How the Lakers can develop their young talent

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Julius Randle vs. Carlos Boozer – Power Forward

Apr 7, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Julius Randle (30) shoots the ball against Connecticut Huskies forward DeAndre Daniels (2) in the second half during the championship game of the Final Four in the 2014 NCAA Mens Division I Championship tournament at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Boozer is still a top 15 starting power forward, but he no longer can command 35 minutes a night.That fact provides the Lakers with a luxury. They can afford to lean heavily on Boozer while slowly integrating Randle and giving him consistent minutes. Randle has the potential to be a star but he has a lot to learn. Boozer as the accomplished veteran is a perfect mentor for him. Off the bench, Randle can acclimate to the league’s rigors without being expected to go head-to-head with the Blake Griffins, the LaMarcus Aldridges, and Kenneth Farieds that populate the Western Conference. Randle may be able to score right away in the NBA, but it remains to be seen if he will rebound and defend at ideal levels. An apprenticeship is welcome and justified.

Jordan Clarkson vs. Steve Nash vs. Jeremy Lin – Point Guard

Feb 4, 2014; Gainesville, FL, USA; Missouri Tigers guard Jordan Clarkson (5) drives to the basket against the Florida Gators during the second half at Stephen C. O

This is the Lakers’ trickiest situation of the season. The front office paid $1.8 million to the Washington Wizards for the right to draft Clarkson. So they are invested in him. Steve Nash is in the last year of his Hall of Fame career and is being paid nearly $10 million dollars this season. He expects to play. Jeremy Lin was given to the Lakers, along with a 1st and 2nd rounder, in exchange for 32-year old  Sergei Lishchuk of the Spanish League. “This trade allows us to acquire a solid player who will make us a better team, as well as draft picks to improve our team in the future, while at the same time allowing us to maintain financial flexibility,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. “In addition to what he’ll bring us on the court, we think Jeremy will be warmly embraced by our fans and our community.”

While not quite a ringing endorsement of Jeremy Lin, the comment from Mitch Kupchak shows that the Lakers do intend to get mileage out of him, most likely as a starter, for this season. Lin ranked 23rd amongst point guards in scoring and 26th in assists. He is an upgrade at the position, but his future with the team is closely tied to what he can accomplish this year with slightly more minutes than in previous seasons, and at what price he can be resigned. With All-Star Steph Curry making just $10 million per season and other top flight point guards like Mike Conley making less than $9 Million, it remains to be seen what Lin’s asking price will be.  To date Lin’s production has been more in line with players like Ramon Sessions, a $5 million dollar a year player. At that price Lin is a great deal.

At this point in his career, Steve Nash can’t be counted on to give consistent minutes over 82 games. For Byron Scott, the problem is how can you play Clarkson over Nash if Nash is healthy? Clarkson is raw but clearly talented. An opportunity for a few minutes a night would be critical for his development. Sitting for most of the season, while the Lakers struggle to make the playoffs would be the worst case scenario for this season. Playing in the D-League for extended stretches is also not palatable because it takes Clarkson away from the mentorship of Bryant and Nash. He needs minutes on a NBA court. The Lakers have to thread the needle of properly evaluating Lin, respecting Nash, and developing Clarkson. They won’t be able to do all three, which two do they choose? And between Clarkson and Lin who has the most upside?