The Lakers have had a lot of problems this season. They finally have a nice one.
It centers on the 46th player taken in last year's draft. Is Jordan Clarkson their point guard of the future?
He had another strong game amid yet another loss Wednesday, 113-92 to the New Orleans Pelicans at Staples Center, and the Lakers would be wise to determine by the June 25 draft if Clarkson is their down-the-road guy, especially if they stay at their current No. 4 spot after the lottery.
Two point guards are expected to be impact players in the draft — D'Angelo Russell, a freshman at Ohio State, and Emmanuel Mudiay, who played briefly in China as a pro after scrapping plans to play at Southern Methodist as a freshman.
Less than a week after the draft, free agency will offer some solid point guards — Miami's Goran Dragic and Dallas' Rajon Rondo are unrestricted while Phoenix's Brandon Knight and Detroit's Reggie Jackson are restricted. Dallas' Monta Ellis could decline a $9.1-million player option for next season and become an unrestricted free agent.
Clarkson had 18 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds against the Pelicans, continuing to circle near his first career triple-double. There wasn't much else to write about for the Lakers (20-54), though rookie Tarik Black had 16 points.
Clarkson might have pushed himself onto the NBA's All-Rookie team despite becoming a starter only toward the end of January.
"He's played enough games ... he's proved enough," Lakers Coach Byron Scott sad. "He's shown enough for us to know he could be a hell of a player in this league for a long time."
There was one big question for Scott. "Can he take another leap this summer and into training camp?" he said.
The Lakers want to keep Clarkson at point guard but can move him to shooting guard if they draft Russell, a potential game-changer at the point, or if they sign a veteran in free agency.
Or they might keep Clarkson at the point and go after big men in the draft and free agency, of which there are plenty.
Even Scott acknowledged it was difficult to avoid looking past the dregs of this season to all the decision-making this summer.
"The days that we don't have games, I do have my mind down the road," he said. "I'm thinking about all these free agents and all that stuff that's going on. I'm thinking about the draft and getting ready. That's only natural."
Losing has become second nature for the Lakers.
Anthony Davis had 20 points for the Pelicans, who swept the Lakers in the season series for the first time since their franchise began play in 2002-03.
Jeremy Lin had 10 points after a two-game absence because of an upper-respiratory infection, and Carlos Boozer had four points after a five-game absence.
Boozer sat three games because he was ill and another two because he was told Scott wanted to evaluate the Lakers' younger frontcourt players. But Ed Davis, one of those young players, sat out his third consecutive game Wednesday.