The Los Angeles Lakers have drafted a lot of high-quality NBA players since 2014. The issue with them has been staying patient enough to develop that talent. The Lakers’ thirst for becoming relevant again is part of the reason for these trades. The franchise had an unusual playoff drought that went from the 2012-13 season to the 2019-20 season. While the Lakers won the championship last year thanks to the signing of LeBron James and the trade for Anthony Davis, you have to wonder if the team could have been constructed better. Trading and letting players walk over the past several years, the Lakers have become the NBA’s farm system.
Los Angeles Lakers: The NBA’s Farm System
2014- Julius Randle
Prior to becoming an all-star with the New York Knicks, Julius Randle was just a first-round pick of the Lakers. After being drafted seventh overall in 2014, Randle would break his leg 13 minutes into his first NBA game. This would sideline him for his whole rookie season. Over the remaining three years of his rookie contract, Randle would subsequently improve in each season. In his final season as a Laker, he averaged 16 points and 8 rebounds per game. In the 2018 offseason, the Lakers let Randle walk after having their sights set on LeBron James. Randle would go on to sign a two-year, 18 million dollar contract with the Pelicans. While nobody can question signing LeBron over Randle, for only nine million dollars the Lakers could’ve easily kept Randle and still had cap space. Remember, Randle is currently averaging 24 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists this year.
2015- D’Angelo Russell
Many thought the Lakers had a building block for their future after the 2015 NBA draft. D’Angelo Russell, a guard out of Ohio State, was drafted second overall. Russell would only end up playing two solid but unspectacular seasons for the Lakers. Magic Johnson, who was part of the Laker’s management at the time, famously said Russell wasn’t a leader. He would then trade him in the 2017 offseason for Brook Lopez. Lopez would only play one season in Los Angeles before leaving in free agency the following season for the Milwaukee Bucks. Russell made the all-star team back in 2019, and he has proven that he can be a 20 point per game scorer in the NBA.
2016- Brandon Ingram
After having another bad season, the Lakers were awarded the second overall pick of the 2016 NBA draft. The Lakers would draft Brandon Ingram with the hopes of him becoming the next great Lakers forward. Ingram would have a disappointing rookie season (9.4 points per game) before improving in his second and third seasons (16.1 and 18.3 points per game). After the Laker’s first season with LeBron ended with them missing the playoffs again, they decided to trade for a superstar. They would ship Ingram off to the New Orleans Pelicans as part of a giant package deal for Anthony Davis and the rest is history. Ingram became an all-star in his first season as a Pelican and is currently averaging a career-high in points (24.2) and assists (4.8) per game this season.
2017- Lonzo Ball
Part of the reason why D’Angelo Russell was traded in 2017 was to make room for Lonzo Ball. The Lakers got the second overall pick in the draft for the third consecutive year and selected Ball. Ball had an underwhelming rookie season, and the following year LeBron joined the team. After the Laker’s disappointing first season with LeBron, Ball was rumored to be traded. In the 2019 offseason, Ball was then traded to the Pelicans as part of the Anthony Davis deal. Ball is currently in his fourth year in the NBA and while he hasn’t shown that he is an elite-level player so far, he is proving to be a solid point guard in the NBA who can play on both ends of the floor. He is averaging 14 points, 6 assists, and 4.5 rebounds this year.
While the names above are the most well-known, they aren’t the only good young players to have been traded. Other names include Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Ivica Zubac, and Josh Hart. Thomas Bryant, who was the starting center for the Washington Wizards this year before tearing his ACL, was actually waived by the Lakers and then claimed by the Wizards. There is no doubt that some of these trades were necessary to build the Lakers into a champion last year, as well as to maximize the “win now” window for LeBron James. However, when looking back at their history, the Lakers could’ve been smarter with building their roster to surround LeBron. Instead, they have become the NBA’s farm system.
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