Lakers Team Building Options Part II: Contend Now

Darius Soriano —  May 15, 2017

Welcome to part II of our series on Lakers team building options. The first option was laid out wonderfully by Reed, arguing the merits of a slow and steady approach to get the team back to contention. This is probably the most preferred course of action and the one which, in the big picture, makes the most sense. Watching the playoffs unfold, it’s easy to see the level the top teams are playing at and to then recognize how far away the Lakers are from that. Allowing their young assets to mature and reach their prime closer to the potential decline of the top teams while also leveraging those inexpensive rookie deals to sign players in FA down the line and build organically not only seems safe, but prudent.

That said, this is not the only viable approach. As Rob Pelinka has said many times, this front office must be prepared for multiple scenarios and, literally, have hundreds of plans and contingencies in place in order to pounce on opportunities that present avenues to improve the roster. What we’ll do today, then, is look at what steps the team might take in order to contend as quickly as possible — even as soon as next season. Now, to be clear, I don’t mean the Lakers would compete for a championship next season, but I am looking at a path to being a surefire playoff team and one that could make a run to the 2nd round or conference finals while possessing enough staying power to do so for multiple seasons.

The Case for Contending ASAP

I’m not going to throw phrases at you like “Lakers exceptionalism” or even talk about how fans in this market are used to winning championships. Winning in the NBA is hard and as the Lakers have learned since claiming their last title vs. the Celtics in 2010, the NBA is unforgiving and cares not for your storied past or fan expectations. A bad move (or three) not only can set you back years, but can crater you in ways which require nearly perfect execution to dig out. No one owes the Lakers anything and getting back to the top will be about the decisions they make and their ability to leverage every asset and resource at their disposal.

The Lakers are now on year 4 of missing the playoffs. The 3 previous years have netted some lottery luck and some late draft success to build up the talent base of the team. Depending on what happens in this year’s draft lottery, the team may have another top 3 pick in addition to a late 1st rounder to bolster those ranks. If that happens and the Lakers use both draft picks, the team can have up to 9! players – ranging from rookies to heading into their 4th seasons – who could be deemed as contributors (or potential ones):

Guards: Russell, Clarkson
Forwards: Ingram, Randle, Nance
Centers: Zubac, Black
Draft Picks: Top 3, #28

All of this looks good on paper. And, to be clear, you won’t find many people who have more faith in as many of the Lakers’ young players than me. As Reed argued, give these guys time, exposure to good coaching, and tap into their work ethic and it is a recipe for success.

Of course, there’s another side to this coin: First, you don’t win with a team of young players. Ingram (will not be 20 until September) and Zubac (will not be 21 until next March) were two of the youngest rookies this past season. Russell just turned 21 a week after the all-star game. Any rookie drafted in the top 3 is going to be a one-and-done player who will not yet be 20 when selected in June (save Josh Jackson) and who knows what type of player is selected at #28 (a young guy with potential who can develop? an older player who is more “ready”? a draft and stash guy?).

Plus, even though several of the aforementioned group are starting to be not-so-young — Black is already 25, Clarkson will be 25 on June 7th, Nance will be 25 on new year’s day 2018, and Randle is entering his 4th season — the experience level is what concerns. And, even if every year in the league nets you experience to build on, there’s a reason most contending teams have few (if any) high contributing players as young as the ones the Lakers possess. These guys make too many mistakes and simply don’t yet understand how to translate their potential into meaningful production on good teams.

Second, regardless of how high you are on any of the team’s young players (or guys in the upcoming draft), there is no guarantee any of them end up as good as some of the players the Lakers could target this summer in free agency or in a trade. Yes, the swap of great upside not even near their prime for player(s) already in their prime or at/near the end of it does not come without concerns. But if the goal is to ultimately compete at the highest level, getting players who have actually proven themselves to be able do that instead of relying on ones who have only shown some potential to do it is worth exploring, no?

No one is saying the young players on the Lakers’ roster won’t end up good (or even great). But even in a league where the results can seem inevitable (Warriors vs. Cavs for the 3rd straight Finals?), things can actually change quickly. A sprained knee, a free agent decision, or a big trade can change the landscape of the league quickly. Building towards the future is nice, but being in a position to compete at a high level and then pounce should a “favorite” falter is just as nice.

It’s obvious there are no sure things in this league (ask the Warriors about that 3-1 lead last year). But to further the above point — what seems like the better bet: building a contender with established all-star/all-NBA level players or building a contender by nailing multiple draft picks and then developing them into that caliber of player? Regardless of which way you lean, the former is a viable path and the Lakers are in a position to move in that direction should they choose to.

Executing a Contend Now plan

First, it must be said, being able to move in this direction is almost entirely dependent on the Lakers keeping their top-3 protected pick. Yes, there are scenarios where the team loses this year’s selection and is still able to make multiple moves this summer to build a contender, but it will be harder. After all, the goal is to use every available resource at the team’s disposal to exchange it for a more ready piece. A top lottery pick greases the rails.

Before we move into actual scenarios, it’s best to do an accounting of what assets the Lakers do/can have heading into the draft. For this part we will include the team’s own pick, but will discuss options without the pick a bit later. Also note, for the cap space calculation, we are assuming Nick Young opts out of his contract and that the team waives Tarik Black and his non-guaranteed 2017-18 contract:

  • The Lakers can have roughly $24 million in cap space (this includes the cap holds for picks #2 and #28 overall)
  • Ingram: Last year’s #2 pick, entering the 2nd year of his rookie scale contract
  • Russell: Former #2 pick, entering the 3rd year of his rookie scale contract
  • Randle: Former #7 pick, entering the 4th year of his rookie scale contract, currently extension eligible and can be a RFA next summer
  • Clarkson: Entering the 2nd year of a 4 year contract, $36 million remain on his deal.
  • Nance: Former late 1st round pick, entering year 1 of his rookie scale contract
  • Zubac: Last year’s 2nd round pick, signed a 3 year contract with a non-guaranteed 3rd year.
  • Draft pick in the top 3, draft pick #28

It’s important to note that in order to turn the above assets into players to help the team win now, there is a specific timing in which things must take place. If you listened to our podcast with Eric Pincus, he mentioned a scenario which the Lakers retained their draft pick and then agreed to trade whoever was selected with that pick at a later date in July, but before the signing moratorium period ends.

This is a crucial part of any contend now scenario as it allows the Lakers to have a “star” player in the bag heading into free agency. This player can then be used as the bait to entice a top free agent to sign on. It’s pretty clear star players don’t sign with bad teams in free agency. Having another star in place heading into FA allows the Lakers to sell that 2nd star that he will not be alone.

It’s also important to understand that, history tells us the Lakers will need at least 3 of the top 25-30 players in the league to be a team in the 2nd round/conference finals. The path to get there this summer is pretty straight forward: trade for two of them and sign one in free agency. The list of these types of players is finite and getting one, much less 3, on the team is going to be amazingly difficult. That said, I think it’s fair to say that there are a handful of them who will be available in either free agency or via trade this June/July or by the February trade deadline:

  • Paul George
  • Jimmy Butler
  • Chris Paul
  • Blake Griffin
  • Gordon Hayward
  • DeMarcus Cousins

Of the above list, three are free agents (Hayward, Paul, Griffin) and three are trade targets (George, Butler, Cousins). For free agency, Hayward/Griffin are in the 7-9 year range and will require a max contract at 30% of the cap while Paul is at the 10+ year mark and will require a max contract at 35% of the cap. For trade, the Lakers have 7 key assets (5 players, 2 picks) to spread out over two trades. They can supplement those with salary filler to make deals work under the cap. The goal should be to retain at least one of those assets (likely a player) to play next to the veterans traded for.

With all that out of the way, now comes the fun part…let’s make some deals.

Deal #1: Trade for Paul George. Determining the exact deal to convince the Pacers to agree to a trade is unknown. From the Lakers side though, it’s pretty straight forward: give them a good young player, at least one of the draft picks, and salary filler. Potential deals: Top 3 pick, Julius Randle, and Jordan Clarkson (add in the #28 pick if needed).

Case for the Lakers to make this deal: It’s Paul George, who is a fantastic player. This is not a huge offer as it does not include Ingram or Russell.

Case for the Pacers to make this deal: This is not as much as what other teams could likely offer. A Celtics package looms large here, and they could easily outbid the Lakers. What could work in the Lakers favor is George’s pending 2018 free agency and whether Magic/Pelinka can get in George’s agents’ ear to scare off other teams from trading for him. Remember, George shares an agent with Randle and Russell, so they could veer into this type of discussion with a random phone call about, say, a Randle extension. If the Pacers find themselves receiving low-ball offers and it looks like they may lose him for nothing next summer, trading him now may be in their best interest. A Randle/Myles Turner front-court is all kinds of intriguing and Clarkson offers you what you wanted to get in Monta Ellis when you signed him in free agency. Add in a top-3 pick and you can also select your point guard of the future in whoever is left on the board between Fultz, Ball, or Fox. Suddenly, your own rebuild is well on it’s way with a core of Drafted Point Guard X, Clarkson, Randle, and Turner.

Deal #2: Sign Gordon Hayward in free agency. The Lakers would need to clear additional salary cap space to make this happen. The easiest way to do this would be to use the stretch provision on either Luol Deng or Timofey Mozgov. Stretching either would open up about $10 million in cap space. While this would create dead money on the team’s cap for the next 7 years, this is the price you pay to lock up Hayward with George through both of their primes. In this case, I would stretch Mozgov since he makes less money overall.

Case for the Lakers to sign Hayward: Hayward is just entering his prime and is an excellent two-way player. He works well on or off the ball and could pair nicely on the wing with George. It does not matter if Hayward is a “SF” as positions mean less in today’s NBA. He can defend either wing spot, shoots a high percentage from distance, and creates shots for himself and others.

Deal #3: Trade for DeMarcus Cousins. It’s unclear whether Cousins is actually on the market or not. After all, the Pelicans just traded for him and would seem like they’re invested in making a Boogie/Brow combination work. But the Lakers could make an offer that would be hard for the Pelicans to turn down, especially considering what they gave up to trade for Cousins in the 1st place. Potential trade: Ingram, Zubac, Corey Brewer, #28 pick (if not included in a trade for George)

Case for the Lakers to trade for Cousins: You don’t have to convince me that Cousins is a wild-card personality. And, if you were arguing you do not want him influencing a locker-room of young players, I would be open to having that discussion. In this scenario, though, that’s not what’s happening. You would be adding him to a core which includes George and Hayward, players on an equal footing to Cousins. Plus, no one can deny Cousins’ talent or stature as one (if not the) best bigs in the game.

Case for the Pelicans to trade Cousins: Cousins can be a free agent in the summer of 2018 and if the Pelicans don’t have a good year, they are at real risk of losing him for nothing. The trade deadline showed a cool market for Cousins overall and while a return of Ingram/Zubac/Brewer as the core might not seem great, it’s better than what you sent out to get him. In essence, this deal would translate to a Hield/Galloway/top-3 protected pick for Ingram/Brewer/Zubac (and #28 if not included with the George deal). Balancing the Lakers (hypothetical) offer against Cousins walking for nothing or a potentially better deal is the line the Pels would need to walk here. I don’t have a good answer as to whether they’d do it or not, but I’d imagine they’d consider it.

Summary and Final Thoughts

If you’re scoring at home, I’ve managed to add Paul George, Gordon Hayward, and DeMarcus Cousins to the Lakers while not trading D’Angelo Russell nor Larry Nance, Jr. The roster, heading into the latter part of FA would look like this:

Starting 5: Russell, Hayward, George, Nance, Cousins
Bench: Nwaba, Deng

The combined salaries for the above players is roughly $94 million. Add to that, roughly, an additional $4 million for cap holds and another $6.86 million for Mozgov’s stretched contract and the Lakers would be slightly above the projected $102 million salary cap. They could then add a player using the full mid-level exception or simply sign players using the veterans minimum. In other words, they’d have ways to add to their roster to supplement the existing talent.

Now, how likely is all of this? Not very. As with any trade scenario, you need a lot of things to go right and for teams to be cooperative to your offer. And, again, in the scenarios above the Lakers are reliant on keeping their top-3 pick. Without that asset in their pocket, they likely have to include Russell and/or Nance in one of the above scenarios which either lessens/eliminates the talent the team can retain or impacts whether the above teams would even want to make the proposed deals.

In saying all that, though, the above is the type of path the Lakers could, in theory, take to try and build a team to contend in a short period of time. It depends on gutting the roster of nearly every young asset they’ve attained over the past several years and of removing any depth the team would have.

Personally, I would not be on board with this approach even if the front office could pull it off. I mean, I could convince myself to root for that team, but part of what I like about being a fan is establishing a connection to players over the course of several years and seeing how they can grow and develop into productive NBA’ers. In the scenario above that experience is swapped out for cheering on an accumulated batch of mercenary talents, thrown together to try and achieve a goal.

Don’t get me wrong, having that many really good players on the team would be fun, it would just be a little bit less enjoyable than seeing this young group of guys grow together.

Darius Soriano

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to Lakers Team Building Options Part II: Contend Now

  1. I was hoping Part II would be the “expedited rebuild” path mention in Part I, opposed to “immediate contention”, but I guess we’re saving the best path for last. If Magic and Pelinka were desperate enough, I wouldn’t doubt their ability to pull off the moves to acquire the trio mentioned above, but that lineup would be closer to the Clippers than the Warriors and I’m sure we can all agree that we don’t want that.

    I can’t wait to read Part III so we can discuss the real strategy moving forward.


    • Yeah, we’ll cover that one last. Mostly, though, because it’s less dependent on the lottery results than the contend now one. So, I wanted to get this one up before the lottery results tomorrow.


  2. Eye_On_The_Prize May 15, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    Excellent analysis and further supports the argument for a slow rebuild. The only way I want us to accelerate things is if we are able to pick up a meaningful FA whole is disgruntled with their current situation. No use gutting the team for trades that net us a first or second round exit.


  3. Great write up, and certainly fun to think about how a series of blockbuster moves could remake the team, even if there are clear risks…

    As you noted, going down the path of immediate contention would only make sense if at least two legitimate star players decided to come. Given the need for your roster to largely all be firing on the same timeline, the team would then probably need to make a hard pivot and find ways to convert young prospects into ready to win prime/veteran players that could support the new star foundation. This is the Boston “0 to 60 in one summer” model, where they were able to line up the Ray Allen and Garnett two-step, and then surround those players with solid veterans. And, like you suggest with Russell, they felt that Rondo was good enough at that point to be part of winning playoff basketball, even if young, and that proved to be a good bet.

    If these kinds of moves were to present themselves, I think the big question would be at what point are the “stars” good enough to justify going all in and giving up your painfully developed young core? There’s a line where it is a no brainer (e.g. Lebron and Curry want to come), and a line where it’s probably not worth it (Hayward and Blake). But that in between area would make for very difficult judgment calls. Would George/Butler/Griffin be worth it? Paul/George/Cousins? George/Love/Jordan? All depends on cost/timing/etc., but we’d have to really be sure that going nuclear and cashing in the core for these win now pieces was going to result in something worthwhile, and that’s why it’s probably ultimately best to be patient. Will be fun to see how it all plays out.


  4. Whether Russell stays (as a SG) or goes in a trade, the Lakers still need a real PG in the near future. I don’t think the Lakers trade away their top 3 pick (AKA their long term answer at point guard) in any scenario….which means the current untouchables are likely Ingram (their long term answer at SF) and the top 3 pick.

    The top and most realistic target for the Lakers is Paul George, their long term answer at SG, but they have the luxury of waiting until the trade deadline or next summer. At this stage in trade negotiations, Indy is likely asking for a big haul, something along the lines of Randle, Russell and a late first rounder. Even at Indy’s most desperate stage nearing the trade deadline, I don’t see them accepting an offer of Randle (who I think Laker fans value much higher than other teams around the league) and a late first rounder. At the bare minimum, Russell would have to be included in any trade scenario for George (assuming Ingram and the top 3 pick are untouchable). It would be a tough loss, but again, the starting PG, SG and SF slots would be filled.

    If the Lakers can manage to sign Blake Griffin this summer, the 2018 lineup would be:

    PG – Fultz or Ball
    SG – Paul George
    SF – Ingram (heading into his third year)
    PF – Randle / Blake
    C – Blake / Mosgov / Nance

    Trade Randle for a Patrick Beverly type of player at PG, and the team’s “Death Lineup” would be:

    PG – Beverly type (acquired in a Randle trade)
    SG – Fultz/Ball
    SF – Ingram
    PF – George
    C – Blake / Nance

    Whether this team contends will largely depend on the development of Ingram and Ball / Fultz, but I think Laker fans would be ecstatic to see this team a year from now.


  5. In 24 hours we will have a better idea how bad off the Lakers are.


  6. The proposed deals are ludicrous:

    1) Paul George = Top 3 pick, Julius Randle, and Jordan Clarkson (add in the #28 pick if needed).

    2) DeMarcus Cousins: Ingram, Zubac, Corey Brewer, #28 pick (if not included in a trade for George)

    Goodness, to pay that high of a cost for players that are would be free agents is insane. Especially, if you could get them for free the following summer. Jeanie, Magic and Pelinka would be immediately on the hot seat. I’d pass on both deals.


    • Darius: I submitted my post and then I thought it needed some clarification. I wasn’t suggesting that you were off base for suggesting these deals. You are far more connected than me (a lowly couch potatoe GM). If that is truly the going rate for either George or Cousins I would not be able to pull the trigger. Such a steep upfront cost with the risk they leave as free agents the following summer. Yikes!


  7. A Horse With No Name May 15, 2017 at 4:10 pm

    Nice work, Darius. I cringe, however, seeing Griffin on your list. His last two seasons should cure *any* team of the notion that he is a max deal type of player that will take a team to the next level.


  8. I suspect that any team approaching the Lakers for a possible trade would target Ingram first. Then they’d want Russell and then possibly Randle. (Just put yourself in their shoes for a moment.)

    That alone would probably make the Lakers squeamish about pulling the trigger on any blockbuster deals this summer.

    As Darius suggests, the “slow re-build” is probably the best of the two options discussed so far. A slow re-build would be less disruptive than the 2nd option and would involve far fewer risks. Also, it’s more plausible.

    I expect the Lakers to keep their powder dry this summer and see how much the Lakers’ young core can grow in the coming year. Then next summer they’ll make a play for Paul George and/or others. They’ll have a better feeling as to what they really need by then.

    Of course, only time will tell.


  9. Fernando Mora May 15, 2017 at 5:41 pm

    What about John Wall? Everyone knows how he and Beal do not get along and after this summer he will be the 3rd highest player on his team. We could get him for our pick if we keep it and throw in some fodder.


  10. A+ on effort & ideas! Great analysis! We will certainly know more Tuesday evening about the draft, and of course what that might translate to.

    I’m inclined to think any trades for George or Cousins would come later in the season. Teams will want to know if the players they have are getting them to the playoffs, George and Cousins sell tickets?

    Hayward and George on the same team would be a dream come true. My personal opinion on Cousins is the same as most and I would hate for the Lakers to pattern themselves after the Knicks, get rid of assets and have one man basketball.

    A couple years ago the team had Howard, Gasol, Nash & Kobe…at the time everyone thought we were going places. Between coaching problems, injuries, Howard not showing up, it was a catastrophy.

    Going forward, if Nance, Brewer and Nwabe (spelling) can defend this year, Ingram & Russell can score, barring injuries, the team might win 15 more games. Add George to the mix and that might just be good enough to make the playoffs? Get rid of one of the two expensive contracts? WOW!

    It’s going to be great watching the team develop over the next few months, I’m optimistic!


  11. I agree with the A+ for effort and giving us something to consider. My concern is that the skills overlap too much for the 3 proposed players. On offense, each is at his best with the ball in his hand initiating the offense. It would be a real challenge for Luke to convince two of them that they would need to subordinate their games.


    • Walton’s game is passing the ball until the first really open shot. Not sure how having any ball-dominant player fits this. With the exception of Cousins, the other all-stars would be possibly bringing up the ball/passing up the ball.

      We keep confusing a ball-dominant PG/any other player, with Luke Walton. That just isn’t what he is trying to develop.


  12. I miss Dr. Buss May 16, 2017 at 12:33 am

    It is really fun and entertaining to see all these possible but somewhat unrealistic scenarios that fellow Lakers fans to draw up. I don’t believe it is in the best interests of the team to pursue the FAs available this year. Some of the assets that the team currently have, I don’t think some of them will be here long term because I don’t seem them fitting in to what Luke is trying to establish if his goal is to replicate the Warriors system.

    The Warriors’ system is built on guys that have 3 pt shooting, great team and constant communicative defense and solid team first character in their genetic make up.

    Russell would have to have a major attitude and work ethic adjustment to be the PG leader that this team so desperately needs. He has potential but his defense is poor, his ballhandling for a PG is very shaky, he carelessly turns the ball over and his outside shot needs work. One of the things that I was worried about him were the distractions out here in L.A. And yes I am being hard on a guy who just turned 21 as he really is just a kid with great potential if he puts in the time. (I got spoiled by Kobe’s dedication and work ethic) If D’Angelo was laser focused on being the Lakers PG of the future (tighten up the body, still looks too soft for a NBA lead guard) then we wouldn’t be so focused on hoping to retain the lottery pick on another PG and instead use the pick on other pressing needs. (Trade, Tatum, Jackson, etc.)

    Ingram needs time to pack on some muscle but you see the potential for greatness is there. I read about his background in Kinston, NC and he comes from a very humble and low key environment. Solid family and seems to be driven to get better. But he needs another 3 years to fulfill that potential. There were flashes in his rookie season, I believe he will be successful one day.

    Randle has the physical tools but his biggest issue is on the mental side of the game. He needs to work on getting better angles on defense, not pout when he doesn’t get the ball as much as he likes, learn the team game and not be such a ballstopper and drain the clock while playing bully ball. He and Nance have the Draymond in them to be effective for Luke’s system. We’ve all seen flashes of potential, mixed in with a lot of what was he thinking moments. If his mental side doesn’t catch up then I don’t see him here long term.

    JC and Nance are best as the lead guys for the second unit. JC is a combo guard at best. They are both jack of all trades and masters of none. They have trade value around the league.

    Zubac reminds me of a young Vlade from his Lakers days. Big man with an excellent feel for the game. Soft hands to catch the ball, nice mid range touch on his jumpers, crafty around the basket, with a great hustle on the defensive end. Not the most athletic but has that Euro game that translates well to the modern game. Not sure if he will be a future starter but if he keeps it up, he’ll be a consistent contributor for years to come.

    We won’t know what will happen until a few hours from now. I’m hoping for the best case scenario where we get to keep the pick. This draft have a lot of good potential but raw big men in the latter part of the first round and in the second round that we can develop like a Hassan Whiteside. But I like to think that there will be plenty of good players that go undrafted as well, like Josh Hart who a lot of people are saying will not be drafted. I hope Ryan West has that eye for talent like his dad and can pluck the right guys to build on. Keep the great dialogue going guys! Let’s hope for patience such as the slow rebuild scenario mixed in with some future FA signings so we can enjoy our beloved team winning that elusive 17th championship to tie and even surpass them one day.


  13. Renato Afonso May 16, 2017 at 7:39 am

    Yep, it seems that the third option is the best way to go. Obviously pairing Hayward and George on the wing would be great but I’m not sure if there’s a third star player available who’s worth it. I’d rather sign trade for lower usage pieces who can fit Walton’s requirements for the team, depending on who’s still left from the young core. However, I don’t think we have a shot at any of them this summer…


  14. Really excellent work here (as usual) from Darius and Reed– tremendously enjoyed the last two posts and looking forward to Part III. That said, while I think getting DMC is unlikely but possible, signing Hayward seems next to impossible imo. I think his list of teams he’ll consider will number exactly two– Utah and Boston. They have decisive advantages relative to us across the board, both hard advantages (better players) and soft (loyalty to his current team which just won a playoff round in for the first time in years, reuniting with Stevens in a system that seems friendly to his skill set.) I really can’t see the argument for him agreeing to come here.

    & it’s too bad… of the three stars mentioned, he’s the one I’d like the most, far more than DMC, a bit more than PG, and certainly light years beyond someone like Blake Griffin. Man, I might even prefer Melo to Griffin…

    Anyway…. busting out my lucky game 7 vs Portland shirt in the hopes of a little, er, Magic, tonight. Do we know who will represent us? So much rides on our success tonight, whether that pick is (1) kept to add to our already solid core, (2) traded, or (3) retained and suddenly frees up an additional significant asset for a possible trade (likely JC, but maybe even D’aR). GO LAKERS!


  15. If we waived a Magic wand, and the Lakers get all these guys this year, regardless of cap and logic:

    1. Chris Paul
    2. Jimmy Butler
    3. Paul George
    4. Blake Griffin
    5. DeMarcus Cousins
    6th Man. Gordon Hayward

    Realistically, Does that team even get out of the Western Confernce for the next four years?


    • Rick in Seattle May 18, 2017 at 12:12 pm

      Buck you have some interesting names on that list. But if I were advising Pelinka, I would focus on just two–probably Butler and Cousins. And here are my reasons why:

      1) Boston is likely to make a deal this summer. According to media sources, they seem focused on either Jimmy Butler or Paul George. With Boston’s surplus of picks & players, they are in the drivers seat for whichever player they decide on this summer. They may hold off until after July 1, to see whether they land Hayward in free agency, because George has previously expressed an interest in playing with Hayward. Therefore, if Hayward was already in house, Boston could have a stronger case for going after George. But, Boston must first decide whether it wants George or Butler. .

      2) The Lakers would then be in a secondary position in free agency to Boston (much like it is with the draft this year ). Depending on which payer (George or Butler) Boston goes after, it gives LA a stronger trade opportunity for the remaining player.

      3) Frankly, I think that Jimmy Butler is a better fit with the current Lakers roster than is George, but that’s just my personal opinion. While the Lakers may get George cheaper (if he lasts until 2018 free agency) the price for either one will probably be set by what Boston decides to give up for whichever player it selects.

      4) If Boston were able to acquire Hayward (in free agency) and George (in trade). it would probably be considered a pretty successful summer.

      5) But, I think the Lakers could match them player for player by trading for Butler this summer and then trying to pick up Cousins next summer in free agency. With Butler & Cousins added to the existing threesome of Ball, Ingram & Zubac, this could become a pretty competitive team.

      But, again, Boston will likely make the first move this summer. The Lakers may be wise to wait and watch what happens with 2018 free agency. The Lakers do not need to rush to spend their money or trade any players, unless a team likely Chicago decides its time to rebuild. New Orleans will probably want another season with Cousins to determine how well he meshes with Davis. There will probably be less interest in Cousins next summer than a player like George, because of Cousins’ “personal issues”. Having a player like Butler already in house, might appeal well to Cousins, who the Lakers have had interest in for several years.

      With Boston’s surplus of resources, Chicago has to be aware that they likely wont get as strong a deal from the Lakers . Therefore, I could see both Chicago and Indiana competing strongly to get Boston’s best deal. Chicago needs some younger starters.

      George’s availability will largely be linked with what Boston decides. Once the George/Butler situation is determined, I could see other decisions falling into place.
      But, because of Boston’s resources, I don’t think that George coming to the Lakers is a done deal yet. Boston could still snap him up along with Hayward. Boston seems to have the most leverage at the moment.