The 2014 Draft Class has been kind to the Los Angeles Lakers, this season.
Despite some recent regression, Jordan Clarkson has turned into a reliable scorer off the bench and regained some of the playmaking skills that made his rookie year special. Julius Randle transformed his body in the offseason and has become the Lakers’ most impactful player, being an efficient offensive player despite his lack of a jump shot while defending every position on the other end of the court.
All that considered, the Lakers still “would love” to trade the two fourth-year pros, according to Tania Ganguli of the LA Times:
Randle’s situation is worth watching, though. The Lakers would love to trade him if they could, and Jordan Clarkson fits in that category too. Both players know they have been offered in trades by the Lakers, and they’re handling it in different ways.
This isn’t necessarily new information. Clarkson’s high salary effectively has to be gone for the Lakers to have a shot at signing two max free agents. Randle is a restricted free agent looking for a payday and the scenarios in which the Lakers can keep him and get their offseason prizes are slim.
But those scenarios exist and the Lakers’ insistence on pushing Randle out of the door shows a level of haste and desperation that has now reared its head in the Lakers organization over the past two years under two different regimes.
Randle is arguably the best backup center in the entire NBA and a deserving starting power forward. He has been the team’s best player this season and yet he can barely see the court, playing only 11 minutes in a loss to the lowly Grizzlies.
The Lakers have probably tried to use Clarkson and Randle as sweeteners to trade Luol Deng’s contract but reports indicate they have given up on that plan as other teams have asked for much more in return, especially seeing the Lakers’ willingness to include D’Angelo Russell in a salary dump.
Randle, who along with Russell is represented by Paul George’s agent, is visibly frustrated with his role on the Lakers. Clarkson has not outwardly shown his frustrations but it would be naive to think it’s not affecting him especially as he has lost much of the form that made him a Sixth Man of the Year candidate in October and November.
Whether the Lakers can find a trade for the two draft class partners or not (and they would find it difficult to get high value while not taking back long-term contracts; the Lakers and Mavs reportedly had discussions about swapping Randle for Nerlens Noel), it’s difficult to say they’ve handled this situation adequately.