Recently, two Lakers have been heavily featured within coach Luke Walton’s rotation.
Averaging 14.4 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists in just 23.3 minutes per contest, Jordan Clarkson has been tasked with taking on major minutes in Lonzo Ball’s injury absence. In the four games before Sunday’s six-point performance against the Houston Rockets, Clarkson averaged 19.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists over 32.3 minutes per game.
Putting up 12.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in 22.1 minutes per game, Julius Randle’s minutes were limited until Friday, when he picked up his first start against DeAndre Jordan and the Los Angeles Clippers. He played 29 minutes in that game and had 18 points on 8-of-16 shooting with seven rebounds. On Sunday against the Rockets, he started again and was arguably the best player on the floor, scoring 29 points on 13-of-19 shooting to go along with 15 rebounds and six assists.
Although Clarkson’s expanded role can be explained by Ball’s absence, all of a sudden featuring Randle has raised some questions.
Did the Lakers finally realize that Randle is their best option at center? Or, is something else up?
According to Lakers beat writer Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times, the Lakers have been taking calls from other NBA teams this week and both Clarkson and Randle are on the trade block.
“Randle’s situation is worth watching, though,” she reported in her Friday newsletter. “The Lakers would love to trade him if they could, and Jordan Clarkson fits in that category too. Both players know they have been offered in trades by the Lakers, and they’re handling it in different ways.”
Apparently the players have different personalities.
“Clarkson is taking a freewheeling approach to this season. He’s having fun, he’s doing his best to listen to the coaches and he’s not worrying too much about the way he portrays himself to reporters,” Ganguli wrote.
On the other hand, “Randle has more of an intense personality and his approach is showing that. He worked hard to change his body over the summer and it shows in some ways on the court. There have been times when he’s made a big impact in games, just as Clarkson has, but his style doesn’t always fit what the Lakers are seeking. That’s part of why Randle’s minutes tend to yo-yo. He’ll play 30 minutes one night, then eight the next."
Although Clarkson is under contract through the next two seasons, the team needs to trade him in order to free up space to accommodate two max-contract free agents next summer if they intend on pursuing the biggest names on the market.
Randle is slated to become a restricted free agent in the summer. Based on his production in abbreviated minutes this season, he will likely receive a lucrative offer sheet from another team, thus creating the situation where the Lakers could let him walk away while receiving no compensation if they do not elect to match the offer.
Los Angeles has until the February 8 deadline to find landing spots for both players. If they can’t make anything happen, they run the risk of sacrificing their transformative offseason plans.