This Lakers season is soon mercifully over and outside of Kobe Bryant’s final chapter, the silver lining are the young stars on the current roster.

The young core has a chance to help recruit a superstar free agent or two this summer, but who is truly a cornerstone the future and who is potential trade bait?

Let’s breakdown the candidates:

Julius Randle – Technically a 2nd year player, but in reality he’s a double-double machine as a rookie. Consider his 2014-15 season an internship with front row seats, Randle’s stats have steadily increased each of the past months. Still lacking a shooting touch and court awareness, his raw abilities are jaw-dropping. He’s Lamar Odom in a fit-version of Zach Randolph’s body. Once Randle can consistently knock down a mid-range jumper and stop completely running over opponents, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t become a perennial All-Star. His game isn’t as flashy as D’Angelo Russell’s, but his strong work ethic will make him a part of the Lakers success in years to come.

D’Angelo Russell – Started off the season like a crock pot. Tough beginning, but now he’s starting to cook. What the Lakers organization saw in his pre-draft workouts are showing up: high basketball IQ, swagger to his game and alpha-male personality. What Russell lacks in athleticism, he makes up for in skill set and confidence. Already a solid spot-up shooter, this shoot-first point guard is showing why he was the first guard selected in the 2015 NBA Draft. Russell has already shown a knack for strong decision making in close game situations and he’s only going to get better. Stop comparing him to Magic Johnson or Bryant, this kid is going to make a name for himself.

Larry Nance Jr. – Reggie Miller calls Nance Jr. the best young player on the team. Although I disagree, I can see where Miller is coming from. What Nance Jr. does better than any other young stud on the team is stay in his lane. He never needs a play called for him. Nance Jr. prides himself on the intricacies of the game: rebounding, defense and the mid-range jumper. Already a rarity as a 4-year college graduate, Nance Jr. is showing why the Lakers selected him in the first round. He’s a high-flier with an throwback game. Nance Jr. will be a crucial role player for the Lakers moving forward because of the “dirty work” he happily does.

Jordan Clarkson – His second season starts up where he left off in his rookie campaign. By far the steal of the second round in 2015, Clarkson went to work in the offseason where he sharpened his game and continues his aggressive style of play. As the season winds down, some doubts have been cast about his smarts both on and off the court. Recently accused with Nick Young in a harassment case raises red flags about his decision making. In the 4th quarter, he ranks as one of the lowest percentage shooters in the NBA and frequently mishandles the ball in crunch time. The preference is to keep him as the starting shooting guard versus offer max money to a player like DeMar DeRozan, yet his value may be at an all-time high in a sign and trade deal.

The Lakers have tough decisions to make this offseason.

There would be nothing wrong with keeping all 4 players, but it’s also clear if a superstar is acquired by the Lakers, no one is untouchable.

Lakers fans will have to tune in and see how luck pans out in the following events: the lottery, draft and free agency.

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Author, blogger, speaker & die-hard Lakers fan

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