This summer has been a shaky one for Los Angeles Lakers fans, from the euphoric highs of the draft to the crushing lows of watching the top free agents slip away yet again. GM Mitch Kupchak did what he could to salvage things after being spurned (pun intended) by primary target LaMarcus Aldridge, signing veteran value players like Lou Williams and Brandon Bass. He then capped the summer off by trading for slumping two-time All-Star Roy Hibbert in a low-risk, high reward deal with the Pacers. All in all, the topsy-turvy ride finally came a rest somewhere in the middle of the emotional spectrum, with fans marginally content but far from satisfied.
Even though Kupchak’s quick pivoting produced results just when all seemed lost, the overall “meh” feeling regarding the Lakers offseason certainly isn’t what the team was hoping for. For the third summer in a row, they entered into the free agency fray with little to attract top-tier talent, hoping the vaunted Lakers mystique and the glitz and glam of Los Angeles would get the job done.
Unfortunately, times have changed and the city no longer has the gravitational pull it once did. Thanks to the world-shrinking effects of social media, players today feel capable of building their brand just about anywhere. The trappings of Hollywood may still have some pull, but merely as a perk to enhance the primary bait of a winning team, which is something Kupchak is still working on rebuilding.
For the Lakers, breaking free of the vicious cycle of free agent snubs is a difficult task, but not an impossible one. The new-ish CBA was specifically designed to prevent Los Angeles from reloading through free agency, which means that now they have to do it like everyone else does: by developing young talent. Taking draft picks and turning them into homegrown stars has become one of the most important aspects of roster building in the modern NBA, and the Lakers are in the midst of a conscious push to embrace the new reality.
For better or worse, the future of the Lakers now primarily depends on the growth of three potential stars: Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and D’Angelo Russell. Their ultimate success or failure, and every result in between, will largely determine whether the Lakers return to prominence.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what each player can do to make the leap towards stardom.
BEGIN SLIDESHOW: Clarkson, Randle, Russell Hold Keys To Lakers Future