Lakers in position for an exciting offseason

Dominating an offseason is not uncharted territory for the Los Angeles Lakers’ franchise.

In July of 1968, the Lakers traded for 76ers superstar Wilt Chamberlain who, in 1972, led Los Angeles to their first NBA championship. He was named the Finals MVP. In June of 1975, Los Angeles acquired Kareem Abdul-Jabbar via a trade with Milwaukee. As a member of the “Showtime Lakers,” Abdul-Jabbar helped win five titles. In the summer of 1996, the Lakers made their most successful free agent signing in history when they brought in Shaquille O’Neal. He went on to win an NBA MVP award and three Finals MVPs.

This summer, the Lakers have an opportunity to add multiple franchise-changing players, in hopes of receiving results similar to past successes. Free agency begins on July 1, with unrestricted free agents being able to officially sign on July 6.

However, before they can make a run at stars like LeBron James and Paul George, they have a chance to trade for a former Finals MVP and two-time Defensive Player of the Year who is unhappy in his current situation.

Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs had a fallout last season regarding how the organization handled his quad injury. According to ESPN, Leonard would prefer to play in Los Angeles, where he is from.

Kawhi_Leonard_Dunk_(33179280005).jpg

Despite Leonard being gone for most of last season, the Spurs still managed to earn a spot in the playoffs. Veteran bigs LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol are locked in for next season, but San Antonio could use guard and wing help. The Spurs will certainly not give Leonard up without substantial compensation, but the Lakers have young pieces that San Antonio may find desirable. Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich has always been against helping Western Conference rivals, but perhaps if Los Angeles provides the best offer for Leonard, it could force his and General Manager R.C. Buford’s hand.

The Lakers could package youngsters Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball to send to San Antonio, along with Luol Deng’s $18 million-dollar contract over the next two seasons and a draft pick for Leonard and perhaps a veteran guard like Patty Mills. The Lakers could also add restricted free agent forward Julius Randle to the mix to sweeten the deal, as long as he agrees to a sign-and-trade and the Spurs want to bring him in.

This way, the Lakers add an elite player (as long as he stays healthy) who came in third-place in the MVP voting in 2017, along with a guard who shoots well from the perimeter with a lot of playoff experience. They could also get rid of the noise that surrounds the Ball family which was a distraction last season, not to mention Deng’s lucrative salary.

Meanwhile, the Spurs get a couple of former second overall picks who could potentially blossom and lead San Antonio for years to come. Plus, it would be an improved roster from last season when Leonard was inactive for all but nine games, so they could theoretically contend for a playoff spot again.

Salary-wise, as long as the Spurs willing to take Deng’s contract, Los Angeles should come out of the trade in a very beneficial financial situation. President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka would be left with enough cap room to add two max contracts without going far into the luxury tax.

 

If this hypothetical exchange goes through, then the Lakers would head into free agency with Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Kuzma coming off of a very productive rookie season, Josh Hart who also looked good as a rookie last year, and Patty Mills to lure in available talent.

DXeS-HaU8AEn-oV.jpg

Photo via @kylekuzma

That cast could certainly be a compelling one, especially for someone who came from a team with lackluster support as LeBron James did.

James is referred to by some to be the greatest player the NBA has ever seen, and should be the Lakers’ number one priority come free agency.

James is seemingly comfortable in LA, he even has two houses in Brentwood. Leonard is a great teammate to have help deal with the Warriors since he can defend many different positions at an elite level. Plus, the Lakers can give him his desired salary.

There is the possibility of a sign-and-trade between the Lakers and Cleveland, but that would be a better option if Leonard ends up elsewhere and the Lakers still had Ball, Ingram and Deng to give up. It still could happen even with the Spurs deal, but it isn’t likely that James would want weapons on his future team traded away when he is looking to win a title.

But, Johnson and Pelinka cannot be solely transfixed on getting James. Paul George is also available, and George-to-the-Lakers rumors have gone on for years. The timing is perfect it seems. A player who grew up rooting for the Lakers, and who has admitted that it would be fun to play for them, is a free agent in the same summer that the Lakers are looking to load up.

Cap wise, the Lakers have the space to take on James, George and Leonard, a hellacious amount of talent to add in one summer. But, they do all play the small forward primarily. Many NBA teams in recent years, though, have strayed away from traditional positions. The Golden State Warriors’ “death lineup” includes two guards, two small forwards and an undersized power forward.

With the facilitating skills of James and shooting ability of both George and Leonard, the three could mesh quite effectively. Defensively, all three have shown to be elite, with Leonard winning the Defensive Player of the Year twice and James and George earning multiple All-NBA Defensive honors each. The three can all defend different sized players as well.

Nevertheless, if Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka feel as if that is too many wing players, there are several centers on the market too. Perhaps instead of George, the Lakers could go after DeMarcus Cousins, an elite scorer with a six-foot-eleven frame. The problem with Cousins is his past of attitude issues, also the fact that he will be coming off of Achilles Tendon surgery and has been a defensive liability in the past.

Magic_Johnson_Mercedes-Benz_Carousel_of_Hope_Gala_2014_(15333165438).jpg

Clint Capela and DeAndre Jordan are slightly cheaper alternatives at center. They both finish very well around the rim. Capela led the league in field-goal percentage last season and Jordan led the NBA in the category for several seasons before that. They both defend the rim well too, with good size and awareness to block shots. Jordan is a better rebounder, but Capela is five years younger and could be more valuable down the road.

If Johnson and Pelinka do go with the three wings, then they could sign a cheaper big to plug in at center. Perhaps Leonard’s former teammate Aron Baynes, who just had an effective year in Boston and has playoff experience with the Celtics and Spurs, or by bringing back former Laker Ed Davis after three years in Portland. Both can defend the rim well, and should be able to benefit from the passing ability of LeBron James. Baynes can also shoot threes, adding another dimension to the offense. Additionally, in small lineups, Kuzma could plug in as a five for an athletic and strong scoring rotation.

From there, the Lakers would just have to worry about developing their bench beyond Hart, Kuzma and other players still under contract in LA, like Tyler Ennis, Ivica Zubac and Thomas Bryant. They can fill the bench with veterans who would be willing to sign for the minimum, since some players do so near the end of their careers when looking for a chance at a ring, or by drafting a couple of players since they have picks 25 and 47 (assuming they aren’t traded to San Antonio but likely one would be).

 

Advertisements

Why injuries are the worst thing ever (The worst NBA injuries this season)

 

NBA players get injured a lot, and that sucks. Those injuries take a lot of things away from the players, teams, and fans all around the NBA. Basketball fans have been deprived of a lot of things, so I’m going to complain about some of the things we’ve been deprived of.

  1. Kyrie vs. LeBron (duh)

“A playoff series doesn’t start until someone wins on the road.” What? Neither team can win on the road? Can we make the series 11 games? Ugh. Terry Rozier is REALLY cool, don’t get me wrong. I love me some good old fashioned 90’s Patriot Quarterback-related beef. But Kyrie being “the guy” on the Celtics was so fun and then his knee had to ruin it! What even is “minimally invasive surgery” anyway!

This Cavs-Celtics series would be SO FUN if Kyrie was trading daggers with LeBron and the 8 other players on the floor just kind of watched in awe. But, instead, we have a really interesting series where talented young guys defy all odds. Booooooo. Boring.

 

  1. Butler College Reunion Tour

Speaking of the Celtics, there’s another guy that got hurt. He has really nice hair, he’s good at League of Legends, and his feet were turned two different directions for a brief few minutes at the beginning of this year. Injuries suck. I want Gordon Hayward and Brad Stevens. Bring him back. (Sarcastic article tone aside, please PLEASE let Gordon Hayward have his deadly scoring instincts and quick first step and please let him get back into basketball shape quickly.)

 

  1. Boogie vs. Draymond and Javale

This one is one people don’t think of a lot. The Pelicans played the Warriors in round 2 of the 2018 playoffs, in case you’ve already forgotten amidst one of the best Western Conference Finals series of all time. The Pelicans have a center named DeMarcus Cousins on their roster, but he ruptured his left achilles tendon during the regular season, keeping him out for the playoffs. Bad! He has a little bit of an attitude, something he shares with Golden State forward Draymond Green. He keeps things very heavy and serious, something he does not share with rat-tail champion and Golden State center Javale McGee.

Either one of those fine Golden State gentlemen defending the personality and complaint-filled DeMarcus Cousins would have been must-see TV. High tensions against a tough defender like Draymond. Frustration against an aloof and smiling Javale. Gold. Thanks injuries.

 

  1. WCFull of Missed Opportunities

Chris Paul and Andre Iguodala being injured is bad for basketball. There’s not much else to it. Both of those guys make their teams so much more fun, and I wanna see Chris Paul shimmy in front of Steph again as much as I wanna see Iggy turn back the clock and dunk on a lackluster Rockets defense. Those guys make basketball fun and they will be missed dearly as long as they’re out. Also, Chris Paul and/or one of his teammates has been injured in the playoffs an unfair amount of years in a row.

 

  1. Kawhi Komplications

This one kind of hurts my heart a lot. Kawhi Leonard is now searching for a new home away from the coach and team that made him who he is, mostly because of injuries and mismanagement leading to issues behind the scenes. Leonard’s injury was one of the more influential ones this year, and it’s leading to a potential move to Los Angeles in the offseason. The Spurs are probably gonna miss the playoffs for the first time in a millenium because Kawhi’s shoulder (leg? something?) doesn’t work right. Cool.

 

  1. Tall European Big Man Falls Down

Kristaps nooooooo. Despite this leaving room for Michael Beasley to prosper, this one hurts a lot. Kristaps was putting together a good bid for an All-NBA team and maybe even an All-NBA Defensive team nod. His spectacular season was cut short, and it sucks that any of us has to be worried about his recovery process for the coming season. If he doesn’t play with new Knicks head coach Dave Fizdale I’m going to be very upset. The fact that THIS is even a THING is pretty awful.

 

Honorable Mentions:

Dion Waiters: I love Dion Waiters! Why didn’t I get to see him play more!

Donovan Mitchell at the end of Game 5: It probably wouldn’t have helped them win but I hate to see that guy go down. I like him a lot! Injuries are bad!

Brandon Knight: I’m not super upset about this one but it would have helped to have a point guard instead of having absolutely none in Phoenix.

Jimmy Butler: The Wolves almost didn’t make the playoffs because Tom Thibodeau runs the muscles off the bones of his players!

Derrick Rose: This isn’t necessarily this year, this one is just a bummer across the last few years in general. At least his dreadlocks look nice.

Anyways, injuries are really bad, and we as fans definitely saw the effects of the injury bug this year. Maybe next year something will change, and really good players will get to play more. Bring back Dion Waiters! That’s what everyone should get out of this article.

(Seriously, though. NBA players are human, and they’ll be back sooner than you know it. Next year is going to be really fun.)