The big Laker story line this season revolves around Kobe Bryant — will he or won’t he?
The more important story line to the future of the Lakers is the development of their three young stars — D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Julius Randle.
Lakers co-owner Jim Buss spoke to the Los Angeles Times about all things Lakers — Buss is trying to raise his profile and grow his positive numbers among Lakers fans, but that’s another story — and he heaped praise on their three young stars. That starts with Russell — the Lakers didn’t take big man Jahlil Okafor and instead bet on the point guard out of Ohio State with the highest draft pick the Lakers organization has had since it selected James Worthy.
“We’ve got high aspirations for him,” Buss said. “We normally look to get bigs, but [Russell] was just that impressive, that we just didn’t feel right passing up on him.
“My enthusiasm for D’Angelo Russell, I have to curb it because I’m so excited about it. He could be anything in this league.”
The Lakers are very high on Russell — in a point guard driven league they see him growing into one of the elites. They are high on his potential and chose that over Okafor, who may not have the higher ceiling (that’s up for debate) but certainly has the higher floor. The Lakers rolled the dice that Russell is special.
As for Clarkson and Randle:
“(Randle is) a beast. He’s been working out with some ex-NBA players and handling himself very well. He’s super strong, very fit,” Buss said…
“Watching Jordan Clarkson develop [this summer], he’s followed that same path, how he got better and better every game,” Buss said.
Watching the three Lakers at Summer League, each of them showed moments of promise and lots of room for improvement — like all young players. Clarkson put up big numbers in Las Vegas but dominated the ball and didn’t work as well off it. Randle understandably looked rusty at times, showed that physicality and athleticism at other times, but worked too much in a straight line and needs more moves. Russell had a rough start to the Summer League as the game just seemed to move too fast, and he tried to do too much. But that’s Summer League, it is a place for development, what matters is how they grow as players from these early points.
The question is, do the Lakers have the infrastructure to develop these players? Is Byron Scott the coach to do that?
That is the story line that matters most for the Lakers next season, while we all talk about Kobe.