Welcome to the Lakers Lair Three-Man Weave, a subjective Lakers-related column where our resident Laker fans answer a series of questions regarding the Purple & Gold. This edition features discussion centered around the Paul George saga and the NBA Draft. Our participants for this edition are:
1. The Lakers traded D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov for Brook Lopez and the No. 27 pick yesterday. Grade the trade.
Cortes: Can I give a grade lower than an F? If so, that’s what I’ll give the Lakers. The Lakers, in an effort to clear cap space, traded away their best player just to get rid of Timofey Mozgov’s bad contract. Reportedly, the Lakers did this in order to make a run at LeBron James next summer. Really?
LeBron is great but how many years will you get out of him compared to 10+ years of D’Angelo Russell? Add the fact that you’re only clearing space for a CHANCE at LeBron? Please. The Lakers made a premature cap move for someone who may or may not join the team. You’re willing to take a chance and let go of a player with so much potential for a mere chance, and that makes no sense whatever. LA could’ve waited for a commitment from LeBron (or whatever FA they’ll go for) and THEN found a way to move a contract. In the words of Stephen A Smith, we have been bamboozled, led astray, run amok, and flat out deceived. Awful trade
Boyer: We’ll have to reserve judgment for this trade due to the sake of time, but as it currently stands I’ll give this deal a C+. Yes, the Lakers unloaded that horrid Timofey Mozgov contract on the Brooklyn Nets, but it came at the expense of their best player in D’Angelo Russell. Russell is only 21-years-old, and paired with Lonzo Ball could’ve formed an electric offensive backcourt with a blend of size, shooting, and playmaking that could’ve grown to overwhelm. Los Angeles wasn’t entertained by the thought of an experimental stage though, being enticed to trade Russell by the prospect of landing superstar Paul George and megastar LeBron James in the coming offseasons. If the Lakers swing and miss on two big-name free-agents, in the next pair of summers this trade will only become more miffing as time marches on. I personally just hate to see Russell become a cap casualty.
Allen: I’m giving this trade a B-. I’ve been very judgemental about the contracts of Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng. The Lakers finally were able to rid of one of those contracts with this trade. However, it came at the expense of D’Angelo Russell. I was looking forward to seeing how he would mesh with Lonzo Ball but we won’t be getting the opportunity to witness that. Due to seeing the bigger picture here, I’m giving the trade a B-. The Lakers will now have cap room to trade for Paul George and possibly someone else down the line.
2. True or False: The Lakers gave up on Russell too soon and will come to regret this trade.
Cortes: Stephen Curry, Manu Ginobili, Chris Paul, Larry Bird, and James Harden. In D’Angelo Russell’s first two seasons in the league, he was able to match the PTS, REB, AST, 3PT% (PER 36) of these players, who are all either Hall of Famers or well on their way to the HOF. Not to mention that he is only in his second year in the league at such a young age. Russell has the skill set to be an All-Star guard and the Lakers failed to realize that. To give up on a guard with only two years experience is asinine because it is crazy to expect a guard like Russell to be HOF-like immediately. Brooklyn will now give Russell the keys to the offense and will mold him to be an All-Star guard that he knows he can be. To answer the question, yes. The Lakers will regret trading D’Angelo Russell this soon, big time.
Boyer: The answer to this question hinges on what type of player D’Angelo Russell becomes. Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka’s goal is to attain established, star talent that can elevate the Lakers back to the championship pinnacle we’ve grown accustomed to seeing them stationed on. They feel pretty confident that they’re going to land Paul George whether via trade or free agency, giving the Lakers a top-15 player and a magnet to draw other big names to Los Angeles. If Russell blossoms into something greater than a prime George, the Lakers will have to look back on this trade and kick themselves.
Allen: I don’t believe so because they will have Paul George. There’s no question how good George is and if it takes letting go of a young player like D’Angelo Russell to make that happen as soon as possible then why not. It looks like management is not looking to take the chance of George going elsewhere and re-signing so they’re looking to do what they can to get him now. I don’t blame them. I don’t envision this trade as them giving up on Russell. I just think they’re taking advantage of getting someone better.
3. Are there any team(s) you think could legitimately threaten the Lakers’ opportunity of landing Paul George?
Cortes: The Cavaliers and the Cavaliers only. The Lakers are his primary spot no doubt, but the possibility of George wanting to stay after experiencing getting to the Finals with the Cavs is also a possibility. For that alone, the Cavs are a threat to the Lakers and their probability of landing their hometown wing.
Boyer: The Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics both pose serious threats, but a trade would only materialize if both teams’ brass was convinced a taste of major postseason success could woo George to sign long-term. Cleveland is more desperate than Boston, who will gladly remain stationary on their assets until the opportunity for them to pounce presents itself. The Cavs aren’t sure how long their title window will remain ajar with rumors of LeBron James eyeing Los Angeles next summer, and the acquisition of Paul George would afford them one of their best chances to dethrone the Warriors.
Allen: Like Ralph and B.J. mentioned, I think Cleveland and Boston pose the biggest threats. If George gets deep into the playoffs with either of those teams, Los Angeles might be in trouble. In all reality, if he goes to Los Angeles they’re still a couple of years removed from the playoffs which isn’t different than his position with the Pacers. So that little taste of success can change a lot.
4. If the Lakers were forced to put together a package for Paul George, what would yours look like?
Cortes: Jordan Clarkson, the No. 28 pick and either Larry Nance Jr. or Julius Randle for Paul George. It would be difficult to trade away Julius Randle but if the Lakers were forced to trade for PG, this would be the package that would make sense for both sides. The Pacers get a probable starter (Randle or Nance), a first rounder, and a player of first round value (Clarkson) while the Lakers get their star. Clarkson and Randle would also be the odd man out if PG (and Lonzo Ball) decides to come so it would be wise to move them.
Boyer: I’m in Ralph’s camp on this one. That’s a respectable haul for a player who’s trade value is diminished due to the fact that his free agent intentions are known league-wide. Indiana gets a late first-rounder in a draft packed with talent, they get a capable scorer in Clarkson and a new frontcourt mate for Myles Turner. Los Angeles keeps the essential pieces to their rebuild in D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram and presumably Lonzo Ball, all while landing the star that has spurned them in free agency the past several summers.
Allen: The 28th pick, Clarkson, and Nance Jr is the obvious move for me. That makes the most sense for both parties. Indiana doesn’t hold much leverage because the Lakers know that he wants to come home and other teams won’t try too hard to trade for him because of that factor. So if Indiana wants to get something for him then this is the way to go. The fan in me hopes that the Lakers can finesse Luol Deng or Timofey Mozgov in there so that they can get those contracts off of the books. They don’t really make sense from Indiana’s standpoint but if I’m the Lakers, it doesn’t hurt to try.
5. Who would you move first if it came down to it: Julius Randle or Jordan Clarkson?
Cortes: Clarkson. It would be difficult to move Randle because of his potential as a 15-10-4 guy for the Lakers. Clarkson would be easier to let go of for the Lakers knowing that they have D’Angelo Russell and potentially Lonzo Ball manning the backcourt. Yes, Clarkson would be great off the bench but it would be smarter for the Lakers to move Clarkson instead of Randle.
Boyer: Jordan Clarkson. I just don’t want to give up on Julius Randle yet, who I believe can be a junior varsity Draymond Green for the Lakers. Randle’s impact on the game extends down all avenues, and when engaged he can be a terror on defense. Clarkson can be a sparkplug off the bench for Los Angeles, but he’s what I refer to as a “sticky” player: someone who likes the ball in their hands and rarely gives it up. With Ball likely to enter the fray, Russell occupying the other guard spot and Ingram looking to become more assertive on offense, you can see how Clarkson becomes the most expendable out of this youthful Laker bunch.
Allen: It has to be Jordan Clarkson for me. The progression that I expected to see from him last season was not there. I was looking for him to turn that corner but it didn’t happen. Some of that could have been due to taking the role of coming off the bench but you still have to learn how to adapt and be productive. The rise in maturity that you expect to see in a third-year guy wasn’t there so I believe it’s that time to part ways.
6. It appears as if the Lakers will choose Lonzo Ball with the No. 2 overall pick. Do you think Josh Jackson deserves any last-minute consideration?
Cortes: It depends on what happens with the Paul George saga. If the Lakers are still the favorites for Paul George, then no. However, if a team other than the Lakers somehow lands George during draft night, then they should give some slight consideration to Josh Jackson. However, in any George scenario, they should select Lonzo Ball over Josh Jackson.
Boyer: No. Josh Jackson is a fine prospect with tremendous upside, but let’s not disrupt what the Basketball Gods, and more importantly LaVar Ball, have ordained. Lonzo Ball belongs in a Lakers uniform, and it will be made official during Thursday evening’s NBA Draft. Ball’s presence could potentially maximize the abilities of Russell, Ingram and especially Randle, who’s at time dull basketball IQ was put on display when tasked with initiating the offense. Ball would alleviate Randle of that duty, providing Los Angeles with a complementary playmaker to Russell. Let’s get it done Lakers Nation. I’m here for all of the LaVar fodder!
Allen: I don’t think so because the unselfishness of Lonzo Ball does a lot for the Lakers. It allows D’Angelo Russell to play off the ball this season and puts the ball into Ball’s hands as the primary playmaker. I love the idea of having three playmakers who look to get others involved on the floor in Randle, Russell, and Ball. However, I must say the comedian in me wants to see the Lakers take Josh Jackson just to see the reaction of Lavar Ball. If the Lakers don’t take his son, his reaction will be priceless!