Post NBA Trade Deadline Power Rankings for Each LA Lakers Player

David Murphy@@davem234Featured ColumnistFebruary 22, 2016

Post NBA Trade Deadline Power Rankings for Each LA Lakers Player

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    Not much has changed for the Los Angeles Lakers since their last power rankings report at the end of December.

    The team is still in last place in the Western Conference, and still being led by Kobe Bryant who is thrilling crowds across the country with his farewell tour—spotlight moments that remind of a far more glorious Lakers era.

    L.A. didn’t pull the trigger on any trades at the deadline, which surprised no one—the team’s most valuable assets are young players who shouldn’t be shipped out.

    Those future stars will likely receive additional playing time to learn and progress during the final leg of a historically bad season. Per Joey Ramirez of Lakers.com, general manager Mitch Kupchak said:

    I spoke to a couple of them this morning about it: to finish the season strong. So we want to see them—in face of this adversity of a tough season—to show us some mental toughness, push through it. Show me your best, so it helps me during the offseason when it comes time to evaluate our needs.

    Kupchak was less sanguine on the future of current head coach Byron Scott, saying only: “He is under contract, and until or if that changes, we’ll let you know.”

    And so the Purple and Gold soldier on, in full evaluation and development mode, hoping for better days ahead.

    Statistics and salary info are courtesy of NBA.comBasketball-Reference.com and Spotrac, and are current as of February 21, 2016.

Reserves: 15-10

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    15. Robert Sacre

    Somebody has to be last on this list and it might as well be Robert Sacre, a 7-foot earthbound backup center who probably wouldn’t have played in the NBA had the Lakers not picked him as the dead-last pick in the 2012 draft. He’s not much of a rebounder, but has an OK short-range jumper.

    14. Marcelo Huertas

    Poor Marcelo Huertas. He had a great career overseas but hasn’t shown much as the league’s oldest rookie. Huertas is actually a passing wizard, but he doesn’t get much burn in a crowded backcourt. The Brazilian’s appearances will likely decrease even more, with younger players getting more time to develop.

    13. Ryan Kelly

    Ryan Kelly was a pleasant surprise during his rookie season under Mike D’Antoni. But the former NCAA champ from Duke has gone down the tubes in the two seasons since, under Scott. The majority of the stretch-4’s minutes now come with the Lakers’ D-League affiliate, the D-Fenders, where he is averaging 27 points-per-game.

    12. Metta World Peace

    Metta World Peace is another player who doesn’t get off the bench much. He has provided important support as a mentor for younger players, however. Appearing recently on Lakers Voices with Mike Trudell, World Peace said that Julius Randle can eventually “be a 25-point per night guy, easily.”

    11. Tarik Black

    After sitting on the pine for most of the season, second-year center/forward Tarik Black recently had an opportunity to show his worth. This occurred when Roy Hibbert sat out several games with a sprained ankle. Black’s a hard worker who can defend the basket, as well as score off pick-and-dives. He deserves a more consistent role.

    10. Anthony Brown

    Anthony Brown has also been getting more playing time lately, after numerous D-Fender assignments. The second-round rookie is a three-and-D guy with quick feet and good anticipation. He will likely have a more consistent role after Kobe Bryant retires.

Bench: 9-6

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    9. Brandon Bass

    Brandon Bass signed a modest deal with L.A. last summer, for $6,135,000 over two years. The 6’8” veteran provides a solid effort, often matching up against bigger frontcourt players. That said, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the 30-year-old’s minutes dip during the final stretch.

    Bass’ future tea leaves with the Lakers are hard to read. His greatest value is on a playoff-contending team where he can lend effective spot minutes as a mid-range scorer. Meanwhile, L.A. is still in a youth-driven rebuild mode.

    8. Roy Hibbert

    Hibbert has started each game that he has appeared in this season. But when it comes to power rankings, the veteran center is slumping badly. Averaging 6.5 points, 5.2 boards and 1.5 blocks, he’s now a mere shadow of the defensive beast that once ruled the low block.

    Big Roy’s expiring contract didn’t result in any takers at the trade deadline. It would be shocking to see him in a Lakers uniform next fall. But regardless, he has been a positive presence, offering support and guidance to the team’s young core.

    7. Nick Young

    If anyone was going to be traded by the Lakers it probably would have been freewheeling Nick Young, a bright spot under D’Antoni but often in the doghouse with Scott. On February 18, Young arrived at practice, somehow under the impression that the trade deadline had actually been the day before.

    Scott said, per Baxter Holmes of ESPN: “I don’t think Nick pays a whole lot of attention to current events.”

    Nonetheless, the veteran wing remains in L.A., mired in his worst season yet in the NBA. Maybe the Lakers will hire a new head coach this summer and “Swaggy P” can light it up once again.

    6. Larry Nance Jr.

    Most Lakers fans were stunned when Larry Nance Jr. got the starting nod over Julius Randle in early December. The No. 27 draft pick out of Wyoming hung on to that privilege for the next 22 games, until tweaking his right knee. For now, at least, Nance Jr. is back to a bench role.

    During his Lakers Voices interview, World Peace spoke about working with the power forward to boost his confidence and his overall game.

    “I’m like, ‘Man, you’re a great player,” MWP said. “We need you to play basketball. We don’t need you to be a great hustle players; we need you to be all-around.’”

    The high-flyer declined an invitation to the recent All-Star dunk contest due to his knee but is hoping for a future shot. This is a guy whose power ranking is on the rise.

5: Lou Williams, SG

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    Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

    Lou Williams was signed to a three-year $21.5 million deal during the offseason. The allure is his ability to come in and score at a moment’s notice—a talent that figured heavily into his Sixth Man of the Year honors last season with the Toronto Raptors.

    That role changed when the 6’1” guard took away D’Angelo Russell’s first-unit spot in early December. Williams then proceeded to go on a scoring tear, averaging 19.3 points in January, and starting 35 times in all. Russell finally reclaimed his spot Sunday, as part of the overall development strategy.

    Scott's decision has had an interesting ripple effect. Not only did it move a prized No. 2 draft pick into a less-than-expected function for a sizable portion of his rookie season, it also put sophomore Jordan Clarkson into a series of rotational shifts. He played off-guard to Russell and point guard when paired with Williams, who, despite his diminutive size, is best suited to the 2 position.

    Williams will likely remain as a sixth man for the remainder of the season, although that might not dramatically reduce his actual minutes.

    Drafted out of high school in 2005 by the Philadelphia 76ers, Williams is now with his fifth NBA team. The 10-year vet still has some peak years in the tank and will be an important cog in the Lakers’ continuing rebuild.

    He can score off quick, high-release jumpers from outside or drive right into the teeth of the opposition—often collecting the and-1 in the process.

4: D'Angelo Russell, PG

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    This hasn’t been the star-making rookie turn that Russell may have hoped for when the Lakers selected him as the second overall pick in the draft last June. But despite the trials and tribulations, the 6’5” guard is making progress.

    The 19-year-old has started just 23 out of 55 games, often sitting on the bench during crucial fourth-quarter situations. His stat line of 12.2 points, 3.5 boards, 3.4 dimes and 1.2 steals in 27 minutes per game is good but not great. That said, the oft-debated relationship between a teenager and his tough-love coach seems to actually be on solid ground.

    “I’m not living up to what my potential is,” Russell said recently per Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. “I know I got to work. That’s everyday.”

    Scott appreciated the self-criticism, per Medina, calling it “a sign of him showing maturity and growing up.”

    One statistic that sticks out is Russell’s modest assist rate, especially given his gift for showy passes. But that also may be due to a certain ambiguity of guard roles—he and Clarkson have alternated playing off-ball and handling the rock while in the lineup together.

    The two young guards could be an exciting twin-pronged Lakers attack for years to come. During the All-Star BBVA Rising Stars game, Clarkson had 25 points and five assists, while Russell added 22 points and seven dimes.

    Russell moved back into the starting rotation Sunday night against the Chicago Bulls. The final 25-game stretch should provide a useful insight into his rookie season on whole.

3. Julius Randle, PF

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Randle is yet another member of the in-and-out squad, having moved back and forth between starting and bench assignments. But despite that, the 6’9” power forward is developing into a consistent double-double machine, averaging 11.3 points and 10.1 boards, at 27.5 minutes per game.

    This has essentially been Randle’s rookie campaign, having broken his leg 14 minutes into the first game of his first season. His strengths are evident: the ability to handle the ball, shift through traffic and power through the paint. There’s still plenty of room for improvement, however, including staying in front of his man defensively and perfecting a consistent jumper on the other end.

    Randle has been getting help with his overall scoring approach from Lakers shooting coach Tracy Murray. During a Q&A session with Medina of the L.A. Daily News, Murray detailed the forward’s progression, both with his shot release and driving to the rim:

    He’s seen a few in the game go down. So now he’s starting to transfer it over now. With him going to the basket, he’s not much of a bowling ball anymore. He’s getting to his spots. If they cut him off, he’ll spin, create a foul or get a good look. He’s starting to figure that out. All that is is slowing down and reading what is in front of you.

    Randle wasn’t invited to the Rising Stars game this year, causing Scott to label the snub “an injustice,” per Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times. The 21-year-old will doubtless head into next season as an undisputed starter, while feeling that he still has much to prove.

2: Jordan Clarkson, SG

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    Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

    After being drafted late in the second round last year, Clarkson finished his first campaign strongly, capped off with All-Rookie First Team honors. He has continued to shine in his second season, starting each of his games and averaging 15.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists.

    And then, there was also All-Star weekend where he shined in the Rising Stars game and also competed in the Skills Challenge.

    The 6’5” product of Missouri and Tulsa isn’t yet a fully formed player—he needs to improve his perimeter defense as well as hone a more consistent outside stroke. But he is at least showing progress from beyond the arc, progressing from 21.6 percent in December to 32 percent in January and a smoking 52.6 percent so far in February. He also nailed five treys in the Rising Stars game.

    It would have been interesting to see what Clarkson’s progression would have been if he had continued to be developed as the team’s primary point guard, where his size, speed, agility and skills pose all sorts of matchup nightmares. But instead, he has been continually shifted between backcourt positions.

    Regardless, Clarkson will be restricted free agent this summer, and the Lakers need to keep him. He has outperformed expectations every step of the way and shows no signs of having hit his ceiling yet.

1. Kobe Bryant

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    Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

    Entering the final stages of his brilliant 20-year career, Bryant remains in place as the top dog on this Lakers squad. How could it be any other way? He is without a doubt the fiercest competitor on the team, and he is its undisputed leader. That won’t change until he has retired from the game.

    His list of accomplishments is staggering: five rings, seven Finals appearances, an MVP award, two Finals MVP awards, an NBA MVP, 18 All-Star nods, four All-Star MVPs, two scoring titles, the all-time Lakers scoring leader and the third all-time league scoring leader. And that only begins to tell the story.

    Bryant was the focal point of his final All-Star weekend, basking in the limelight and enjoying the camaraderie of his peers. And after the playful post-ups and spotlight accolades were over, he returned to L.A. and the rest of a historically bad season that will have to suffice as his farewell tour.

    The Mamba will never again be the deadly assassin he once was—Father Time can’t be defeated, after all. But there are still nights when he summons up dial-back performances that can’t be matched by many. He’s thrown down three 30-plus games already this season and is averaging 25.2 points over the month of February.

    Friday night, late in a loss to the San Antonio Spurs, Bryant dislocated his right ring finger. He went to the sideline, had it popped back by trainer Gary Vitti and re-entered the game. Two nights later, the eternal warrior was on the road and back in action against the Bulls, finger taped and ready for one more battle.

    The Lakers lost, but Bryant still put up 22 points in 27 minutes—sitting atop the Lakers power rankings at age 37.

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