Lakers News: Latest on Jordan Clarkson, Free-Agency Plans and More

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJune 30, 2016

Los Angeles has plenty to figure out in the coming days before free agency opens Friday.
Los Angeles has plenty to figure out in the coming days before free agency opens Friday.Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to the Los Angeles Lakers, almost any news is good news right now with free agency on approach. 

Barring a physical setback for a player, headlines mean the march toward the new era under head coach Luke Walton continues in earnest. Said march includes getting the young roster ready for a new season and the front office pushing for big names on the market.

General manager Mitch Kupchak has the Lakers looking like one of the most interesting teams in the Association with the D'Angelo Russell-Brandon Ingram-Julius Randle core. He might try to add to it, but even if he doesn't, it's hard not to sense the optimism.

The news below follows such a theme, with the Lakers hard at work getting guys in the fold and keeping them there.

 

Ivica Zubac's Readiness

The Lakers couldn't go wrong at No. 2, selecting the guy who slipped through the cracks after the Philadelphia 76ers walked to the podium. 

No. 32 was a different story, though, with some fans surely left scratching their heads when the team called Ivica Zubac's name.

Zubac, a 7'1", 240-pound center out of Croatia, excels on the offensive end of the court in the low post, but struggles with rebounding and rim protection. Still, he's 19 years old, and such size doesn't usually fall so far.

Most had to figure the Lakers would stash Zubac and call it a day, but Kupchak seemed to think otherwise in a recent interview, according to Lakers.com's Joey Ramirez: "I believe he would like to play next year and we wouldn’t be opposed to that."

Kupchak went on to note Zubac won't play in the D-League, so it's even more interesting to hear the rookie might make the roster. So keep in mind the young, rebuilding team might have a 7'1" center hopping on board next season if the Lakers fail to go out and address the position well in free agency.

And honestly, there are much worse repercussions the team could suffer than bringing on a young guy with huge upside to grow with his fellow first- and second-year players.

 

Jordan Clarkson Update

Though he isn't often mentioned alongside the Lakers' big trio of young stars, Jordan Clarkson is an important part of the puzzle.

Clarkson, 24, was a second-round pick in 2014 and has since blossomed with the Lakers, perhaps so much so he's eliminated the need for the team to go out and grab a starting shooting guard on the market.

After a healthy average of 32.3 minutes per game last season, Clarkson posted 15.5 points while shooting 43.3 percent from the floor and 34.7 percent from deep. Provided he gets more shots and chances to grow with Kobe Bryant out of the picture, it's easy to see why the Lakers want him back.

According to Yahoo Sports' Shahan Ahmed, the Lakers hope to work something out soon with Clarkson:

This isn't the most surprising development in the world, but it's an important one nonetheless.

Not only does Clarkson look like a core player, he's been one of the most vocal advocates of the Walton hiring since it went public. An interview with ESPN.com's Jovan Buha in May said as much:

It went really well. He told me about his style of play, and how he really wants the young core to really bond together. Mostly it was about how he wants to play and how he sees us, along with the future of the franchise.

It’s definitely good to have the head man believing in you. We’re definitely going to go out there and compete for him and play hard.

Clearly a leader or someone close to taking such a role, the Lakers won't let Clarkson slip away.

It doesn't sound like a matter of "if" anymore. More like "when."

 

Lakers to Upgrade Backcourt?

With Clarkson back in the fold or not, it sounds like Kupchak and the front office aren't opposed to adding more talent to the backcourt. 

It's an interesting idea because center looks like the biggest weak point on the roster right now with Roy Hibbert penciled in as the starter. It's not a terrible situation, but one would think the Lakers would focus there during a free-agency period featuring Hassan Whiteside, Dwight Howard, Al Horford and more. 

Alas, Kupchak made these interesting comments in an interview with ESPN.com (h/t Trevor Lane of Lakers Nation):

The argument would be that (the Lakers) need some help in the frontcourt right away. So we do feel we need to address the frontcourt, but taking a step back I think we need help everywhere, so I wouldn’t rule out adding a veteran player at any position. In fact, we may be aggressive at a backcourt position even though we have backcourt players. Not because we don’t like the ones we do (have), but because we believe we can get better.

Backcourt veterans could mean any wide host of names, from Jeremy Lin to Ty Lawson to Mario Chalmers and many others.

With the veteran Lou Williams still around, adding another depth piece to reinforce both spots, those manned by Russell and Clarkson, makes sense. It's hard to see the Lakers taking a major star like Mike Conley and replacing either of them, but crazier things have happened.

Maybe Kupchak wants to keep everyone guessing. Or as he should, he's keeping all options open. So it goes for a rebuilding team inching closer and closer to where it wants to be. Don't be shocked if the Lakers don't follow conventional wisdom during free agency.

 

All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.

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