Well, according to a new report, that’s actually what the Lakers offered. In a story published on Friday night, Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times gave a blow-by-blow on how the Morris negotiations between the Lakers and Knicks went and... well, if it’s accurate, it tells us some things about how the Lakers are operating:
The club had been in negotiations with the Knicks for forward Marcus Morris, but the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement.
The Lakers had been willing to offer Kyle Kuzma and Danny Green, but the Knicks didn’t like that.
The Knicks then countered with a deal centered around Kuzma, Avery Bradley, DeMarcus Cousins and at least one second-round pick, but the Lakers rejected that proposal.
Now, a couple things before we dig too far into this. For one, it contradicts what Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reported yesterday, which was that the Lakers walked away from the table when the Knicks wanted Kuzma, Green and second round picks. It’s also possible that this package is what the Knicks told the LA Clippers — who Turner has also covered extensively — was what the Lakers were offering in order to drive up the price for Morris, and that the leak came from there.
However, Turner is as reliable as reporters covering the Lakers come, and has been reporting on the team since the Showtime era. If he’s reporting this, and it’s not an editing mixup or something, it’s worth believing him.
Still, this deal flies in the face of all on-court basketball logic, which would dictate that the Lakers giving up their best perimeter defender and Kuzma for a better version of Kuzma would create more problems than it solves (I’ll be brief here, but if you disagree, I outlined my full reasoning for thinking this way yesterday). The idea that the Lakers would offer such a package just doesn’t make sense from a traditional asset evaluation perspective, especially not in comparison to the deal Turner reports the Knicks wanted.
But okay, now that we’ve gotten all those qualifiers out of the way, let’s take this report at face value, even if it contradicts with others, and try to analyze what it could mean, if true.
For one, this would imply that the Knicks are crazy, just not in the specific way I wrote yesterday. To want the deal Turner reports that they proposed (Bradley, Cousins, Kuzma and seconds) over the one he says they rejected (Green and Kuzma) would be wild, even if — in this writer’s opinion — both would be an overpay on the Lakers’ part.
Still, Cousins is highly unlikely to play this year, and while Bradley is clearly well-liked on the team and helps the starters on defense at times, he is far more foul-prone and replaceable than Green, one of the Lakers’ best floor-spacers and perimeter defenders. If the Lakers felt they just had to get Morris, the package that Turner reports they didn’t want to give up is the far more palatable of the two, and creates less rotation problems than the Green/Kuzma package would, as Alex Caruso could fairly easily fill Bradley’s role with the starters, in theory.
So again, if this is accurate and not some sort of miscommunication, what does it tell us about the Lakers? It would indicate something we’ve long theorized in this space — that DeMarcus Cousins is fairly untouchable due to his ties in this locker room.
When looking at the roster for salary ballast or to players to cut, the guy who is unlikely to play a single minute this year makes a lot of sense in a vacuum, but these things don’t happen in a vacuum. LeBron James and Anthony Davis both wanted Cousins here, and if this report is accurate, it would seem he may be fairly protected from moving on — although maybe that changes if he’s able to be cut and the league approves him continuing to rehab around the team rather than being traded. But it’s also possible the former scenario isn’t on the table, either.
And if Cousins can’t be let go — again, a big if, albeit a possibly informed one — then when the Lakers are looking at buyout guys, they may only really have one spot to play with. Other than Cousins, no one on the roster appears to be much of a cut candidate. As much as Lakers fans want it to be Rajon Rondo, it’s unlikely the team would just dump such a respected veteran who is so liked by James and Davis in much the same way that Cousins is. And Rondo is playing, albeit not well.
Quinn Cook seems like an unlikely cut for similar reasons — he grew up a Laker fan and has been a central figure in the locker room, albeit not in the rotation — which really just leaves Troy Daniels, who isn’t getting much playing time and plays the same position as the Lakers’ most oft-rumored target, Darren Collison. So if all that is accurate — and again, we’re speculating a bit here based on one report — the Lakers would really only have one buyout slot to play with given that they have a 15-man roster already, so any add would require them to waive someone.
Again, it’s possible all of this is just an over-read of a report that conflicts with another reliable report. But as we try to analyze this team and what it will do, it’s worth considering the veracity of all these perspectives, and what they tell us about this team. If this one is true, either this front office sees basketball very differently from many on the outside, or the Lakers really, really value relationships. It remains to be seen if the latter quality will create any kinds of problems for them as they try to win a title.