The Lakers are Fine, with or without King James

Los Angeles Lakers

Projected Lineup

PG Lonzo Ball 11.6 points 6.7 rebounds 7.1 assists

SG Josh Hart 9.1 points 4.1 rebounds 1.4 assists

SF Brandon Ingram 20.2 points 5.4 rebounds 4.9 assists

PF Kyle Kuzma 17.9 points 7.0 rebounds 2.1 assists

C Brook Lopez 12.3 points 4.1 rebounds 1.4 assists

6 Isaiah Thomas 15.7 points 4.8 assists 2.0 rebounds

7 Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 12.3 points 4.6 rebounds 2.3 assists

8 Moritz Wagner 5.1 points 3.5 rebounds 0.9 assists

9 Thomas Bryant 1.4 points 1.0 rebounds 0.3 assists

10 Ivica Zubac 1.9 points 1.2 rebounds 0.3 assists

Projected Point Total: 107.5

Is Lonzo Ball worth the risk?

That’s a question that has (probably) crossed Magic Johnson’s a million times as he has witnessed Ball’s broken jump-shot, Lavar’s antics, and Lonzo and Kuzma’s outspoken Soundcloud beef. After barely making the all-rookie second team and shooting 36% from the field, it’s justifiable to openly wonder if Lonzo is the player he was made out to be when he left UCLA a year ago. If the Lakers are going to make a move for Kawhi, Paul George, or Lebron, Lonzo is first to be shown the door. The Spurs reportedly have zero interest in grabbing the Lakers guard for their disgruntled star. Lonzo’s outspoken father and the circus he brings with him contradicts Spurs culture that tends to keep issues in house.

The Cost of Lebron

If Lebron does determine that Los Angeles is the best place to raise his kids, Isaiah Thomas will be sent packing before he can say Danny Ainge. The two clashed numerous times in Cleveland and struggled sharing the ball.

Securing Lebron also means Magic Johnson will have to sell him on the idea that he can garner a secondary star. At this point his career, Lebron wants a sidekick to rely on in case he gets tired. The outright absence of a secondary star could be the driving reason he leaves his hometown. So what factors is Lebron zooming in on? First, whether Paul George opts out of his Thunder contract. PG-13 displayed the ability to take over as a star on the Pacers (almost beating Lebron on numerous occasions) or to be a premier sidekick. He averaged 21.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.3 assists in a second-star role next to Russell Westbrook.

On the other hand, convincing Lebron to come to Los Angeles could mean trading a bundle of assets to San Antonio. Of course, Gregg Popovich has made it known that he would not deal his vexed star to a fellow Western Conference team. They also hold a distaste for Lonzo Ball, who has been ridiculed by Laker management for fake beef, his helicopter dad, and his Michael-Kidd Gilchrist-eque jumper. The team from The Alamo would prefer a package of Kuzma, Ingram, Luol Deng’s expiring contract, and 2 future first round picks.

In recent news, the Lakers have made it known that Luol Deng and his contract are available paired with future picks, per Ramona Shelburne. Rebuilding teams that value picks over cap space will value Deng, such as; the Nets, Bulls, Magic, and Suns.

Theoretically, this means that the Lakers are trying to shed Deng’s contract in an effort to sign Lebron to a super-max contract and afford to trade for Kawhi and/or Paul George. While this may be seem like an unreasonably steep asking price, Popovich is extremely reluctant to send Spurs rivals the best two-way player in the game. This trade, by all means, would be a risk considering Kawhi played 9 games with a mysterious quad injury.

Lebron is not a Necessity

However, even if the billboards do not pay off and Lebron chooses elsewhere, the Lakers still have a youthful core. After being chosen 27th overall, Kyle Kuzma surprised about everyone by standing out as a premier rookie. He has put in serious work this Summer, gaining weight so he can supplement his perimeter game with post skills.  Kuzma has gotten better, but is known for stopping his workouts to pose for an instagram picture. All jokes aside, Kuzma has worked out with The Rock, who is impressed with the youngster’s work ethic and dedication to his craft. He’s not limited to player status in the organization though.

Kyle Kuzma, the Scout

Kuzma played the role of a scout by determining Moritz Wagner was the right fit to be a Laker. Wagner will stretch out the floor and open up driving lanes that simply were not there when Julius Randle was at the 4. Wagner had Jason Bourne-like precision at Michigan, shooting 39.4% on 160 attempts from deep. For what it’s worth, Josh Hart welcomed Wagner to Los Angeles by roasting him on Twitter. Nowadays, that just means he is officially a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Brandon Ingram, the Player

It’s easy to distinguish Brandon Ingram’s improvements as a basketball player this season. For one, he is starting to look like a real basketball player and less a string bean. Listed at 190 pounds his rookie year, he is notified by his iPhone timer every two hours so he can eat a calorie-heavy meal. While Ingram’s weight may not fluctuate like his peers, he is a distinctive talent pertaining to other categories.

Ingram’s strict diet allows him to be more comfortable finishing at the rim. His shots from 0-3 feet have increased from 60.7% to 67% this season, while upping his attempts in that range from 27.8% to 37.5%.

While the Simmons-Ingram debate seems silly now, Ingram shares some of the same strengths Simmons possesses. For one, Ingram can utilize screens well and with long strides can glide to the basket like he’s surfing a wave. When Lonzo was injured, Ingram got the chance to showcase his point forward aptitude. He brought up the ball and solely kick started Luke Walton’s offense. In those games, Ingram dished out 5 assists 10 times. Overall, Ingram had 23 such games at the small forward position. He even upped his scoring average from 9.4 to 16.1 in his second season. Surmising, when Ingram has the ball in his hands, good things are bound to happen.

The Situation is a Win-Win

This Summer is like a maize for Lakers management, one wrong turn and they could find themselves lost forever. They have time to figure out that maize though and will trace their steps in case they lose track of where they are.

The Lakers have time, resources, and money to figure out this Summer’s maize out. The Lakers situation is purely defined as a win-win.

Projected Record without Lebron: 44-38

Projected Record with Lebron: 58-24

 

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