The Los Angeles Lakers are fresh off their 17th championship in franchise history. Prior to this most recent title win, the organization went through something of a decade-long dry spell.
During that 10-year stretch, the Lakers added a number of notable young players. Among them: Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell, Larry Nance Jr. and Brandon Ingram.
Because the Lakers consistently struggled over the course of their run with these young talents, many outright dismissed them as flops or busts. Between lofty expectations and the unwavering scrutiny that any player faces when they put on the purple and gold, all five were written off before they could even prove themselves.
Fortunately, since then, each and every one has gotten an opportunity to shine beyond the bright lights of LA. And once they got that opportunity, they proved once and for all what the Lakers originally saw in them.
The lesson here: actions have consequences. https://t.co/aVhdqhCxfN
— Game 7 (@game7__) November 27, 2020
Ingram, who the Lakers drafted with the No. 2 overall pick in 2016, recently agreed to a five-year, $158 million max contract extension with the New Orleans Pelicans. Last year he averaged a career-high 23.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. In the process, he earned an NBA All-Star nod for the first time and was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player.
Last year, Russell similarly cashed in. He signed a four-year, $117 million contract and currently finds himself as one of the cornerstones of the Minnesota Timberwolves. The franchise is so confident in his place with the team that they passed on selecting LaMelo Ball despite having the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft.
Earlier this season, the Utah Jazz re-signed Jordan Clarkson to a four-year, $52 million deal. In 41 games with the team he averaged 15.6 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 24.7 minutes off the bench, while also shooting 46.2 percent from the field.
Things are getting interesting in D.C. https://t.co/HDttOQbckG
— Game 7 (@game7__) November 26, 2020
Nance Jr. signed a four-year, $44 million contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers that will keep him on the books until 2023. The franchise views him as an integral role player. Last year he averaged a career-high 10.1 points and 7.3 rebounds while shooting 53.1 percent from the floor.
Back in 2019 Randle signed a three-year, $62.1 million deal with the New York Knicks. Last year he averaged 19.5 points and 7.4 rebounds per outing. This year he is on pace to win the Most Improved Player award.
Situations matter. Fit matters.
There are very few players out there that can immediately come in and make a franchise-changing impact.
More often than not, guys need to be put in a position to succeed and given the opportunity to grow. That’s what happened to the Lakers’ young core, and in the process, they proved that they can in fact ball with the best of them.
Jennifer Withers Hoey is a former Business Development Manager who transitioned to writing about sports. With valuable connections all over the West Coast, she has used those contacts to break some of the most interesting stories pertaining to the Portland Trail Blazers, Oregon Ducks, LA Lakers, LA Clippers, Seattle Supersonics (RIP), and more.