Lakers Trading Lottery Pick Would Be Monumentally Stupid

Ryan Phillips

The Los Angeles Lakers have hit the reset button on their franchise over the past few seasons and all that work should pay off in the long term. For now, the Lakers have a nice young core that includes D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle, plus a young coach in Luke Walton. They also could have a top two pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. All of that has been earned through three of the worst seasons in franchise history. Now there are rumors they could screw the entire rebuild up.

On Tuesday, Colin Cowherd claimed that two sources have told him the Lakers plan on trading their top pick in the draft if they keep it (if the pick falls outside the top three, it would go to Philadelphia). Here’s what Herd had to say:

This would be a monumentally stupid move for the Lakers. They’ve spent all this time carefully adding the young, cheap talent they haven’t had in more than a decade, and they could add another potential superstar in Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram. If Cowherd is right and they’d be willing to surrender that for (rumors have it) someone like Jimmy Butler or DeMarcus Cousins then someone needs to pull the reins of the franchise from the Busses and Mitch Kupchak.

I get that the Lakers are in Los Angeles and need “stars” to sell the team to fans. But Cousins is a 25-year-old malcontent who is rarely in shape and isn’t going to get any better (and only has two years left on his contract), and Butler is a 26-year-old who has completely maxed out his talent, has dealt with injuries and isn’t the classic “superstar.” Neither guy is LeBron James or Kevin Durant. No team centered around either player will ever win an NBA title, so why risk it? Are they interested in a few mediocre years of middling playoff seeds?

If the Lakers were to add DeMar DeRozan to the mix in free agency, what would they be left with? A team centered on DeRozan/Cousins or DeRozan/Butler isn’t going to win you the Pacific Division, much less an NBA title.

If the concern is about selling people in LA on the team, Cousins isn’t going to put butts in seats. Sure, he’s an All-Star, but he’s also seen his field goal percentage and PER decline precipitously in the last three years and doesn’t exactly have an “electric” personality. Yeah, the Lakers need a body in the middle, but gambling the future of the franchise on a guy who has rubbed coaches the wrong way since high school isn’t smart business. Cousins wouldn’t listen to George Karl, what makes anyone think he’ll suddenly straighten up, fly right and take advice from Luke Walton?

Honestly, would anyone trade DeMarcus Cousins for last year’s No. 1 pick Karl-Anthony Towns? If you said “yes” please close the browser and slowly back away from the computer. The men in the white coats will be arriving shortly. With Simmons and/or Ingram the Lakers would have the same kind of franchise-changing talent. Combine that player with Russell, Clarkson, Randle, and Larry Nance Jr., then add a few key veterans by using the team’s league-high cap space and you’ve got something to build on. Sure that roster may not contend for a title next year, but it wouldn’t be hard to sell Lakers fans on the “rebirth of Showtime!” or the incredibly bright future that group would have. I’m not a salesman, but pitching that young group of talented guys and their 36-year-old coach to the masses as an exciting product shouldn’t be too difficult.

Besides, no matter what anyone says, the Lakers are never going to just lose fans, they are an institution in Los Angeles and always will be.

The last time the Lakers gave up picks for veteran All-Stars it ended disastrously. They wound up with one year of Dwight Howard and a chronically-injured Steve Nash. The franchise has been down this road before and it didn’t end well.

If the Lakers’ goal is to be a middle-of-the-road playoff team, by all means they should trade the future for a mid-tier All-Star. If they want to get back to title contention, they should stick with the rebuild and let their young players develop with their newly-minted young coach.

Trading the team’s top pick this year would be an idiotic move that could set the franchise back years.