in 2020.
Not so long ago, however, the Purple & Gold were going through some down years, not winning games, missing the playoffs, and ultimately landing in the NBA Draft lottery.
Laker fans, who are usually used to the team making deep playoff runs, weren’t pleased with the performance on the court. But they had a bright-looking future ahead of them, building a solid young core from several high Draft picks and even some Draft steals.
Development of the young group was going well until LeBron James landed in LA, which completely changed the team’s direction. From building for the future, the philosophy changed to winning now as LeBron James wasn’t getting any younger. Thus, they had to let go of their young and upcoming players to make way for Anthony Davis and other players that are better suited for playing with LeBron.
It ended up being a worth-it trade-off as the Lakers won it all last season. Though they may not be donning Purple & Gold anymore, the young core has been living up to their potential, improving and shining in other cities.
Let’s take a look at where some of those former Lakers are now and how they are doing post their Laker careers.
Julius Randle was the first piece of the Lakers’ young core as he was the first lottery pick of the team since Andrew Bynum in 2005. Randle, selected 7th overall in the 2014 NBA Draft, had a rough start to his career as he had a leg injury in his very first game, forcing him to miss his whole rookie season. He bounced back and had a promising next 3 years with the Lakers averaging over 13 points and almost 9 rebounds a game. However, after the 2018 season, he decided to leave Southern California to sign with the Pelicans. And as of 2021, he is now in another big market city currently with the New York Knicks.
Randle has been improving practically every season since entering the league, and he is loving being the star in the Big Apple. He has been playing exceptionally well this season and got his first career All-Star selection with averages of 23.2 points, 11.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and even shooting 41.6% from three.
Julius Randle has certainly shown that his hard work and determination has been paying off and that the Lakers were right about his potential in the NBA.
Jordan Clarkson was the steal of the 2014 Draft, being selected 46th overall and finishing on the All-Rookie First Team. Clarkson’s scoring prowess was seen right from the start as he has been averaging double digits every season since coming into the NBA. The Filipino-American guard surely showcased what he can do in L.A. with averages of 14.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 1.0 steal per game. Clarkson played 3 and a half seasons for the Lakers before being traded to Cleveland in the middle of the 2018 season. After playing a couple of seasons in Cleveland, he was then traded to the Utah Jazz during the 2020 season.
Playing for the Utah Jazz this season, the 6’4” guard has looked very comfortable, embracing his role off the bench and being one of the frontrunners for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award. He has currently been averaging 18.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1 steal per game.
Jordan Clarkson’s ability to put the ball in the basket is no surprise to Laker fans, but he has certainly exceeded expectations with his play this season.
D’Angelo Russell was the highest Draft pick in the Lakers franchise since James Worthy was selected first overall back in 1982. As the second overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, there were a lot of high hopes for Russell to be the next great Laker guard. Playing his rookie season during the final season of Kobe Bryant, they were hoping there would be a sort of passing of the torch from one Laker great to the next generation.
D’Lo showed a lot of promise in his first two seasons with the team as he averaged 14.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.3 steals a game for the Purple & Gold. But after just his second season, the front office decided to ship him away to the Nets to make way for Lonzo Ball, another point guard who had loads of potential.
Russell’s career in L.A. was cut short, but he seemed to relish the opportunity as he absolutely blossomed into one of the league’s premier guards. In his second season with the Brooklyn Nets, he was one of the finalists for the Most Improved Player of the Year Award, and he was selected to his first All-Star team with averages of 21.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 7.0 assists, and 1.2 steals a game.
Though he left the Nets after his All-Star season and has battled some injuries the past couple of seasons, we know what D’Lo is capable of, and he and Karl-Anthony Towns look to build a bright future for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Brandon Ingram was the next piece to the Lakers’ puzzle, being selected second overall in the 2016 NBA Draft. Following the post-Kobe era in L.A., there was a lot of pressure on Ingram and the young group to bring the Lakers back to glory. Ingram didn’t have a spectacular first season, as he had a difficult time adjusting to the speed and physicality of the NBA. He finished his rookie season, only averaged 9.4 points per game.
He drastically improved in the next two seasons he had with the Purple & Gold bringing those averages to 16.1 and 18.3 points a game, respectively. Though he showed how great a player he can be, he was shipped away to the Pelicans in the summer of 2019 in the monster deal that landed Anthony Davis.
Brandon Ingram has made the most of his New Orleans opportunity as his averages skyrocketed to 23.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 4.0 assists a game. His performance gave him his first All-Star selection in his career, as well as bagging the Most Improved Player of the Year Award. In his second season with the Pelicans, he was snubbed for this year’s All-Star game, but he has still been showing the same star potential and building a great duo with Zion Williamson.
The Lakers’ young core may not be with the Purple & Gold anymore, but Laker fans can’t be anything but happy for them as they have found their homes elsewhere and have been showing why the Lakers Drafted them in the first place.
Featured Image: ClutchPoints