LaVar Ball continues to be the biggest distraction in an otherwise excellent season for the Lakers. They’re 11th in the NBA in defensive efficiency after ranking 28th, 29th or 30th for the last four years. Rookies Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart look like keepers. They’ve traded Jordan Clarkson, clearing space for two max contracts in the offseason, and Brandon Ingram, experimenting at point guard with Lonzo Ball out injured, is having the best run of his career (nine games, 49 percent shooting 59 percent 3-pointers, 18 ppg).
Yet LaVar Ball continues to open his big mouth and spew nonsense, upsetting the positive steps the franchise has made. Perhaps he needs a wake-up call. Want to take on the sneaker giants with your Big Baller Brand? That might be a difficult challenge if Lonzo were traded to Phoenix, Orlando, or a small market team that hasn’t won a playoff series in years, and doesn’t have jerseys for Wilt, Jabbar, Shaq, Magic and Kobe Bryant hanging in the rafters.
Lakers President Magic Johnson needs to send a message to LaVar: You’re not part of the front office, you’re not calling the shots, that’s not how it works. Magic should call up the Suns and gauge their interest on this:
Lonzo Ball and the Cavs draft pick the Lakers acquired last week
Hey Phoenix, you haven’t been in the top half of the NBA in attendance since 2011. You’re desperate for a star, someone who can put butts in the seats, secure the Suns some National TV games – the Lakers were given 35 this season, largely thanks to Lonzo – and get people talking.
Booker is in his 3rd year in the NBA. He’s in Phoenix for two more before it gets interesting. Just how excited is he to sign a long-term deal with a franchise that hasn’t won anything in years, and the immediate future looks bleak?
The Suns have long coveted a star – they couldn’t even get an interview with Blake Griffin last summer – and have major point guard issues (Brandon Knight is hurt; Tyler Ulis is not a starter) to the point that they recently traded for Elfrid Payton, after Orlando gave up on him before he even turned 24 years old. The Suns are tied for 27th in the NBA in assists per game.
The Suns won’t admit this, but they’d welcome LaVar Ball headaches. People are talking about us! Lonzo’s jersey would instantly be a top seller, and you have a nice little foundation, albeit a very young one:
PG – Lonzo/Tyler Ulis
SG – Brandon Knight
SF – TJ Warren/Josh Jackson
PF – Marquis Chriss/Dragan Bender
C – Tyson Chandler/Alex Len
Oh, and you could have the #1 pick in the NBA draft. Currently, Phoenix has the 2nd worst record in the NBA.
As much as the Lakers love Lonzo, if you think you can get Paul George and LeBron James, you unload the LaVar Ball problem in a heartbeat. LeBron loves playing with shooters; Booker is a massive upgrade from beyond the arc (career-high 38 percent this season as the #1 option for the Suns).
This crunch time lineup is lethal from the perimeter, an area Lakers fans know Lonzo was deficient in this year as a rookie:
G Brandon Ingram (39 percent on 3-pointers)
G Devin Booker
F Kyle Kuzma (36 percent on 3-pointers)
F Paul George (42 percent on 3-pointers)
F LeBron James
Cobble together a bench led by Josh Hart that features veteran shooters on the cheap (Channing Frye, Ersan Ilyasova) and you’ve got a Top 3 team in the West that will certainly contend for a title.