As they currently stand, the Los Angeles Lakers have a small-ball lineup of the future, but not the typical lineup they’d feel all that comfortable starting on a nightly basis. Yes, Timofey Mozgov fits there now, but he’s not going to be around much longer than his current contract. So, when Sean Deveney of Sporting News mentioned the Lakers’ interest in Nerlens Noel, it’s fairly easy to see the fit.
Here’s how Deveney put it:
“The Lakers have inserted themselves on trade talks this season and will continue to do so. They had talks with Atlanta about Paul Millsap and expressed interest in Nerlens Noel, if the Sixers decide to go ahead with a deal for him.”
D’Angelo Russell has shown that he can lead an NBA team as a franchise point guard. Jordan Clarkson could play the two, but it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the Lakers looked for a better starting option there, so he can continue to provide scoring off the bench. Brandon Ingram has seriously stepped his game up of late, and looks to be the small forward of the future. Julius Randle has been the Lakers’ most consistent young guy, and plays the four, leaving only the center spot as the last piece to the puzzle.
Now, Larry Nance, Jr., when healthy, has played the five pretty well this season, but going that small consistently puts tremendous wear on anyone involved. Fans are really high on Ivica Zubac, but he’s still at least a year away from being able to consistently contribute to a legitimate NBA roster. Tarik Black and/or Thomas Robinson provide tremendous energy off the bench, but that’s probably about as much as the Lakers can expect from those guys.
Joel Embiid has burst onto the NBA scene in ways no one could’ve imagined, which is great for him and Sixers fans, but has created the logjam of all logjams in Philadelphia’s frontcourt. They’ll have to move either Noel or Jahlil Okafor for that roster to make sense and it’s seemed for much of this year it was Noel who they’ve most considered sending out.
What gets in the Lakers way, as Deveney points out, is how few assets they have to offer seeing as they are refusing outright to include Russell, Randle or Ingram, and are reluctant to include guys like Clarkson or Nance. What hurts the Sixers is how many teams know they have to move one of the guys listed above, which impacts their leverage. One would still think, however, that someone could at least match whatever the Lakers offer Philly, even with Noel becoming a free agent at season’s end.
Noel makes a ton of sense for the Lakers and would be a really solid addition, but unfortunately for L.A., the pieces simply aren’t there if they don’t want to dig into the collection of intriguing young talent they’ve assembled.