But the Lakers coach offered the second-round draft pick quite the compliment Friday, saying the Lakers needed to "add some pieces around him and let's see what happens."
Pretty heady stuff for a player who's started only 32
Clarkson was the 46th overall draft pick last June, putting him in a different salary structure than a first-round pick. He has a non-guaranteed contract for next season at the league minimum for a second-year player ($845,059).
Then the Lakers will hold Clarkson's "early Bird" rights, creating a complicated set of scenarios, four in all.
1) The first is simple, and unlikely. Clarkson could accept the team's qualifying offer of up to $2.7 million for 2016-17 but would be a restricted free agent once again after that season.
2) The Lakers can re-sign Clarkson via his early Bird rights for up to four years and roughly $25 million. This option could help the Lakers preserve spending power for other free agents, but wouldn't be as lucrative a choice for the player.
3) Clarkson can be brought back using the Lakers' valuable cap space. A maximum contract for four years could amount to more than $95 million. In this scenario, Clarkson eats up roughly $22 million of the team's spending power in 2016 — instead of the $2.7-million qualifying offer. This path greatly limits the Lakers' flexibility in shopping for other players.
4) Because of a quirk in the rules, often referred to as the "Gilbert Arenas provision," other franchises are limited to signing Clarkson as a restricted free agent to a four-year offer sheet as high as $57 million. The limitation on what other teams can offer Clarkson decidedly puts the Lakers in the driver's seat, should re-signing him at a high dollar amount become the priority.
Whatever the decision with Clarkson, the timing is crucial as the franchise looks to re-establish itself as a power in the Western Conference.
The Lakers appear to be settling in as the NBA's fourth-worst team, too far ahead of third-worst Philadelphia but comfortably behind fifth-worst Orlando.
It's meaningful because they lose their first-round pick if they fall below No. 5 at the May 19 lottery.
There's another race, though, and it involves a second-round pick. And the Clippers.
The L.A. teams play each other Sunday and Tuesday, setting up a bizarre tug-of-war among Lakers fans who want to see the Lakers keep losing to improve draft position.
The Lakers, via the Jeremy Lin trade with the
The Clippers have been on a recent winning streak and currently own the 56th pick. In other words, a few more Clippers losses could benefit the Lakers.
Lakers' lottery balls
Forget playoff pushes. No Lakers title parades this June. The real race is for a bottom-five draft pick that the Lakers don't have to give to the Philadelphia 76ers. The regular season ends April 15,
1. New York (14-62, 25%)
2. Minnesota (16-60, 15.6%)
3. Philadelphia (18-58, 19.9%)
4. Lakers (20-55, 10.4%)
5. Orlando (23-53, 10.3%)
CLIPPERS VS. LAKERS
When: 6:30 p.m PDT Sunday.
On the air: TV: TWC SportsNet, Prime Ticket, TWC Deportes; Radio: 710, 980, 1330.
Season series: Clippers, 2-0.
Update: The Lakers trail the Clippers by a staggering 30 games in the Western Conference standings. The Clippers have won nine of the last 10 between the teams and have never won six in a row against the Lakers, though it might happen Sunday. Clippers sixth man Jamal Crawford, sidelined since March 2 because of a bruised right calf, is not expected to play against the Lakers but could make his return Tuesday when the teams play again in a designated Clippers home game.