The Los Angeles Lakers ended up last season where they have always dreaded to be and that’s as a team well out of championship contention and looking to rebuild for the future with young talent through the draft.
Draft picks were always more of a nuisance than an asset for the Lakers franchise who typically had a set rotation of proven playoff tested players and any additions that were made were of the veteran variety, not a young player that would take years to develop while taking up a roster spot and increase their luxury tax bill.
With the Lakers in contention and no room for guaranteed contracts that come with 1st round picks, the Lakers traded away theirs in every year from 2008 to 2013 (either before the draft or the rights to the player if selected).
It was just 2 years ago that the Lakers made a valiant attempt to stay in championship contention and squeeze out every ounce of aging superstars Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol’s talents by acquiring Dwight Howard and Steve Nash in trade which cost the team 5 future draft picks combined, a price they gladly paid to remain on top. While the Lakers’ attempt was valiant, it ultimately failed and did so miserably.
Now the Lakers are currently in the midst of a rebuild and in desperate need to acquire talent, an area of which is barren due mainly in part to their ill-fated attempt to stay in championship contention at the expense of their future. This is that point in the saying where someone pays the piper.
In a season full of despair and utter disappointment, where the team is on pace to set the worst record in Los Angeles Lakers history just one year after setting that same futile mark, there is one positive sign that things will get better and that the franchise is in good hands and that glimmer of hope is rookie Jordan Clarkson.
Clarkson is coming off the best game of the season in a win against the Philadelphia 76ers where he put together a line of 26 points, 11 assists, 6 rebounds, 3 steals and hit the game winning lay up in overtime.
Clarkson’s game winner vs. 76ers:
Last night was not a one game anomaly as Clarkson has been impressive since being inserted in the starting line-up on January 23rd. As a starter Clarkson is averaging 14.9 points, 4.5 assists, 4.1 rebounds, shooting a very good 45.2 percent from the field and 52.7 true shooting percentage.
In just short of 3 months Clarkson has propelled himself as one of the most important pieces to the Lakers team. The 14.9 scoring average leads the Lakers in the time that Clarkson has been a starter and is second only to Jeremy Lin in assists.
Despite Clarkson receiving numerous DNP’s early in the season and getting very little playing time he has shot up the rookie statistical leader board with his great play to close out the season. Clarkson currently ranks 4th in scoring, 7th in assists and 7th in free throw attempts per game among rookies. Since January 23rd Clarkson is near the top in scoring (2nd) and assists (3rd) among rookies.
Clarkson is a sure bet to crack no worse than the 2nd team All-Rookie team this year which is incredibly impressive considering 45 other players were drafted before him in the 2014 NBA Draft.
It is not Clarkson the player that should have Lakers fans feeling great about the franchise’s future prospects, it’s the eye for talent of those within the Lakers organization that should; those in the organization in charge of scouting, evaluating and making the ultimate decision to draft or sign a certain player as they did with Clarkson.
Those Lakers’ talent evaluators provide hope that the Lakers other draft pick, Julius Randle, will turn out to be a player worthy of his number 7 selection in the draft.
Those Lakers examining the analytics of prospects will instill confidence in getting it right with whoever it is the Lakers take with their two first round picks in the upcoming 2015 NBA Draft, one of which looks to be top 5.
Clarkson’s surprising development as a late pick is proof that the Lakers know what they are doing are on the right track and have the right people in place for the daunting task of rebuilding a team to meet the ridiculously high standards of championship or bust that the franchise holds.