Los Angeles Lakers: Keeping Brandon Ingram Over Acquiring DeMarcus Cousins

In the midst of Sacramento trading DeMarcus Cousins, the Los Angeles Lakers came up and made an offer without Brandon Ingram and were rebuffed.

In the midst of an epic acquisition for the Pelicans, the Los Angeles Lakers came up as a small point of contention.

Late Sunday night as the All-star Game was wrapping up, DeMarcus Cousins was rumored to be on the move. Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that Sacramento was gearing up to move Cousins during the second half of the All-Star game — the same game Cousins played just two minutes in. It seemed like the Cousins era was in its final days in Sacramento. 

Then, it broke. DeMarcus Cousins was sent to the New Orleans Pelicans. Without talking – not much to say other than New Orleans fleeced Sacramento at this point – about that deal, there was one tweet from Wojnarowski that caught my eye – the Lakers declined to add Brandon Ingram into any deal for Cousins, forcing Sacramento to look elsewhere for a deal. 

Coming off the heels of not having an NBA All-Star for the first time since the 1995-96 NBA season, the Lakers, with one addition to their offer, could’ve landed the three-time All-Star center.

From that angle, the deal is key. We won’t know the exact pieces that would’ve been included in the potential deal, though some speculate that Sacramento asked for Ingram, D’Angelo Russell and draft picks. That’s too much for the Lakers (we’ll discuss why in a bit).

On the other hand, what if the deal was simply Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram and a salary cap filler like Jose Calderon to make the money work?

At first brush, I was a bit perplexed with why Los Angeles didn’t push some of the chips in to acquire one of the 10 best players in the league. But when you think about it more, it makes sense that the Lakers didn’t make the trade and decided to hold on to their assets for the future. 

The first is that the Lakers should see Ingram as a long-term member of their future core. Ingram’s numbers aren’t great: 8.0 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game on 36 percent shooting. They stink, to be honest. However, he’s one of the youngest rookies from the 2016 draft class and his combination of skills, if they all come together, could still form an interesting player.

There are some concerns in Ingram’s game. He’s not an elite shooter and bad at the free throw line, but again, he’s 19 years old. He flashes the ability to defend, he flashes the ability to make splash plays on the defensive end and I believe he’ll have the ability to create for both himself and others in due time. He’s also listed at 6’9″, 190 pounds; he has time to grow and develop into the player he can be.

The second is that Cousins is not interested in signing an extension, leaving him with just one year left on his contract. One of the main subplots behind Sacramento’s poor return is that New Orleans will have just one season to prove to Cousins that he should remain a Pelican long-term. After watching Dwight Howard leave one season after acquiring him, the Lakers didn’t want to experience the same with Cousins after giving up valuable assets for him.

Not moving the farm for Cousins allows Los Angeles to continue to grow and develop the players on the roster. It also sllows them to make a move or two for when that free agency period comes to woo Cousins into joining them. Heading into the 2018-19 offseason, Russell will be entering his age-23 season and Ingram his age-21 season. Randle will be just 24 years old, while Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. will be the elder statesmen, sitting at 26 years old.

Add another potential top-five pick into that mix, and Los Angeles will be able to come back to Boogie, then entering his age-28 season, with guys who are slightly younger but perhaps fit his window better, a seasoned head coach in Luke Walton, and perhaps, a team with the ability to make another big move to build around Cousins.

Speaking of another top-five pick, that’s the current goal for Los Angeles. That’s also something Cousins could’ve potentially harmed in his acquisition. The Lakers need to finish in the bottom three of the draft to keep both their 2017 first round pick and 2019 first round pick – a pick acquired by Orlando in the Dwight Howard trade. 

Since Cousins’ arrival in Sacramento as the fifth overall pick in 2010, the Kings have picked no lower than fifth but remained in that seven-to-nine range for most of his tenure. 

When the news came up that Brandon Ingram was the deciding factor in Los Angeles missing out on DeMarcus Cousins, I was a bit perplexed because Ingram is an unproven rookie and Cousins is a top-10 player in the league and the Lakers need to acquire the star to help lure the other stars to Los Angeles to revitalize the Lakers.

However, when you consider how the league is moving away towards valuing the draft, how players on rookie deals are so valuable and how tough it is to acquire a star in free agency, the Lakers chose the right path for now. Continue to allow the team to grow under Walton, continue to get your young building blocks in order, and show that the team is taking a step forward.

Then in 18 months, when Cousins is a free agent, perhaps the Lakers will be in the mix yet again, and this time, they won’t have to give up anything but money to acquire him.

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