The LA Lakers have been one of the most improved teams in the last couple of years. They were one of the most dominant teams until their 2010 championship-winning run. But after legendary coach Phil Jackson's retirement, the Lakers had a tough time getting back to their best.
Before last season's successful championship run, the LA Lakers had failed to qualify for the playoffs for six consecutive seasons from 2013-14 to 2018-19. However, during that stretch, the Purple and Gold acquired some of the best young talents.
Most of these stars left the franchise but are now flourishing elsewhere after initially struggling to find their feet while playing for one of the most successful sides in the NBA in the LA Lakers.
Former LA Lakers stars flourishing this season
While the LA Lakers are one of the best sides in the league and are also the defending champs, they would've still loved to have most of their former players back playing for them. On that note, we take a look at five players who played for the LA Lakers previously and have now emerged as some of the best players in the league.
#1 Julius Randle
Julius Randle was selected seventh overall in the 2014 NBA Draft by the LA Lakers. However, his rookie season did not go according to plan as he suffered a serious leg injury within 14 minutes of his debut. This subsequently ruled him out for the remainder of the season.
Nevertheless, Randle played for the LA Lakers for three seasons after that and improved significantly with each passing year. He averaged 11.4 points per contest in his first full season, 13.2 points per game the following season, and 16.1 points per game in his final season.
Despite his steady progress, the Lakers did not continue their partnership with him and he went on to sign for the New Orleans Pelicans next. Randle played for the Pelicans for a season, averaging 21.4 points per game for them.
Fast forward to now, Julius Randle is playing for the New York Knicks for the second season running. He is leading the race to win the Most Improved Player of the Year Award and also made his All-Star game debut this year.
Randle leads the Knicks in points (23.2), rebounds (10.6) and assists (6) per game. The 26-year-old has been a key component in making the Knicks playoff contenders for the first time since 2013.
#2 Brandon Ingram
Brandon Ingram was selected second overall in the 2016 NBA Draft by the LA Lakers. He played three seasons for them before being traded to the New Orleans Pelicans. Ingram was part of a blockbuster deal that saw Anthony Davis sign for the 17-time NBA champions.
Ingram was compared to Kevin Durant during most of his time with the LA Lakers due to his lanky physique, ball-handling and shooting abilities. He fared well during those three seasons, especially in the last one, when he averaged 18.3 points per contest, shooting 49.7% from the field.
In his first season with the New Orleans Pelicans, Brandon Ingram experienced one of his career-best seasons to date. He won the Most Improved Player of the Year award while also earning his first All-Star selection that season.
Ingram hasn't disappointed in this campaign either and is now one of the best players on the Pelicans' roster. He is averaging a career-best 24.1 points per contest this season and is definitely a top 10 under-25 player in the league.
#3 Jordan Clarkson
Jordan Clarkson was selected as the 46th pick in the second round of the 2014 Draft by the Washington Wizards and was traded to the LA Lakers on draft night for cash considerations. He had two stints with the Purple and Gold, playing three seasons the first time around and one season in his second stint.
Clarkson made the All-Rookie first team in 2015 and did fairly well for the LA Lakers in all four seasons when he played for them. However, the franchise was looking to get back into the playoffs and contend for championships, which resulted in Clarkson being deemed dispensable.
Clarkson is now playing for the Utah Jazz and is leading the race to win the Sixth Man of the Year Award because of his staggering performances this season. The 28-year-old is averaging a career-best 17.2 points per contest, making a minimum of three shots from beyond the arc so far. His stellar performances have helped the Jazz achieve the best record in the NBA.
#4 Lonzo Ball
Lonzo Ball is the third player on this list to have initially played for the LA Lakers and flourished at the New Orleans Pelicans after departing. He was selected second overall in the 2017 NBA Draft and played two seasons in LA before being sent to the Pelicans in the Anthony Davis trade, along with Brandon Ingram.
Ball never lived up to expectations during his time at the LA Lakers and was often criticized for his performances. He struggled a bit in his first season with the Pelicans as well in the 2019-2020 campaign but has turned it around this season and is one of the hottest properties in the league.
The likes of the LA Clippers, New York Knicks and the Chicago Bulls have all been linked with Ball due to his stellar showings so far. Ball has improved a lot in his game. The 23-year-old is averaging a career-best 14.2 points, shooting 41.9% from the field, including 37.6% from beyond the arc, which is commendable considering he is attempting a career-high eight shots per contest from the long range.
#5 Brook Lopez
Brook Lopez played one season with the LA Lakers in the 2017-18 campaign. He was coming off a brilliant run with the Brooklyn Nets in the previous season, averaging 20.5 points per contest.
In his only season with LA, Lopez couldn't flourish like he did with the Nets. He averaged a then career-low of 13 points per contest and couldn't create the kind of impact he was expected to have. The LA Lakers signed LeBron James the following season and were expected to re-sign Lopez. But it, unfortunately, did not work out.
Lopez has played for the Milwaukee Bucks since then and is in his third season with them. He is averaging a career-low 11.6 points but is still one of the most important players in their setup due to his experience and versatility as a big man.
Lopez leads the Bucks in blocks at 1.4 per contest. He also gives them an edge in the paint and stretching the floor due to his ability to knock down threes.