Everyone’s waiting for the Lakers and Nets to pull the trigger on a Kyrie Irving for Russell Westbrook trade. The main question is - how many draft picks will the Lakers attach to Westbrook to make the deal happen? As Brian Windhorst pointed out, the main reason, as it often is with the Lakers, to give in and add their ’27 and ’29 picks could end up being money - and it shouldn’t be.
“There are six Buss children my friend.”
To remind you, the package the Lakers sent for Anthony Davis is still the largest in NBA history. They sent Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, the no.4 pick in the 2019 draft, and three additional first-round picks to New Orleans.
The Pelicans had their unprotected ’22 pick (which turned out to be no.8 in this year’s Draft), can swap first-round picks with the Lakers in ’23, and have the option of the team’s ’24 or ’25 first-round pick. Given the Stepien rule, they can’t trade their ’26 pick, so the earliest pick the Lakers can trade is the ’27 pick. Again, they can offer a swap in ’28 and straight out trade their ’29 pick.
That’s how absurd the Davis trade package was - it left the Lakers without Draft control until 2027. As we’ve seen with the Warriors, those picks can turn into valuable contributors and a transition into a post-LeBron future. Who knows what the Lakers will look like at the end of the decade. Giving away your draft capital so far into the future is dangerous stuff. We know LeBron doesn’t care about that; he’ll be running the Las Vegas franchise by then. But why would ownership agree to such a move?
Kyrie Irving makes $11 million less than Russell Westbrook. Given the Lakers are in the tax, that amounts to a lot more to the franchise; around $30 million. Brian Windhorst kept pointing the savings out, and his ESPN colleague Tim Bontemps, slightly annoyed, jumped in, saying” I don’t know why you keep talking about the dollar savings here. The Lakers are desperate.”
“YOU DON’T KNOW WHY I KEEP TALKING ABOUT IT??? Excuse me, my good friend, you know there are six Buss children, and let’s do the math. If you save $30 million dollars that’s an extra $5 million for each Buss child, that matters in L.A. The money matters there, and if you tell the owners you’re gonna save them $30 million, that changes the arithmetic if they’d be willing to include those first-round picks.”
Bontemps came back at Windhorst that the main reason the Lakers should be willing to include first-round is “that Russell Westbrook is a disaster, and Kyrie Irving is way better than him, even with all the baggage.” Windhorst agreed but pointed out that when it comes to the Lakers, the priorities are always the same.
Given the rise in team valuations and overall league prosperity, no owner should ask their fanbase to understand a decision not to go into the tax. But if there’s one organization that really has no leg to stand on, it’s the Los Angeles Lakers.
Money making machine
“The Chase center is a money-making machine.” That’s how a lot of people explained the fact the Warriors could afford to pay $170 million in luxury tax, which nearly equals the $176 million they spent on contracts. That would make you think no other team brings in more cash than the Warriors. Well, let’s see if that’s the case (via RunRepeat).
The Lakers have the highest overall revenue in the NBA - $316 million. The main reason for that is the fact they have the largest local TV deal - $149 million per year. In addition to that, the Lakers have the most expensive jersey patch ($20 million per season) and match the Warriors in the highest average ticket price. The Lakers actually made only $3.8 million less on tickets than the Warriors in 2020 (Warriors $92,1 million vs. Lakers $88.3 million).
In future years, Chase Center may increase the gap between the Lakers and Warriors in tickets and overall arena income. The Warriors own their place, while the Lakers share Crypto.com with other franchises. Still, there’s no doubt the Lakers are not just extremely valuable, but a revenue-generating machine. So why are the Lakers considered to be one of the cheapest organizations in the NBA, and it’s been like that for decades?
For the Buss family, the Lakers are one of the main, if not the main, source of personal income. Most owners nowadays made their money elsewhere, are filthy rich, making money off their investments, and purchased the team as a treat. Sure, they all want to make money on their teams, but for most, they don’t depend on yearly profits to sustain their way of life. The overall franchise value growth is all that matters to them.
Take a look at the Grizzlies. One of the smallest markets in the NBA, their local TV deal is $9.4 million annually. The Lakers’, to remind you, is $149 million annually. Tickets revenue, jersey patches, everything is lower compared to the Lakers. But it doesn’t matter to their owner Robert Pera.
At the end of 2017, Bloomberg estimated his wealth to be around $4 billion. At the peak of the pandemic, it was at $16 billion, and after one of the largest drops in Wall Street history, he’s “down” to $11 billion. When Ja Morant is ready to compete for a title, you think the Grizzlies are trading first-round picks to save a few million in tax payments?
The next time the Lakers choose saving money over being competitive, despite making tons of money each year, remember what Brian Windhorst said. “There are six Buss children, my friend.”