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What if the Lakers Young Core Never Got Split Up

Recently the Los Angeles Lakers have had a lot of buzz surrounding them, but it’s for all the wrong reasons. The Lakers have been struggling a lot this season, and they are currently out of the play-in tournament. With many of the young stars that they have let go in the past playing at high levels, many NBA fans find themselves thinking: “what could have been”?

The Young Core

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In past summers, the Lakers have given up Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso, Jordan Clarkson, and more. These players have blossomed into great players ranging from All-Stars to roll players with huge impacts on their teams. The Lakers made these moves to acquire huge stars like Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook. The Davis trade brought the Lakers a championship in the NBA Bubble, but many feel they would not have even won that in a regular season. This season, when the Lakers brought in Westbrook, fans across the NBA had a feeling that the season was over before it began. A team with that much star power was surely a lock to win a championship. That has not been the case. Anthony Davis has had a season riddled with injury, and Russell Westbrook has been underperforming at a level that has fans heated. With these recent struggles, many have started to believe that the Lakers would have had more success if they had kept all these young players together. It is time to find out what would happen if the Lakers’ young core stuck together.

2K Sim

Roster

For this simulation, I have taken every young player that the Lakers have let go of and put them back in L.A. I put Davis back in New Orleans and Westbrook back in Washington as well.

Here is the full roster: (Starters are in PURPLE)
LeBron James
Brandon Ingram
Kyle Kuzma
Lonzo Ball
Julius Randle
Josh Hart
Thomas Bryant
Ivica Zubac
Alex Caruso
Larry Nance Jr.
Jordan Clarkson

Simulation to the All-Star Break

I simulated the season up to the All-Star break and this is what happened:
Record: 35-23 (4th in the West)
Award Race: Brandon Ingram = 3rd in Sixth Man of the Year voting
Player Stats:
LeBron James: 26.3 pts, 7.1 reb, 6.7 ast
Brandon Ingram: 21.0 pts, 4.8 reb, 3.4 ast
Julius Randle: 17.3 pts, 5.5 reb, 3.0 ast
Kyle Kuzma: 14.7 pts, 6.2 reb, 2.9 ast
Lonzo Ball: 14.0 pts, 4.9 reb, 5.9 ast, 1.9 stl
Jordan Clarkson: 13.9 pts, 2.2 reb, 1.1 ast
Ivica Zubac: 10.0 pts, 8.4 reb, 1.8 ast, 0.9 blk
Thomas Bryant: 8.3 pts, 4.8 reb, 1.6 ast, 0.7 blk
Josh Hart: 7.5 pts, 5.3 reb, 4.2 ast
Alex Caruso: 6.5 pts, 3.4 reb, 5.3 ast, 1.8 stl
Larry Nance Jr.: 5.8 pts, 4.4 reb, 1.7 ast, 0.8 st, 0.8 blk

Simulated to the Playoffs

Next, I simulated to the end of the regular season. This is what happened:

Record: 49-33 (4th in the West)
Awards: LeBron James: All-NBA First Team
Player Stats:
LeBron James: 25.9 pts, 6.8 reb, 6.3 ast, 1.1 stl
Brandon Ingram: 21.2 pts, 4.5 reb, 3.1 ast
Julius Randle: 17.3 pts, 5.5 reb, 3.0 ast
Kyle Kuzma: 14.6 pts, 5.9 reb, 3.1 ast
Jordan Clarkson: 13.8 pts, 2.1 reb, 1.1 ast, 0.6 stl
Lonzo Ball: 13.7 pts, 5.0 reb, 6.1 ast, 1.8 stl
Ivica Zubac: 9.2 pts, 8.1 reb, 1.9 ast, 0.8 blk
Thomas Bryant: 8.3 pts, 5.1 reb, 1.6 ast, 0.7 blk
Josh Hart: 7.5 pts, 5.3 reb, 4.2 ast
Alex Caruso: 6.9 pts, 3.5 reb, 5.2 ast, 1.8 stl
Larry Nance Jr.: 5.6 pts, 4.3 reb, 1.7 ast, 0.8 st, 0.2 blk

Playoffs

First Round: Lakers (4) vs. Nuggets (5) = Lakers win (4-2)
Second Round: Lakers (4) vs. Pelicans (1) = Lakers win (4-1)
Third Round: Lakers (4) vs. Grizzlies (7) = Lakers win (4-3)
(INSANE COME BACK FROM BEING DOWN 0-3)

NBA FINALS
Lakers (4) vs. Nets (1)

Game 1: Lakers win (128 – 95)
LeBron James: 30 pts, 6 reb, 12 ast, 3 stl, 2 blk
Lonzo Ball: 16 pts, 6 reb, 6 ast, 3 stl, 4 blk
Ivica Zubac: 15 pts, 12 reb, 2 stl, 4 blk
Game 2: Nets win (126 – 120)
Kyrie Irving: 43 pts, 8 reb, 4 ast
Kevin Durant: 30 pts, 12 reb, 6 ast
Game 3: Lakers win (117 – 107)
LeBron James: 29 pts, 7 reb, 7 ast, 2 blk
Ivica Zobac: 16 pts, 9 reb, 3 stl
Game 4: Lakers win (131 – 115)
Brandon Ingram: 30 pts, 6 reb, 6 ast
Lonzo Ball: 28 pts, 3 reb, 6 ast
LeBron James: 26 pts, 5 reb, 10 ast
Game 5: Nets win (116 – 101)
Kevin Durant: 57 pts, 11 reb, 4 ast
Game 6: Lakers win (115 – 111)
LeBron James: 20 pts, 8 reb, 3 ast, 3 stl
Alex Caruso: 20 pts, 2 reb, 4 ast, 5 stl, 3 blk
Jordan Clarkson: 15 pts, 3 reb, 3 ast
(8 PLAYERS WITH 10+ POINTS)

THE LOS ANGELES LAKERS WIN THE NBA FINALS
🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆
Finals MVP: LeBron James

Pelicans Season with Anthony Davis

The Pelicans finish in 1st spot in the West with a 57-25 record. Anthony Davis put up 21.2 pts, 8.3 reb, 3.7 ast, 1.4 stl, and 1.8 blk. Davis was also named to the All-NBA Defensive 2nd Team. The Pelicans swept the 8th seed Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs and went on to lose in the second round to the Lakers in 5 games.

Conclusion

Perhaps one of the biggest what-ifs in the NBA, it is possible that the Lakers would have been more successful if they kept their young core. We will never truly know what could have happened but it is fun to imagine how exciting that team could have been. With the season the Lakers are having, the trade for Russell Westbrook could go down in history as one of the most disappointing trades ever. Will the Lakers turn it around? Or will their season come to an early end?

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