Los Angeles Lakers Byron Scott has a difficult decision to make this season: Should he value winning at all costs or developing the team's youth?
In an ideal world, the two go hand in hand. But that might not be the case this season. The Lakers' roster has conflicting interests.
Kobe Bryant, Roy Hibbert, Lou Williams and Brandon Bass are in win-now mode. The veterans are either in their primes (Hibbert, Williams and Bass) or on their last legs (Bryant) and don't have any time to waste. They don't have a few years to wait for the team's young core to develop -- they want to compete for a playoff spot and do damage in the West.
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Which isn't to say the Lakers young trio of D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson doesn't want to win. All three seem to be competitive, fiery players. But they're also all in their first or second seasons, and they all want to grow, develop and shine. Each has All-Star potential, which brings endorsements and accolades and recognition, yet they can only reach that level if they're playing.
Scott has shown a propensity for favoring veterans over rookies, so it'll be interesting to see how he balances such an important decision.
Whatever Scott ultimately decides, he'll have the support of Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak.
In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Daily News, Kupchak said he would have no problem with Scott playing veterans over the younger players, and that the call is totally Scott's to make:
"We're going to try to win every game," Kupchak said. "It may come down to a close game and Byron looks down the bench and sees a couple of veterans down the bench and he's going to say, 'I want to win.' He may take out a couple young guys and put the veterans in. That will be completely his call. It's a balancing act that coach will have to get comfortable with.
"There may be times throughout the year where it's a learning experience. Byron may say, 'He is better there because he's been in the league for 10 years. But this is a learning moment. Let me go with this kid.'"
The sad truth that Scott, Kupchak and Lakers fans have to deal with is that even in the best-case scenario, the Lakers are a No. 9 or No. 10 seed. If they somehow lucked out and snuck into the playoffs, they'd be obliterated by the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers or whoever else they'd face.
Therefore, it should be of upmost importance to ensure that the young core develops, and together.
The starting lineup should be Hibbert, Randle, Bryant, Clarkson and Russell. That's the perfect combination of youth, talent and experience, given the nature of the roster.
Bryant is going to transition over to small forward, anyway, and Clarkson is probably already better than Williams (he certainly is better than Young). Williams, who just won Sixth Man of the Year with the Toronto Raptors last season, fits better off the bench. Russell, the No. 2 overall pick in this year's draft, should be thrown to the wolves and start as a rookie point guard in the West. Randle vs. Bass could be an interesting starting battle, but Randle is potentially the franchise big man and Bass, frankly, is not.
The Lakers are one of the few franchises that only cares about championships. Anything less and the season is a failure. They are almost certainly not going to win the title next season, so their best move would be to develop the youthful talent that could take them to the promise land in the future.
(h/t CBS Sports)