This current Los Angeles Lakers roster is a melting pot of veterans looking for one more chance and young guys trying to make their way and prove themselves in this league. As there are no truly established players on this roster, the Lakers haven’t committed long-term to any of them. The only players with long term contracts on the roster is talented sixth man Nick Young, who signed a four year, $21.5 million extension this offseason, and 2014 top draft pick Julius Randle, who is also signed for four years on his rookie contract. However, halfway through this season, some players have distinguished themselves from the rest of the pack as players who have potential and could be factors on a good team down the road. These are 4 players the Lakers should be intent on bringing back for next year and years to come.
- Jordan Hill. This one should be a no-brainer to Lakers fans, who are endeared to Hill because of his high motor and the effort he gives on a nightly basis. However, Hill should be retained due to the fact that he has grown in talent level this season as his playing time has increased. Hill is averaging career-highs across the board, putting up double digits in scoring for the first time in his career (12.5 a night) and has upped his rebounds (8.1), assists (1.4) and free throw shooting (.760). Hill has improved every year since joining the Lakers and deserves a long-term deal. Luckily, retaining him should be easy as the team has the option to bring him back for another year.
- Ed Davis. After being a journeyman forward in Toronto and Memphis, Davis seems to have found his niche with the Lakers. Playing significant minutes in the team’s starting lineup, Davis has proved to be an energizer and a hustle player as well as the team’s best defensive player. Davis is averaging a career-high in rebounds and his second highest block total. He’s also showing significant improvement on the offensive end. With a little bit of work, Davis could become a solid starting power forward down the road.
- Wayne Ellington. You’re going to need somebody to step into the starting shooting guard role when Kobe hangs it up, and Ellington is proving he is capable of doing the job. Ellington is a scorer by nature and has provided a substantial scoring option when he has been in the starting lineup, putting up double-digits in points in 11 of his starts. Ellington has been great in the month of January, nearly doubling his scoring average to 11.8 from 6.6. The last two games have been great for him, as he scored a career-high 28 points against the Washington Wizards on 60% shooting and followed it up with a 23 point game against the Chicago Bulls Thursday night. Combine Ellington with Young coming off of the bench and you’ve got some legit firepower at the 2-guard position.
- Jordan Clarkson. I know he’s only played a handful of games so far. I know he’s had his lows this season, including multiple D-League stints. I know his contract isn’t up until next year. However, after watching this kid play in the starting lineup, I believe it is imperative that the team locks him down for the long haul. Clarkson plays with a certain tenacity and confidence at the point guard position that the Lakers have desperately needed and been lacking. He played a crucial factor in the team’s double overtime win over the Bulls, scoring 18 points with 4 assists, 4 boards, 2 blocks and 2 steals. Clarkson plays a great all-around game at the point guard position and, under the tutelage of a point guard guru in Byron Scott (ask Jason Kidd, Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving), could become really good in about 4 or 5 years. The Lakers must invest in him as the point guard of the future and keep him in the fold.
These 4 young players have shown plenty of talent and, with the right development, have the potential to be a pretty good nucleus on a good team in a few years. If they are allowed to continue to grow together under a good coach like Byron Scott, we may be talking about these guys more and more as time passes.