The Young Lakers Players And Their Historical Comps Show Why Pelicans Were Not Eager to Make a Deal


The Los Angeles Lakers have reportedly offered a variety of packages including both their young players and some future first round draft picks for Anthony Davis. The Boston Celtics, meanwhile, cannot make a trade right now, but can try to pry Davis away in the offseason.

While there have been plenty of reports about who may be involved in such trades from the Lakers’ perspective, you can bet that most of their young assets would have to be part of the deal. Meanwhile, the Celtics would have to be willing to part with Jayson Tatum as part of any package.

John Gambadoro of 98.7 in Phoenix says the following:

If that’s the case, and if the Pelicans believe a similar such deal is on the table from Boston, then they would be dumb to make any deal with the Lakers now, even if it involves ALL of those players and picks.

You might say, hey, but the Lakers are giving up a ton. Well, they are in terms of quantity, but there are real questions about the value of all of those players and picks. This feels like a fantasy sports trade where one side gets the superstar and the other gets a bunch of guys just above what you could get off the waiver wire. You still have to fill those roster spots, and it’s far easier to find replacements for guys that are just decent starters.

To analyze this, I went and looked at comparable players to everyone who is part of that rumor above. I used win shares to date for all the players, and compared to others at the same age and similar position/size, for the last 30 years in the NBA. For example, Brandon Ingram is compared to other forwards who had about 4.6 win shares between ages 19 and 21 (I’ve pro-rated his win shares for the rest of this season, he’s currently at 3.9 for his career).

So, here are the list of comparables for all five young Lakers players, and the numbers that follow e ach name are the win shares in Years 1 to 4 after those periods. For Ingram’s comps, that means it’s from ages 22 to 25; for Kuzma’s it’s for ages 24 to 27. I’ve included Zubac here, because he was a potential trade chip, even though he has now been traded to the Clippers when no bigger deal happened.

So here’s the thing about the Lakers’ potential package. Yes, they are young, but the value has been depreciating for some of these guys. They aren’t worth where they were drafted in the case of Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram. The die isn’t fully cast on them, but it’s also not a case of “the future is wide open,” either. Kuzma and Hart are likely to be quality starters, but they are older and the comps show that the upside is somewhat limited. Ingram’s value has taken a hit the more he plays. Ball could still turn into a decent starting point guard. Zubac–who is no longer on the roster–actually has the highest win shares projection over the next four years (though it’s close with everyone else).

But it’s a group that does not have nearly the upside of the Celtics’ package, if it includes Jayson Tatum.

Here are the Celtics’ comparable players using the same method.

Tatum is what the Lakers wish Ingram could be. If Ingram was half as efficient as where Tatum is in win shares, this deal is already done. Tatum is a potential future perennial all-star in his mid-twenties, and the Lakers cannot match that upside. He’s way younger than Kyle Kuzma. He’s way more productive than Ingram at the same age. Add in that Al Horford could still be a quality starter for a few more years, and Robert Williams provides a lottery ticket at the same position, and the deal is more attractive. Smart is also a decent starter, but he fits more in the mold of what the Lakers are offering. A deal sweetener who can provide something, but not a deal maker or breaker. The Lakers’ offer is full of sweeteners and not makers. Those first round pick offers from both teams are also not likely to be early for the next few years, so they are basically long shot lottery tickets to produce more than role players. And the Celtics are offering an additional lottery ticket.

Anthony Davis is a future Hall of Famer. He’s entering his prime. He’s going to be a championship-winning, 12-15 win per year producing star as long as he is healthy. To offset all the upside, and additional roster spots you have to open up, you’ve got to be getting 20+ win shares and a decent amount of upside. As it stands, the Lakers’ offer, even if it’s pretty much all their young guys, is actually a path to mediocrity. Even with solid moves and getting good depth around them, the Pelicans would be a 35-40 win team, unless two of those guys improbably turn into some of the biggest stars in the game. The best bet for the Pelicans is to take a chance that Tatum develops into a Top 10 player, and build around him.

There is a serious question of whether the Celtics should do that, given that Anthony Davis may not prefer to go there. But hey, that’s on them. If Tatum is really on the table this summer, from the Pelicans’ perspective, it’s the far superior option, and they can find deals as good as what the Lakers may have offered at a later date.