A big part of this season for the Lakers was figuring out which of their young stars could fit well playing alongside LeBron James. Not everyone meshes with him, and it means adjustments even for the elite (just ask Dwyane Wade or Kevin Love).
So far, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart have looked good with LeBron — those two are decisive finishers, the kind of player that has always thrived next to the greatest playmaker of a generation. Lonzo Ball took longer to figure it out, but LeBron sees in him a kindred spirit, and the two racked up matching triple-doubles the other night.
Brandon Ingram… he’s a work in progress.
Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report gets into why — Ingram tends to hold on to the ball longer, be less decisive — and also into the speculation around the league that the Lakers will use Ingram as a key piece of trade bait if that’s how they will acquire their next star.
“I think they wait until the summer to look into a big move involving a player like Ingram,” the agent said. “That gives them more time to get the best deal.”
An NBA executive agreed, calling Ingram the “1-A in a package for a big-time player [after the season],” and suggested names like Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards or CJ McCollum of the Portland Trail Blazers for Los Angeles. “Hart or Kuzma would probably need to be the 1-B.”
“[Ingram] will probably be traded at some point, whether it’s for a second or third star,” another NBA front-office executive said.
Let’s be clear: This is not imminent. Not even close, we’re talking next summer most likely, if anything happens at all. This is just the buzz around the league.
And it makes some sense. Beyond the fit questions with LeBron, Ingram is the highest ceiling guy of any of the Lakers young core. Another team may think they can roll the dice and do better with him than the Lakers have so far.
Beal is a name that has come up in Laker rumors before. While the Lakers are known to covet Klay Thompson, nobody in the league thinks he is leaving Golden State (speculation otherwise is just message board noise, no reliable source I’ve talked to thinks Thompson bolts unless the Warriors lowball him, and they have said they will not). Beal is in the Thompson mold — elite shooter, can put the ball on the floor, and will defend. Beal next to LeBron makes sense.
Anthony Davis remains the Lakers’ top target if he becomes available (he is not yet). The Lakers have kept their core assets just to chase him in a trade and to get a top five (at worst, maybe top three) NBA player the Lakers will throw in any combination of those stars the Pelicans want. And they should. (That also may not be enough with what Boston will throw in, and other teams will come calling as well. If Davis becomes available next July, the earliest it will happen, the bidding war will be insane.)
Whether by trade or free agency (or both) the Lakers will be swinging for the fences again next summer. If they connect on a pitch, Ingram could be the guy leaving the park.