The Lakers’ latest attempt at bringing one of the NBA’s elite talents to Los Angeles was pretty underwhelming, reportedly:
If reports from Woj and Shams are to be believed, the Lakers haven’t done much better than this either. They apparently have insisted on offering just two players from the team’s young core—Brandon Ingram, Ivica Zubac, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball—to the Pelicans, and haven’t done much as far as providing draft picks either. Sure, these are just the opening bids and the Lakers have a few more days to improve the deal, but as of right now, New Orleans has not treated any of these initial offers seriously. Pelicans GM Dell Demps has reportedly not even been convinced to counter these offers.
It would appear as though the Lakers are going through the motions of previously underwhelming trade offers that failed to land them Paul George or Kawhi Leonard. The front office is lowballing the franchises that their current superstar target is on in the hopes that a team somehow gets hypnotized into taking the offer on the belief that the Lakers will inevitably sign them in free agency. But this is Demps that Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka are dealing with, and such a plan is contingent on those two somehow outpacing the New Orleans GM in a race to the peak of incompetence (which they’re not).
Besides, when considering the language that the sources Woj and Shams cited used, and the language of the reports themselves, it’s very likely that Demps, or someone in the New Orleans camp, was the one to leak this information. It makes sense since the Pelicans have a lot to gain from the tactic. At best, the leak can inspire other teams to jump in with offers that are even mildly superior to what the Lakers are reported to have put on the table, which in turn would force Los Angeles to up its ante and give more than they had previously hoped to give. At worst, the public buys in to the reported “lowball” offer, the Pelicans then take a better offer that the Lakers had also suggested—which was the original plan anyways—and they can sell the idea that they successfully negotiated an impressive deal to the fanbase.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with Demps trying to play the leverage game here. What else is he supposed to do? Regardless of how this plays out in the short-term, the team is still going to lose a generational talent that no amount of players or draft capital will likely replace. If dark days are ahead for the franchise, you might as well get a credibility jab at Magic Johnson off in the process.