The Los Angeles Lakers handed the keys to the franchise to Magic Johnson, naming him president of basketball operations last February.
Since, he's traded D'Angelo Russell and Lou Williams, notably drafted Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma, and is preparing the organization for a new era. After hitting franchise lows left and right, a breath of fresh air might be exactly what the Lakers need.
Johnson inherited a young core of players, featuring Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance, Jr. and even more young prospects. Teams around the league have been putting in a call for two of the key players of their core.
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Rumors pointed to several teams putting in a call to the Lakers to gauge the availability of Ingram, the Lakers' 2016 No. 2 pick. The franchise has been clear that trade conversations surrounding the former Duke Blue Devil aren't something they're putting on the table.
There's another player that's also played his way into the Lakers' safe house, it seems. Johnson joined ESPN's First Take on Tuesday and had this to say about Nance, Jr. and Ingram as he discussed each player on the roster.
“Our secret weapon is Larry Nance [Jr.], because Larry... we’ve gotten calls from a lot of teams that want to trade for him and Brandon Ingram. We said no. But Larry is such a fundamentally sound basketball player,” Johnson said.
Nance, Jr. emerged as a fascinating role player for the Lakers as a rookie two seasons ago. He caught the attention of fans with his dunks, but his talents beyond rising up and crushing rims are what make him a valuable commodity for Los Angeles.
His contract situation is also very team-friendly, set to earn just over $3 million over the next two seasons of his rookie deal. By comparison, slated starting power forward Julius Randle is finishing out the final year of his rookie contract and could be an expensive player for the Lakers to retain as a restricted free agent.
If you also consider the fact that the Lakers haven't made it a secret that they're looking to keep as much salary cap space as possible open next summer to sign a major free agent or two, Randle could become a salary cap casualty. In that case, keeping Nance, Jr. on the team long-term makes plenty of sense.
Does that make him untouchable? Probably not, but Magic gave Larry a huge nod of approval that should motivate him to continue growing as a member of the Lakers.