In January, LaVar Ball ripped Lakers coach Luke Walton, saying that the players didn’t respect him. It was baseless criticism lobbed from Lithuania, where Ball was coaching two of his sons. The Lakers front office was not happy.
Last week, LaVar Ball took shots at the Lakers training staff, saying that his son, point guard Lonzo Ball, had never been hurt while training with him, but missed 31 games training with the Lakers, so obviously they don’t know what they’re doing.
Who is next? Will LaVar go after Magic Johnson? What about owner and President Jeanie Buss? The Lakers are about to enter their most pivotal offseason in years, one in which they could snag two big-name free agents and get back to being a Championship contender.
It’s time the Lakers traded Lonzo to get the nuisance that is LaVar Ball away from the franchise. It’s OK to be a fan of Lonzo – as I am – and still think trading him makes sense. Lonzo had a solid rookie year, averaging 10.2 ppg, 7.9 apg and 6.9 rpg. He shot 36 percent from the field and just 30 percent on 3-pointers. He’s going to be an All-Star one day soon. But his dad’s mouth is a problem the franchise doesn’t need. Let him be someone else’s headache.
Two reasons to trade Lonzo Ball, and two reasonable trades:
- The headache that is LaVar. The sooner they distance themselves from this clown, the better. As soon as things don’t go his way, or his son struggles, LaVar starts with the excuses. Literally no other parent in the NBA is this bothersome. The more LaVar speaks, the more you wonder – well shucks, does Lonzo think this? Is that where LaVar is getting this material? Thats bound to lead to a divided locker room or a lack of trust, at the minimum.
- LeBron James doesn’t want to play with young kids. That’s well-established. He wants veterans who can help him compete now to win titles. The Lakers have four promising young players in Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart, but if you can flip one of them – Lonzo has the most value because, ironically, of his father – and attach Luol Deng’s onerous contract to bring in a veteran, you become much more appealing to LeBron, who is only concerned about the Warriors and titles. (Before you laugh at Ball + Deng … the Nets took D’Angelo Russell, who was the #2 pick, and Timofey Mozgov’s awful contract in exchange for Brook Lopez and a late 1st round pick.)
- So what deals make sense? Keeping in mind that the NBA is increasingly position-less now, and that LeBron has led all of his teams in assists since coming into the league, these two trades jump out at me:
Lonzo Ball + Luol Deng + 2019 #1 pick to Milwaukee
Matthew Dellavedova + Khris Middleton to LA
The Bucks were 24th in home attendance last season despite being a playoff team; Lonzo Ball was 12th in jersey sales this season and will help at the box office. With Ball and Giannis, the Bucks would have two of the most exciting young players in the NBA. Eric Bledsoe only has one year left on his deal. The Lakers get a PG in Delly who will give you 20 solid minutes a night and pesky defense (which LeBron loved in Cleveland), and Middleton is a reliable scoring wing (20.1 ppg) who can shoot (35% on 3-pointers in the regular season; 61% in the seven games series vs Boston). The #1 pick in 2019 obviously would only happen if the LeBron signing was a done deal.
Lakers 2-deep potential starting lineup
F Paul George/Middleton
C Zubac/Thomas Bryant
If you’re looking to the Warriors, you could roll with five of Hart-Ingram-George-LeBron-Kuzma-Middleton at the end of the game, and be able to switch on anything and have everyone shoot.
Lonzo Ball + Luol Deng + 2019 #1 pick to Charlotte
Kemba Walker + Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to LA
The Hornets are another attendance-challenged team (26th at home) that could be jumped-started by the flashy Ball. In a year or two, a Ball/Malik Monk backcourt could be something. The Hornets have made it known their entire roster is on the block. Walker will be a sought-after player this offseason because he only has one year left on his deal, and he’s averaged 20+ ppg each of the last three years while shooting 37%+ from deep. MKG has been a colossal disappointment, but he’s still just 24-years old. He’s made just seven three-pointers in his career. You don’t do toss in the #1 pick unless LeBron is coming.
If you’re looking to the Warriors, you could roll with five of Kemba-Ingram-Hart-George-Kuzma-LeBron and be flexible enough to defend and shoot.