The Los Angeles Lakers headed into this season with a few priorities, but none arguably higher than finding a balance between contending short-term while LeBron James is in the organization while also developing the young core that helped get him here.
So far, so good, but as Luke Walton points out, it’s on everyone involved to make sure the young core continues to grow even as they deal with trade rumors (via Spectrum SportsNet):
“I can tell you that we really like our young players. What we’re trying to build here isn’t just ‘win right now, this year.’ We’re trying to build something that can be solid for the next ten years, and a big part of that are some of those young players, Lonzo being one of them. As long as they keep working the way they work, and keep getting better at the rate they’re getting better, we should be pretty good.”
While the Lakers’ youngsters are reportedly safe for now, this season is essentially a year-long audition for them to remain a part of the team’s long-term plans alongside James.
However, the thing is, James is on a contract that could expire as soon as a couple years from now. So the Lakers have to make sure they’re set up for success even after he departs, whether that be via free agency or retirement (preferably the latter, obviously, and some years down the road).
While it’s extremely unlikely that all the Lakers’ youth of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, Moe Wagner, Svi Mykhailiuk, Isaac Bonga and Ivica Zubac stick around for the entirety this era of Lakers basketball, the better they get individually, the more value they offer on the court and in trade scenarios.
If the Lakers are going to maximize the organization’s potential while LeBron is on the roster, the guys they’ve drafted are going to have to carry just as large a load collectively as James can single-handedly. Thus far, it’s seemed they Ball, Hart, Kuzma and the rest of the group has shown flashes that they can get to that level, but whether they can maintain consistency in that regard is going to dictate the ceiling of LeBron’s Laker tenure, and how long this current young core will be a part of it.
For more on the Lakers’ young core, and which players can be expected to stick around or end up on the move, check out the latest episode of the Silver Screen and Roll podcast below, and subscribe on iTunes to make sure you don’t miss any episodes.