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D'Angelo Russell 'clear-cut' top asset for Lakers, league insiders remain skeptical of young core

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The Lakers have young, high-potential players but league insiders remain skeptical until they see results.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers have restocked their shelves with young talent across the roster, led by the potential of D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle. Baxter Holmes of ESPN's multi-part series on how outside officials and executives from around the league view the Lakers landed on the team's assets, and league insiders unanimously agreed Russell is the franchise's most valuable asset. Skepticism appears to be very thick outside of Los Angeles on how good the current youth really is, though.

Placing value on the Lakers' trio of young players is a difficult task when they haven't had an opportunity to play actual NBA minutes together. There's reason to be skeptical about just how high their value is in the present, but with young players there's always a curve to consider. All three need time to grow, and we've only seen stretches of Summer League along with sparse preseason time from them, aside from Clarkson.

This passage of quotes Holmes gathered is where things get a tinge pessimistic:

Even then, one analytics official pointed out that it's unlikely to expect any team to dump a disgruntled player at a discount, which is what would have to happen for such a player to come to the Lakers.

"You're not going to be able to package Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson for a good draft pick or a good player," one executive said. "You may be able to trade Jordan Clarkson for a veteran player that may be a little bit more ready to win, but I don't see the asset value of those players, other than D'Angelo."

Said another executive, "I'm not a huge fan [of Randle]. You're not going to get a lottery pick [for him]. I can tell you that."

Said another executive, "I have my concerns about Russell and he didn't help his value in summer league, but he was a guy that around the league was a consensus top-five pick only a few months ago and I think there are a teams around the league that value him very highly."

That seems like an unrealistically low estimation of what their value is. Several reports indicated the 76ers were pushing to acquire the No. 2 pick from the Lakers to draft Russell, but Los Angeles stuck with the highly-projected guard from Ohio State. His preseason has been rocky, taking a hard fall that forced him out forcing him to adjust to different roles since returning. Still, he's been moving the ball well while averaging 15.3 minutes per game, accounting for 52.8 percent of the assists that occur while he's on the court, well above the rest of his teammates (aside from Huertas, who's played one game).

Randle's value looks like less of a question while he solidifies himself in the Lakers' starting lineup, getting the nod in each exhibition game and impressing with his play. Clarkson was selected for All-Rookie first team after his late-season surge, enjoying a season he can build off of. Their projected value seems higher than what these executives give them credit for, but in the present skepticism reigns supreme.

Their current value, according to whatever sources, doesn't necessarily mean much either. It's completely fair to say an established All-Star is more valuable than any of these players, at this exact point in their career. It's also fair to say in the next two years we'll be singing an entirely different tune about how good they are and what their value has become. It's too early to make any definitive statements about how good these players are, will be or won't be, which is a perfectly fair admission in the present.

The group needs to prove itself just as much as it needs a chance to prove itself. The quotes are a fair representation of where they are as talents in a vacuum, but that's going to peak and valley throughout the season and as they develop over the next few  years. We'll look at preseason once it concludes, then we'll see how the group looks with full minutes in the regular season, then we'll progress to monthly check-ins. It's a fluid situation, and as long as that contextual detail is part of the conversation, then skepticism on either side of this fence is warranted. The full article from Holmes touches on the assets the Lakers have for the trade market, whether a team would be interested in acquiring Kobe Bryant, and touches on their future draft pick situation. Baxter also discussed it a bit on his Twitter timeline, so you can check out some of his personal thoughts on what he gathered for the article over there.