After widespread criticism on his lackadaisical approach to scoring, guard Lonzo Ball has finished with double-digit point totals in the last six contests while still functioning as the primary distributor when on the court.
Forward Brandon Ingram has shown promise in his second year, averaging 16 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. Nonetheless, forward Kyle Kuzma leads the team in scoring with 17.7 points per contest. Many feel he's the most impressive rookie on the squad.
Behind Los Angeles' budding trio, there's still much to talk about when considering transactions to acquire role players or the forward-thinking decision to move contracts for a bigger catch, specifically LeBron James or Paul George.
We already know the young stars who wear purple and gold in Los Angeles, but which players could the team move to fill specific voids or create room for established talent?
While the Lakers played the Golden State Warriors Friday, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski discussed potential transactions that didn't, could've and still may happen in the near future.
Lakers and Mavericks Engaged in Julius Randle, Nerlens Noel Swap
During game day, head coach Luke Walton must solve a quadratic equation to divvy minutes among his frontcourt players. Due to Kuzma's emergence as a prolific scorer, Larry Nance Jr. and Julius Randle see less time on the court.
Among the three forwards, Kuzma shows the most versatility. He can create his own shot and converts 40 percent from three-point land. In an uptempo offense, the Utah product also spreads the floor with the skills to attack the rim when necessary. It makes sense to keep him on the court as much as possible.
Randle averaged 28.8 minutes per contest during the 2016-17 campaign. He's playing 22.4 minutes through 30 games. According to Wojnarowski, the Lakers have floated his name in trade talks with the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for a superior rim protector in Nerlens Noel:
"Dallas is a team now that's trying to accumulate some young assets. Nerlens Noel was a player who they sort of loosely had some conversations about. The Noel injury, though, essentially ended those [conversations]."
Noel's thumb surgery caused the Lakers to back out of a potential swap. However, once he's back on the Mavericks bench, Los Angeles may rekindle talks about a deal.
Dallas would trade a player who's not in its rotation and pick up an asset that can log a double-double on any given night.
As mentioned, the Lakers have an abundance of talent at power forward but need someone to defend and rebound in the paint. Center Brook Lopez, who's out with a right ankle sprain, only averages 4.3 boards per game as a 7-footer, which doesn't bode well for second-chance scoring opportunities on the offensive end.
Jordan Clarkson on the Move?
Magic Johnson, the team's president of basketball operations, must keep his eye on the future while attempting to win now.
Sixth man Jordan Clarkson fits into a gray area that intersects short- and long-term plans. The Lakers need his scoring off the bench, but the front office will strongly consider moving his contract in the offseason.
At the moment, there's no rush to trade Clarkson, who still has two years left on his four-year, $50 million deal, per Spotrac.
However, Los Angeles could land a star player on a max deal with cap-space flexibility in the summer, per Wojnarowski:
"They believe they can trade Jordan Clarkson and get his money off. They prefer not to do it at the trade deadline. Clarkson has helped them win games this year, and because they don't have their pick, they want to win as many games as they can. But there's got to be a sequencing here. And it gets back to, are they going to chase one max-salary slot, or two?"
After all the buzz about George's desire to put on the purple and gold uniform during the previous offseason—first reported by Wojnarowski, formerly of Yahoo Sports—the Lakers have to ensure they're able to accommodate for the financial hit.
The Oklahoma City Thunder, George's current team, started slow but won the last four games. Nonetheless, if the club doesn't advance past the first round of the playoffs, the four-time All-Star may use his 2018 player option to look elsewhere in the offseason. The Lakers have to prepare for an acquisition that can rapidly change this franchise's short-term outlook.
Luol Deng Stuck in Los Angeles?
There's some bad news for Lakers fans. Do you remember that four-year, $72 million deal forward Luol Deng signed during the 2016 offseason? Teams have no interest in taking the bloated contract off the Lakers books.
Wojnarowski went in-depth on behind the scenes talk:
"You talk to teams around the league, no one is bailing the Lakers out with Deng’s contract. They’re not. Teams have asked for multiple first-round picks to take that money. They’ve asked for Brandon Ingram. They’ll ask for Kyle Kuzma. The Lakers, I’m told, have essentially given up the idea that they can trade Deng, that there’s anything they can attach to his contract.”
With all the young talent in Los Angeles, Walton doesn't have a spot in the rotation for the 14th-year veteran. He's only appeared in one game for 13 minutes. The Lakers haven't showcased the 32-year-old as an able body, and teams don't see the need to acquire him.
There's no way the front office pulls off a transaction for Deng unless Clarkson becomes part of the exchange. Until then, Los Angeles will have to hold an inflated contract or negotiate a buyout.