Jordan Clarkson doubts Lakers would’ve won title with young core: ‘I don’t think it ever would’ve worked out’

Zach Stevens
4 Min Read
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Before LeBron James joined the Los Angeles Lakers, they had a promising young core that included multiple future All-Stars such as Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle.

Jordan Clarkson, who is now with the Utah Jazz, recently admitted that had that core stuck together, it wouldn’t have been super successful.

“I don’t think it ever was going to work with all of us being there,” Clarkson told Mike DeStefano of Complex. “[Laughs.] I think we all were stars in our own right. Us separating and going into our home lanes was a good change of scenery for everybody. I see the tweets and all that stuff. It’s so funny to look back on it. I think the Lakers did a great job of scouting us, finding the talent, and giving us the opportunity by drafting us. But us all being on the same team, I don’t think it ever would’ve worked out. We probably wouldn’t have brought a championship back to them or none of that, you know what I mean? They got LeBron for us, whatever it is. It’s part of the game. All of us were stars in our own roles. We had to get a change of scenery to let us grow in other ways.”

Clarkson was a second-round draft pick of the Lakers in 2014, and although little was initially expected of him, he broke out late in his rookie year and proved he could be an impact player.

He averaged 11.9 points in 25.0 minutes a game as a rookie, and he improved to 15.5 points per contest the following year.

However, Clarkson was ultimately traded along with Larry Nance Jr. during the 2017-18 season for Channing Frye, Isaiah Thomas and a first-round pick in 2018.

Since leaving L.A., Clarkson has improved somewhat, as he won the 2020-21 Sixth Man of the Year award. But at age 30, he has yet to make an All-Star team.

The Post Kobe Years

Following Kobe Bryant’s torn Achilles in 2013 and retirement in 2016, Lakers fans dreamt of building the franchise’s next great squad.

Among Clarkson, Randle, Ingram, D’Angelo Russell, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball, the team had some talented players, but after a couple of years, none of them had stood out as a future superstar or franchise player.

Los Angeles was still falling well short of returning to the playoffs, and it became clear that high draft picks wouldn’t single-handedly restore the team’s championship luster.

Right after landing James in July 2018, the Lakers’ next goal was to go out and get a co-superstar to team him up with.

That co-superstar turned out to be Anthony Davis, and to get him via trade, Ingram and Ball had to be jettisoned.

Then last summer, Kuzma was sent away in the Russell Westbrook trade. It was an attempt to build a superteam, but most feel it was a failed attempt, if not a disastrous one.

Given that the Lakers measure success by NBA championships and nothing else, the core Clarkson was a part of would’ve left fans starving for more had it been kept together.

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Zach has always had a profound love and respect for the Lakers that has inspired him to write about the franchise. He has a great deal of admiration for LeBron James, and his overall knowledge about the NBA has made him a solid addition to the Lakers Daily staff.