While the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t make the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season, they maintain loose ties to the 2018 NBA Finals through former players stepping foot on the biggest stage in basketball.
Most notable are Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Jose Calderon and Nick Young, all of whom will be participating in their first ever Finals.
Young’s road has been the longest as he is in his 11th NBA season. He originally signed with the Lakers in 2013, leading the team in scoring that season. After a couple of down years, Young resuscitated his career in 2017, becoming the Lakers’ most reliable 3-point shooter and one of the team’s best defenders.
Wanting to have a true playoff experience, Young decided to sign with the Golden State Warriors last summer. Obviously his numbers are down, but he has had to step up recently due to the injury to Andre Iguodala, and has performed admirably in his absence.
Clarkson was the 47th overall pick of the Lakers in the 2014 Draft and immediately made an impact once given the opportunity. He went on to be named to All-Rookie First Team. The fourth-year guard always had the ability to score the ball and was amongst the leaders in points off the bench each of the last two seasons.
On the other end of the spectrum is Nance, who has never been a huge scorer, but is the perfect high-energy player. The 27th overall selection in 2015 became a Lakers favorite because of his hustle, athleticism, and out-of-this-world slam dunks.
Unfortunately, with the Lakers front office looking to clear salary cap space for free agency this summer, Clarkson’s contract had to be moved and the price of doing so, was Nance Jr. Both were shipped to the Cleveland Cavaliers at this season’s trade deadline for Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, and a first-round draft pick.
Both will be relied upon against the fast, up-tempo Warriors. Clarkson has struggled offensively in the playoffs, but can always get hot at any minute. Nance meanwhile, has seen his role increase recently and has done well to make an impact in any way he can.
Calderon didn’t have a long stint with the Lakers, playing in just 24 games in 2017 before being waived. He signed with the Cavs this past summer and played a big role during the season as they struggled with injuries at point guard. Calderon’s role during the playoffs, however, has been nonexistent.
Not to be left out, a former Laker is roaming the sidelines as well in Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue. He spent his first three years with the Lakers, winning two championships as the team’s backup point guard. He added to that collection with his first title as a coach in 2016, and now will be looking to add one more.
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