Lakers’ Young Core Among Worst in NBA After Trades Says Analyst

Lakers Offseason Trades

Getty Kyle Kuzma #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers grabs his ankle after landing awkwardly during the second half of a game agains the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on March 04, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.

The Los Angeles Lakers likely put themselves in contention in the Western Conference when they teamed Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins with LeBron James. Some analysts are pointing out that their bench and rotation are now among the worst in the league, as so many young pieces had to be sent to New Orleans to bring Davis in the fold.

Zach Cram of The Ringer analyzed the “young cores” of every team in the league, meaning that he filtered out rosters to just include players under 24-years-old. He determined that Los Angeles has the No. 26 young core in the NBA.

The criteria used is based on how many wins above replacement (WAR), which “compares a player’s output to a baseline level that estimates what a minimum contract or two-way player would produce in the same situation.”

Cram sees little on the bench outside of Kyle Kuzma, with the team producing a WAR of just six.

The (analytical) system doesn’t love Kuzma, the only young Laker of note after L.A.’s trade for Anthony Davis and subsequent trade to clear cap space. The Lakers do love Kuzma—they refused to include him in the Davis deal—but in two seasons thus far, he’s profiled as an inefficient scorer and poor defender. At least for now, that combination pushes him closer to a back-end rotation player than future core contributor.

Kuzma does produce on the scoreboard with 18.7 points per game last season. However, he shot just 45.6 percent from the field and just a hair above 30 percent from behind the arc.

Here’s the rest of the Lakers’ rotation and roster, as well as an analysis of their bench.

Lakers Roster & Projected Starting Lineup 2019-20

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C: DeMarcus Cousins, JaVale McGee
PF: Anthony Davis, Jared Dudley, Johnathan Williams (RFA)
SF: Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Talen Horton-Tucker
SG: Danny Green, Troy Daniels, Alex Caruso
PG: LeBron James, Rajon Rondo, Quinn Cook

Two-Way: Kostas Antetokounmpo, Zach Norvell

How realistic is James at point guard? Yahoo Sports Chris Haynes detailed the potential position change.

The new-look Los Angeles Lakers are heading into the 2019-20 season with the intention of starting LeBron James at point guard, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

James, 34, will be entering his 17th NBA season and is prepared to become the floor general in an effort to maximize a roster that’s suddenly built to contend for a championship with the addition of All-Star forward Anthony Davis and a few complementary pieces.

The only players outside of Kuzma that qualify as under 25 are Williams and Horton-Tucker. Both post negative WAR’s, while the aggregate of the five immediate backups is -1.6 for the 2019 season.

This bench is full of question marks. Rondo is a quality defender and distributor, but his inconsistent jump shot makes him a possible non-presence on the perimeter. Caldwell-Pope and Dudley should be decent 3-point shooters, but Dudley is 34 and more of an irritant than anything else.

McGee, 31, is one of the most important stories this season. The 7-footer acquitted himself well in 2018-19 with 12 points and 7.5 rebounds a game. He’ll be backing up Cousins, who has struggled with injuries for two seasons in a row.

An injury to one, if not both, would cripple the Lakers frontcourt. With this as one of their main selling points at this time, McGee needs to be prepared to start should Cousins go down.

Without the young core of Ingram, Ball, Hart and even Julius Randle from two years ago, new head coach Frank Vogel will be relying on aging veterans that either are past their prime or haven’t proven themselves to this point.