Beware Lonzo, Ingram, and Kuzma!
Why the LA Lakers may already have their Big 3 of the future with Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma
When you filter out the insane social media noise, inflated fan expectations, and inevitable peaks and valleys from a talented but very young roster, it’s easy to lose sight that the Lakers may already have their Big 3 of the future.
The Lakers’ young trio of 20 year old rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, 20-year old 2nd year small forward Brandon Ingram, and 22-year old rookie power forward Kyle Kuzma, while still extremely young, have already shown solid glimpses of their potential upside despite competing as boys against men. Jump ahead 3 years when Lonzo and Brandon will be 23 and Kuzma 25 and it’s easy to imagine the Lakers’ young trio developing into a great Big 3.
Heading into the season, the Lakers were hoping the duo of Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram would transform the team into a playoff contender and attract two elite free agents like LeBron James and Paul George next summer. While there are still concerns over Ball’s odd shot and Ingram’s strength, there’s no question rookie Kyle Kuzma was the steal of the draft, a potential top-10 quality player whom the Lakers miraculously landed with #27 pick.
What makes Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma so intriguing as a possible future Lakers’ Big 3 is their size, length, and versatility. At 6–6, 6–9, and 6–9 with wingspans of 6–9, 7–3, and 7–0, Ball, Ingram, and Kuzma all share the potential to impact the game on both ends. They have the ability to shoot from deep, attack off the bounce, and make plays for others on offense and size, length, quickness, and toughness to switch everything on defense.
Best of all, the Lakers’ young trio have already bonded on and off the court and fit seamlessly together offensively and defensively. They’re already key members of the Lakers’ starting lineup and every successful 5-man lineup the team has used. Lonzo will hopefully develop into a triple-double machine and perennial MVP candidate while Ingram and Kuzma will hopefully become a duo of 20 point per game dynamos who will lead the Lakers team in scoring.
Right now, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma are too young and inexperienced to play consistently enough to make the playoffs but they’ve already shown tantalizing glimpses of their potential. Lonzo has posted two triple-doubles averaging 9/7/7 while Brandon has morphed into the team’s closer averaging 15/5/3 and Kyle has become the leading scorer averaging 17/6/2. Combined, they’re averaging 41/19/12 points/rebounds/assists.
Last year, the Golden State Warriors’ Big 3 of Curry, Durant, and Thompson, posted a 70/16/14 combined average points/rebounds/assists per game. Three years from now, I believe a 23-year old Lonzo Ball could easily average 15/10/10, a 23-year old Brandon Ingram 20/10/5, and a 24-year old Kyle Kuzma 25/10/5, for a 60/30/20 combined average points/rebounds/assists per game, which would clearly elevate the young trio to true Big 3 status.
Having a Big 3 whose combined points/rebounds/assists exceed 100 and who‘re willing and capable defenders is how you build a championship contender in today’s NBA. The Lakers’ young trio of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma has the potential to develop into a truly elite Big 3. Their versatility to play on and off the ball and play and defend multiple positions combine to make them the ideal prototype for NBA Big 3's.
Whatever the Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka decide to do going forward, they need to commit to building their future around Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma and resist any temptation to trade one of them to accelerate the team’s rebuilding plans. The smarter strategy is to give their young trio time to grow and develop together and surround them with role players who can shoot and defend. Build a sustainable championship team.
I view the Lakers’ rebuilding effort as a 3-year plan with this season being the 1st year, 2018–19 being the 2nd year, and 2019–20 being the 3rd year, when the Lakers’ grand plans pay off and the team wins its 17 NBA championship.
Of course, Lakers’ president Magic Johnson doesn’t want to wait three years for Ball, Ingram, and Kuzma to mature and develop into stars and superstars. He traded the Lakers’ third #2 draft pick D’Angelo Russell to move Timofey Mozgov’s bad contract and potentially free up the cap space to sign two max contract free agents this summer, targeting LeBron James and Paul George, even though both play small forward, the same position as Brandon Ingram.
Positionless basketball notwithstanding, you can argue you can never have too many good wings in today’s NBA. On the other hand, since you already have prototype players in Ball, Ingram, and Kuzma to play the 1, 3, and 4 positions, you could also argue the smart move would be to sign free agents who play the 2 and 4. Personally, I like the idea of going after DeMarcus Cousins next summer followed by Klay Thompson the summer of 2019.
That would give the Lakers a starting lineup for the 2019–20 season of Lonzo Ball, Klay Thompson, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and DeMarcus Cousins. Just as importantly, signing Klay Thompson would also hurt the Warriors and helped level the playing field. The idea of Thompson leaving the Warriors may seem like a pipe dream until you realize that by the summer of 2019, he will have won 4 NBA championships and might be ready to be his own man.
Of course, the Lakers could have other viable options depending on how the team plays the rest of the season and who is available in free agency. Maybe James, George, and Cousins will not be free agents. Maybe the Lakers decide to re-sign Lopez and KCP to short term deals again and save their open cap space for summer 2019. Or maybe they decide to sign one free agent, like Cousins, and use the remaining cap space to keep Randle and Clarkson.
Despite the angst and concern from fans about the team making the playoffs and attracting two elite free agents, all that matters is the Lakers’ young trio of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma developing into a true Big 3. As long as they continue to grow and mature, the Lakers will get better, the wins will start to come, and elite free agents will be lined up to join the team. Whomever we add, the key to the Lakers’ future is their young trio of stars.
Right now, the Lakers’ future Big 3 of Ball, Ingram, and Kuzma needs 2 or 3 more years playing and growing together to be ready to compete for a title. It’s easy to envision a future Lakers’ Big 3 of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma being an elite trio by the time the 2019–20 NBA season begins. All that’s standing in the way of this vision coming reality is Ball, Ingram, and Kuzma staying healthy and developing and the Lakers remaining patient.
Beware Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma! In 2 or 3 years, they’re going to be an elite Big 3 and the heart of a sustainable championship run.