Kobe Bryant is entering his 20th and supposedly final season of his NBA career. While he has not officially confirmed that he will step away from the game, the Lakers are already preparing a replacement and successor. Jordan Clarkson is a fit for both titles.
Kobe is no longer a shooting guard, his remaining athletic ability isn’t enough to be a guard in today’s NBA. However, his skill in the post makes him an easy fit at small forward. Clarkson is a better current fit at shooting guard in the starting lineup next to Kobe, and is also a suitable positional successor for the Lakers’ long term future. Last season he was a bright spot in a world without any working electricity, and the 23-year old has an interesting ceiling as a player.
His overall game has led some think of him as a baby Russell Westbrook. I don’t believe anyone expects him to become Westbrook, but he can become something stylistically similar and dominate the NBA ecosystem. Clarkson shows similar athletic ability to Westbrook and to this point has shown more maturity on court than Westbrook did early in his career. Alongside incoming Lakers rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell, Clarkson is expected to anchor the Lakers’ starting backcourt for the next decade plus, according to Lakers’ GM Mitch Kupchak.
The Lakers have shown confidence that the young duo will be the basis of a solid foundation for years to come. A replacement is a short term fix for someone who is not doing well or is fired. A successor is someone who is groomed/developed to take over for another. It is easy to replace Kobe when considering he has played 41 games in the past two years. He showed a career low field goal percentage of .373 in 2014-2015 and has not shown the ability to play defense. The love for Kobe comes with his passion for winning, his obsession aligns with the Lakers’ goals. The real problem is replicating someone who has stayed on the same team for 20 years, became a cultural icon for Los Angeles and has found massive success in the unforgiving NBA.
When the Lakers selected D’angelo Russell over Jahlil Okafor, it represented a shift in behavior for LA. The team is known for selecting big men and was expected to select Okafor to carry on what many Laker legends have done before. Call it a Dwight Howard hangover, but they surprised many by leaving their comfort zone, for example, the last time the Lakers drafted an elite point guard, he was 6’9″ and could play the position of any big man. Mitch Kupchak gambled on the possibility that the Lakers could have the best backcourt in the league.
The Lakers were stagnant for years, carrying around the weight of what they would do when Kobe was done. Pau Gasol left a bigger offer on the table for a chance to win another championship. The Clippers are currently the top team in Los Angeles. The Lakers also committed an atrocious trade for Steve Nash that didn’t benefit them at all and lost Dwight Howard in free agency. 15 years ago we had Steve Jobs, Bob Hope and Johnny Cash, now the Lakers have Nick Young.
The future is bright. You have a backcourt duo that could take over the NBA and their average age is 21. Massive amounts of cap space will be available for LA in the next free agency period. Throw in Julius Randle and the Lakers are getting close to preparing their march back to the top of the NBA. Massive amounts of cap space will be available for LA in the next free agency period. Throw in Julius Randle and the Lakers are getting close to preparing their march back to the top of the NBA.