The Los Angeles Lakers had an opportunity to land a superstar it had long been linked to on Sunday evening. DeMarcus Cousins, the versatile big man from Sacramento, was being shopped around and the Lakers were one of the teams interested.
Sacramento eventually cut off talks with the Lakers because the front office refused to part with the team’s 2016 first round pick Brandon Ingram.
It’s unclear whether the Lakers offered the Kings any of their other young players like Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell or Jordan Clarkson. While the Twitterverse was generally happy with LA’s decision, the trade actually went down.
Let’s get one thing out of the way: this is a terrible trade for the Kings. Current Laker Timofey Mozgov netted more first round picks when he was traded than DeMarcus Cousins did in this deal. Rookie Buddy Hield is not exactly lighting up the NBA. The Lakers had better young players outside of Ingram that could’ve been dealt to get Cousins. As information from the trade started to circulate, this also came out, via Cousins’ agent:
Akana: "Under the circumstances ... I would find it highly unlikely DeMarcus would re-sign with a team that trades for him at this point"— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 20, 2017
It’s hard to speculate two years into the future, but New Orleans just made a massive gamble. If Cousins doesn’t re-sign, the Pelicans will be exactly where they were on Saturday.
Granted they didn’t give up much to land Cousins, but he might not take them any farther than a few good playoff runs before skipping town.
For what seems like the first time in forever, the Lakers showed a clear direction by not trading for Cousins. It would have been really easily to send Ingram and some salary filler to land the superstar LA has wanted for a while. The Lakers likely would’ve kept Russell and Randle in the deal, allowing the two young players to grow around a superstar.
The Lakers would be in a more favorable situation than they are currently, but not by much.
First, a trade like this would essentially take LA out of the running to keep its 2017 first round pick. LA could still easily lose the pick but keeping it would be another major step in the rebuilding process.
Second, the Lakers don’t really have future firsts to trade due to some previous miscalculations. The next first round pick the Lakers truly control is in 2020. The Kings probably wouldn’t be willing to wait three years to finally net a first rounder from Cousins (although I’m not too sure now). The Lakers didn’t have the assets to pull off the trade without putting a major dent in the rebuild.
Instead, the front office took a decisive step. They chose to keep Ingram and let him develop. If the Kings thought Buddy Hield offered more than any of the young Lakers players, the front office wasn’t about to correct them.
By showing faith in Ingram, Los Angeles not only stayed true to its rebuilding process but it also gave Ingram some additional confidence. The small forward struggled early in the season, but has noticeably improved in January and February and should continue that upward trajectory for the rest of the season.
The Lakers may have missed out on the superstar they wanted, but they showed some sense of commitment and direction to the franchise’s overall vision. That may not mean anything this year, but it bodes well for the young team’s future.