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Mitch Kupchak thinks the Lakers’ young players are going to be ‘really, really good’

The future is bright in Los Angeles

Brooklyn Nets v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Los Angeles Lakers’ general manager Mitch Kupchak has said he’s not in a rush to trade the team’s young players, and the reason why is simple: he is really high on their potential.

“The young players are playing and you're going to watch them get better and better. We're very hopeful that some of our young players will turn into really, really good NBA players,” Kupchak told Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report. "Our scouts have done a wonderful job.”

It’s easy to see why Kupchak is “hopeful.” The Lakers’ young core has looked really promising this year (even if they’ve also faced the typical growing pains all young teams go through).

While D’Angelo Russell is on the floor, the Lakers’ offensive rating (110.2) ascends to a level that would rank sixth in the league if the Lakers’ held it over the course of the season.

Julius Randle is showing better playmaking skills than almost anyone expected he had going into the year. Randle is assisting on 18.2 percent of the Lakers’ baskets while on the floor, the fourth-best rate on the team and the highest of any of the team’s forwards.

Brandon Ingram is already making an impact on the Lakers’ defense. The 19-year old rookie is one of four Lakers (along with Jordan Clarkson, Tarik Black, and Randle) who players have shot a worse field goal percentage against this season, and the team is 4.1 points per 100 possessions better defensively when Ingram plays. Ingram has done all of this while taking on a larger ball-handling role than almost anyone predicted going into the year.

Clarkson’s inclusion on the aforementioned list of Lakers who have been solid is another surprise, and while he’s struggled on both ends over the last few games, Clarkson was a key member of the Lakers’ killer bench unit earlier this season and has continued to make it clear that his status as a former second-round pick doesn’t preclude him from being one of the most valuable members of the team moving forward.

Larry Nance, Jr. is similarly unheralded to Clarkson, but has arguably made just as large of an impact. The versatile forward’s ability to do a little bit of everything has been a huge factor in making the team’s bench so dangerous offensively, and the Lakers are better on both offense (4.3 points per 100 possessions better) and defense (allowing 6.5 points per 100 possessions fewer) when Nance plays.

Perhaps most encouraging of all, the team has shown the right mindset to carry themselves from good to great. Russell has openly taken responsibility for his defensive struggles and pledged to get better, while Randle has called out the team’s defense as “embarassing” as part of his pledge to become the Lakers’ vocal leader.

Despite the seven-game losing streak, Kupchak has every reason to be “hopeful” about the players he and the front office has selected. The Lakers have been patient in their rebuild so far, and would probably be best served to continue to kick back and let this young group grow.

Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.

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